TORRANCE — The City Council has approved a tentative settlement with fired Police Officer John Maley, and a source close to the case said it will cost the city between $100,000 and $200,000.
The move signals a likely end to a controversy that city officials have acknowledged as embarrassing, and which they say could undermine the city's defense against a $10.5-million wrongful-death suit filed by the mother of a suspect shot by Maley.
Precise details of the council's decision, reached at a private session Sept. 10, were not available. California law allows a city council to meet privately to discuss personnel and legal matters.
Police Chief Donald Nash confirmed this week that Maley, 29, was withdrawing his effort to be reinstated. The chief said the Police Department was vindicated because its firing of Maley stands.
In return for withdrawing his appeal, Maley will receive an award of $100,000 to $200,000 in worker's compensation and retirement benefits, according to the source, who insisted on anonymity. Nash said he was not familiar with the details of the cash settlement.
Maley's attorney, Richard Shinee, said he had made an agreement with the city not to discuss the settlement.
City Manager Leroy Jackson said the council had approved a settlement recommended by City Atty. Stanley E. Remelmeyer, but he declined to state the terms.
"There is nothing mysterious," Jackson said. "It is a matter under pending litigation. The nature of the case is one that requires a review of worker's compensation and retirement benefits. It is not a casual discussion that can be agreed to without review by outside agencies."
Jackson said the amount of a worker's compensation award may become public, although all details of the case may not.
In his claim for worker's compensation, Maley said he is suffering from psychological trauma after shooting and killing a knife-wielding theft suspect in the Del Amo Fashion Center parking lot last September.
Joan Leadbeater, mother of the slain man, has filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that her son, Bryant John Leadbeater, 32, of Redondo Beach, was killed wrongfully and that the department should have fired Maley before the shooting. The lawsuit, which also names Maley as a defendant, is not expected to go to trial for more than a year.
In a Civil Service hearing of Maley's appeal, the department has maintained that he was an officer with a history of abusive behavior who crossed all acceptable bounds when he drew a knife on a fellow officer during a dispute over police tactics.
Lawrence R. Booth, the attorney opposing the city in the Leadbeater lawsuit, said the city officials were worried that "information is going to come out that is going to hurt them in the lawsuit." A knowledgeable city official acknowledged that the Leadbeater suit was a factor in the settlement with Maley. The Civil Service Commission hearings in which Maley contested his firing produced "disclosures . . . not advantageous to the city," said the official, who also insisted on anonymity.
Dispute on Shooting
In Maley's dispute with the officer, which occurred three months after the shooting, Officer Edward LaLonde, a department instructor in the use of the night stick, told Maley that he should have been able to disarm the theft suspect without gunplay, according to Maley's account.
Maley said he drew the knife and challenged LaLonde to try to disarm him. He has maintained that his judgment was affected by stress from the shooting.
The Police Department fired Maley in March shortly after his superiors learned of the knife incident.
In addition to undermining the city's position in the Leadbeater lawsuit, Maley's appeal produced a series of Civil Service hearings in June and July that threw an uncomfortable spotlight on the Police Department and its disciplinary procedures.
Shinee, Maley's attorney, claimed that Maley had been singled out for harsh treatment and produced reports of other officers engaging in fights, a knifing and other improper conduct with what he termed little or no discipline administered.
Just before the city began negotiations with Maley on a settlement, Shinee requested subpoenas for 26 additional witnesses and voluminous internal records that made clear that the attorney intended to continue his efforts to put the Police Department on the defensive.