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Officer Who Won Bias Suit Placed on Leave : Police: Officials refuse to discuss the Sgt. Ricardo Jauregui inquiry. But they deny that it is retaliation for his 1986 case against the city.

April 25, 1991|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Glendale police sergeant who won a key discrimination lawsuit against the city in 1986 was ordered last week to take a paid leave while the city conducts an unspecified investigation concerning him.

Glendale officials refused to say this week why Sgt. Ricardo L. Jauregui was told April 17 to stay home from work indefinitely. The officials said Jauregui will continue to receive full pay--about $4,900 per month--and benefits while the investigation proceeds.

But Jauregui's attorney, David Alkire, contended Monday that Glendale officials have targeted the officer unjustly because of his 1986 federal court victory and two subsequent lawsuits he has filed against the city.

"There's no specific charge against him," Alkire said. "This is not the first time they have punished him first and tried to cook up a basis for it afterward."

Glendale police declined to comment on the nature of the Jauregui inquiry. But City Atty. Scott H. Howard on Monday insisted: "There's absolutely no retaliation at all. It's merely an investigation at this point."

The paid administrative leave can last up to 30 days and can be extended beyond that with the city manager's approval, Howard said. He said the probe was being conducted by other unidentified city officials, none from his office.

Jauregui, who was been with the department since 1973, would not comment publicly on the forced leave, his attorney said. Until last week he was supervising auto-theft investigations.

Howard said Jauregui, who has battled Glendale officials repeatedly in court, "believes he is untouchable within the department" and immune to traditional management rules.

In his federal case, Jauregui successfully challenged the Police Department's practices in promoting employees. A U.S. District Court judge ruled in October, 1986, that the department discriminated against the Latino officer when he was passed over for promotion. Howard, then an assistant city attorney, represented Glendale in the trial.

The judge ordered that Jauregui, then 38, be promoted to the rank of sergeant and receive an estimated $8,000 in back pay for the period in which he should have held the higher rank. During the trial, Jauregui's attorney had displayed flyers and cartoons distributed by Anglo Glendale officers that featured derogatory depictions of blacks and Latinos.

City officials denied the allegations of racism, but in July, 1988, an appeals court upheld the ruling in favor of Jauregui.

In a separate suit, a Glendale Superior Court jury in October, 1988, ordered the city to pay $315,000 to Jauregui's daughter, then 6 years old, and $50,000 to his ex-wife. Both were mauled by a police dog assigned to the officer.

Jauregui has two other suits pending against the city.

One contends that the city and top police officials have continued to discriminate against the sergeant in retaliation for his federal court victory. The suit claims the department has unfairly disciplined Jauregui on several occasions. It seeks at least $3 million in damages from the city, Police Chief David J. Thompson and former Glendale Police Capt. Brook McMahon, who now heads the Pismo Beach Police Department.

A second suit accuses the city of malicious prosecution in filing a countersuit against Jauregui in the dog-biting incident. In its suit, the city contended that Jauregui was negligent, but the cross-complaint was dismissed.

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