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Deputy D.A. Moved From Glendale After Joke Upsets Officials

October 29, 1987|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

A deputy district attorney who referred to Glendale officials as racist in a satirical commentary on police promotions has been transferred out of Glendale.

Glendale Filing Deputy Jaime Hernandez was transferred to Alhambra after police and city officials complained about the written statement, said Denis Petty, director of branch and area operations in the district attorney's office.

"I was concerned that our relationship with the police agency would be strained," said Petty, who ordered that Hernandez be transferred Sept. 23.

Petty said he did not consider the remarks, including a description of city officials as "racist bastards," to be racist in themselves. But he said he felt compelled to remove Hernandez from Glendale because of the racially sensitive atmosphere that Hernandez referred to in his writing, which was meant to be taken as a joke.

In a federal racial discrimination trial last year, a judge ruled that Glendale officials discriminated against a Latino officer, Ricardo L. Jauregui, by passing him up for promotion in favor of less qualified Anglo officers. The city is appealing that decision. This year, three black police officers who testified against the city in that trial filed their own discrimination claims against Glendale.

Earlier last month, Hernandez created a list he called "Hernandez's Handicap" that named 15 police officers under consideration for promotion, Petty said.

Next to the name of Officer Joe Jimenez, Hernandez wrote: "Homeboy may surprise a lot of people if he gets serious. Got the credentials and the experience. Could easily crack the top 5. If not, he can always sue the racist bastards."

Put on Bulletin Board

Petty said the document was meant to be private but someone saw it, photocopied it and pinned it to a Police Department bulletin board.

"The city misinterpreted what was meant to be a joke and took it seriously," Petty said.

John Bernardi, the head deputy district attorney in Glendale, also said he believed Hernandez meant the statement as a joke.

But Glendale Assistant City Manager David H. Ramsay said the statement was made in "poor judgment and bad taste even if done in jest," especially in light of accusations of racism recently leveled against Glendale.

Besides the pending judgment on the Jauregui trial and the three discrimination claims, Ramsay cited the highly publicized incident in which Glendale Court Commissioner Daniel F. Calabro used the racial epithet "nigger" from the bench.

Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner has since ordered prosecutors in Glendale to refuse hearing cases in Calabro's court even though Calabro contends he used the word as a description of the case before him and not as a reference to a particular person or group of people.

"We felt that given the environment that this was particularly in poor taste," Ramsay said of Hernandez's statement. "City management and the City Council were particularly upset about the phrase, 'sue the racist bastards.' "

Ramsay said officials were also offended by a commentary next to the name of Officer Kim Lardi, which read: "Filly who should finish in top five. Has the credentials but short on experience and height."

Hernandez has since written letters of apology to City Manager James M. Rez and Police Chief David J. Thompson. Hernandez, who is on vacation, could not be reached for comment.

Both Lardi and Jimenez said that they believed the statements were made in jest and that Hernandez intended to offend no one.

'Interpreted Wrong'

"As far as it concerns me personally, Jaime was joking and I'm sure he was joking about everyone else on the list," Jimenez said. "He meant no malicious intent. It was interpreted wrong."

Lardi said she defended Hernandez in a meeting with Thompson.

"I was in no way offended," Lardi said. "My opinion is that those who are on the list are those he considered he had a good working relationship with. He did not write about his enemies. . . . I consider him an excellent D.A. . . . It was done as a humorous-type thing."

Petty said Hernandez's transfer was not as much a punishment as it was a lateral move to an equal position. Hernandez lives in the Alhambra area and, after more than three years in Glendale, was due for a rotation, Petty said.

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