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Police Sergeant Who Won Bias Lawsuit Demoted; Attorney Claims Harassment


GLENDALE — A Glendale police sergeant who won a key discrimination lawsuit against the city in 1986 was demoted last week in a move that his attorney claims is part of a harassment campaign.

But city officials strongly denied that the decision was motivated by discrimination or retaliation against the Latino police officer. They said Ricardo L. Jauregui, 43, was demoted to patrol officer because of unspecified misconduct in the workplace.

Jauregui, who had been supervising auto theft investigations, was also ordered to take a corresponding pay cut. The top annual salary for a sergeant is $65,364, compared to $51,756 for an officer, city officials said.

After being informed of the demotion, Jauregui did not return to duty, citing medical advice, said his attorney, Patrick McNicholas.

Jauregui filed an appeal last week, but the city manager's office upheld the demotion. The former sergeant then appealed to the city's Civil Service Commission, whose hearings on the matter are expected to begin in about two weeks.

In a written statement, police spokesman Sgt. Lief Nicolaisen said Jauregui was demoted "only after a lengthy and exhaustive investigation into allegations regarding conduct which was inappropriate within the workplace environment and inconsistent with his duties and responsibilities as a supervisor."

One city official, who asked not to be identified, said the probe concerned allegations of sexual harassment.

McNicholas declined to discuss the nature of the allegations, saying they were "a private matter." But the lawyer insisted that the demotion was not warranted.

"We don't think the city followed its own policies and procedures in conducting the investigation," he said.

The attorney also alleged that "the action was taken in retaliation for Sgt. Jauregui's prior successful actions in court against the city."

City Manager David Ramsay denied that assertion, describing it as "typical lawyer's rhetoric." He also said "appropriate procedures were followed" in the police investigation of Jauregui.

Jauregui joined the department in 1973. He sued the city a decade later, claiming that he had repeatedly been passed over for promotion because of his ethnic background.

In October, 1986, a U.S. district judge ruled that the department had discriminated against the officer. The judge ordered the promotion to sergeant and awarded about $8,000 in back pay for the time he should have held that rank.

Embarrassing information about the Glendale Police Department came to light as a result of the lawsuit. During the trial, Jauregui's attorney displayed flyers and cartoons distributed by Anglo officers that featured derogatory depictions of blacks and Latinos.

In the wake of Jauregui's discrimination case, Glendale officials said they took steps to encourage officers to be more sensitive to ethnic differences.

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, and $50,000 to his ex-wife. Both were mauled by a police dog assigned to the officer.

Two other Jauregui lawsuits await trial. One alleges that the city has continued to discriminate against him and has unfairly disciplined him, all in retaliation for his 1986 court victory. The second accuses city officials of malicious prosecution because they filed a countersuit in the dog-biting case.

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