A plaintiff's lawyer alleged in court last week that a Glendale assistant city attorney urged two police officers to destroy material subpoenaed as evidence in a discrimination lawsuit against the Glendale Police Department.
The allegation was another round in a bitter lawsuit being heard in a non-jury trial before U. S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian Jr. The suit was brought by Officer Ricardo Jauregui, a Latino, who accused the Police Department of discrimination in promoting a less qualified Anglo police officer over him.
In the most dramatic events so far in the trial, Jauregui's attorney, David Alkire, attempted to elicit from John Perkins, president of the Glendale Police Officers Assn., his recollection of a conversation with two officers who told him that they had gone to Scott Howard, assistant city attorney, for legal advice.
Howard, who is defending the city against Jauregui's suit, objected, saying that any statements Perkins might make about the two officers could "result in legal action against people." He also argued that the testimony would be irrelevant.
Initially, Tevrizian ruled that any discussions between Howard and the two officers were privileged and said that Perkins' account of the conversation was possibly hearsay.
'A Little Burning Party'
Alkire, asked to explain why such testimony would be relevant, replied that the two officers--Justus Knight and Siegfried Faucette--had told Perkins that Howard had "suggested that they have a little burning party in his office" to get rid of racially derogatory flyers sought as evidence in the Jauregui trial.
"Absolutely false!" Howard shouted. He demanded a mistrial, saying that the allegation would have a prejudicial effect upon the judge, making it impossible for the city to receive a fair trial.
"Mistrial motion denied," Tevrizian said. The judge then ruled that he would not allow the testimony of Perkins because Alkire had not shown the relevance of it to his client's lawsuit.
Alkire introduced the flyers as evidence in an attempt to depict an atmosphere of racism in the Glendale Police Department. Upon orders from the judge, city officials are investigating the origins of the flyers.
Sgt. Randall Tampa--the officer Jauregui said had been unfairly promoted over him in 1985--has admitted that he produced some of the 15 racially derogatory flyers that have become an issue in the trial. Tampa said that he and several other officers had circulated the flyers in the department.
Knight and Faucette, who are black, told Perkins that they had obtained some of the flyers, which they did not want to be used to aid the Latino officer's case, Perkins testified.
Perkins said that the city's personnel director, John F. Hoffman, recently told him that, if he testified about the two officers' allegations, it could be "career-damaging" to Perkins. Tevrizian allowed that testimony, he said, because the court was interested in any attempt to "intimidate witnesses," although Perkins said Hoffman's alleged warning did not intimidate him.
Hoffman was called to the stand on the city's behalf early in the trial, but was not questioned about the alleged warning to Perkins. Reached at his office on Wednesday, Hoffman said his comments to Perkins were taken out of context.
"What we talked about were the complexities of the case and the impact and the possible ramifications the trial could have on the employee relations in the organization," Hoffman said. He said he was not trying to intimidate or coerce Perkins.
Statements Called 'Malicious'
In an interview outside the courtroom, Howard accused Alkire and the two black officers of making "malicious, false and untrue" allegations. He said that, when the trial is over, he plans to release a statement regarding legal action he may take against the officers.
Howard told reporters that the two officers made the allegations because they became angry at his tough cross-examination when they testifed on Jauregui's behalf.
Faucette and Knight, both patrolman, have been on the force for about five years. During their courtroom testimony, neither mentioned the alleged "burning" suggestion. Alkire had called the men to the stand to testify on the purported atmosphere of racism in the department.
However, in a recent interview with The Times, Faucette and Knight repeated the allegation. They said they decided to discuss the incident publicly only after other members of the Police Department held a rally in support of the city's side of the trial.
The two officers also conceded that they were upset that Howard accused them in court of telling him that they had planned to file their own discrimination lawsuit. On the stand, they denied that. However, in the interview, they conceded telling Howard that they had once considered suing the city.
Said Knight: "Basically, I felt that he had breached our confidential agreement."
Subpoenas Served May 16