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Judge wants more study

City's motion to dismiss former officer's case must wait until May 1.

April 06, 2013|By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

A judge has put off ruling on the city's motion to dismiss a former Burbank police officer's wrongful termination lawsuit, saying she needs more time to evaluate the case.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Donna Fields Goldstein had been slated to issue a ruling Wednesday on a lawsuit filed by Pete Allen, a former officer who was fired three years ago after he lied to internal investigators about officer misconduct stemming from the 2007 Porto's robbery investigation.

Carol Humiston, Burbank's senior assistant city attorney, argued Wednesday that the lawsuit should be dismissed under a state law that protects the rights of employees to petition or participate in free speech, such as an internal affairs investigation.

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In other words, the city contends Allen is trying to hold the city liable for an investigation that resulted in his firing — an investigation that is protected under the law.

In her initial tentative ruling against the city's request, Fields Goldstein said the argument does not address Allen's claims, which include that he was terminated for being a whistle blower, "not that he was terminated as a result of an internal affairs investigation."

On Wednesday, she said she needed more time to evaluate the case.

"I'm going to look at this again — sorry," Fields Goldstein said in court.

Allen claims 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.

After he came clean about what he knew in a subsequent investigation, Allen was fired, which he claims was in retaliation for exposing officer misconduct.

But Humiston claimed Allen never blew the whistle on anyone. The city's motion included a statement from Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse explaining why Allen was terminated, which was "because he did not truthfully report his knowledge regarding police misconduct when expressly asked."

Allen's attorney, Brian Claypool, could not immediately be reached for comment. He was absent from court Wednesday because he was in another trial, according to a representative of his firm.

Fields Goldstein continued the case to May 1, when she is slated to issue another tentative ruling.

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

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