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Judge to rule on motion to dismiss Burbank police officer's wrongful termination lawsuit

April 01, 2013|By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene@tchekmedyian@latimes.com

A judge this week is slated to rule on the city’s request to dismiss a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former Burbank police officer.

The officer, Pete Allen, was fired three years ago after he lied to internal investigators about officer misconduct stemming from the 2007 Porto’s robbery investigation, according to the city.

But Allen claimed he withheld the information out of fear of “retaliatory acts against him,” noting that a colleague who also knew about the alleged misconduct was “receiving threats from the perpetrators of the misconduct,” Los Angeles County Superior Court records show.

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Allen also claimed his superior ignored his initial complaint in March 2008 about the misconduct and told him to “shut his mouth,” according to the lawsuit.

When the investigation was reopened in 2009 amid allegations of a cover-up the year before — this time spearheaded by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — Allen said he reported the misconduct, court records show.

In his lawsuit, Allen alleged that he was fired in retaliation for reporting the misconduct during the second investigation.

But the city claimed Allen was fired because he lied during the first investigation, not because he’s a whistle blower.

“To the contrary, [Interim Police Chief Scott] LaChasse encouraged Burbank police officers to step forward and tell the truth during these investigations, made Burbank facilities available for interviews, and fully and completely cooperated in these investigations,” the city argued in its motion.

If Allen was fired for lying, “then why wasn’t he terminated immediately following [the city] discovering this?” his attorney, Brian Claypool, argued, according to court records.

Claypool alleged the city was “trying to cover-up its retaliatory conduct under the guise of an MOU violation.”

The city is seeking to dismiss the case under the anti-SLAPP law — which is designed to protect free speech — because Allen’s complaint “essentially claims that the Internal Affairs investigation was conducted in retaliation for his whistle blowing,” court records show.

But Claypool contends that Allen is actually claiming he was wrongfully terminated after the investigation because of what he disclosed, and is “not seeking to chill any form of speech,” according to court records.

A hearing on the city’s motion is scheduled for Wednesday.

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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