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Ex-Police Chief Is Awarded $2.5 Million

March 04, 2004|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

The former police chief of the Pasadena Unified School District was awarded $2.5 million by a jury that determined that the district had defamed him after he was wrongfully accused of spying on undressing female employees with a concealed video camera.

The district exonerated Jarado L. Blue of the allegations in an internal investigation in 2000; the former chief filed a defamation suit two years later based on statements that district officials had made to The Times and the Pasadena Star News, according to Blue's attorney.

The jury decided 10 to 2 in favor of Blue late Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph De Vanon's courtroom in Pasadena. The jury decided to award Blue $1.5 million for defamation and $1 million in lost wages.

The controversy began in 2000 when two anonymous tips to the district claimed that Blue was watching women undress from his office, using a video camera. It was later explained that Blue had put the camera in the room briefly as he was testing it, but had forgotten to remove it. By the time the allegations had been made, it was in use at a school.

Marietta Palmer, the district's former deputy superintendent, who was also named as a defendant in Blue's suit, was accused of having a personal grievance against Blue and of using the allegations as a way of "getting rid of" him, Blue alleged in court documents.

He also contended that she had told the two newspapers that Blue had videotaped the women.

Defense attorney Conrad Kohrs said Palmer had denied doing either when she testified.

"As a police officer, and in particular as a police chief, your credibility and integrity is paramount," said Blue's lawyer, Todd F. Nevell, in a written statement. "This verdict vindicates a good man whose reputation was falsely and terribly dishonored by his own employer."

Kohrs, who said he would appeal the decision, disputed the ruling, saying that district officials had reiterated what Blue had acknowledged doing -- placing the camera in the room.

"All the statements made in the print media and statements made verbally regarding the allegations and investigation were true," Kohrs said. "There was no reckless disregard of his rights, which a plaintiff must prove in a defamation case against a public official."

Blue joined the Pasadena school police force in 1992 and was appointed chief the following year.

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