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Kalish, City Reach Settlement

Accused of molestation, the deputy chief retires with full pension and benefits. L.A. will pay for his legal defense against lawsuits by alleged victims.

March 19, 2004|Matt Lait and Richard Winton | Times Staff Writers

Faced with the threat of a defamation lawsuit, Los Angeles officials have reached a confidential settlement with a deputy police chief accused of molesting Explorer Scouts that obligates the city to pay his legal defense in lawsuits filed over the alleged sexual misconduct.

Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief David J. Kalish, who was never charged with any crime, has for a year denied allegations that he molested several teenage Scouts during the 1970s when they had been working in the San Fernando Valley.

Police Chief William J. Bratton relieved Kalish of duty last March amid a criminal investigation into the accusations. At the time, Bratton told reporters that detectives believed there was "substance" to the allegations.

Kalish, 50, filed a claim in August against the city, accusing the LAPD of defaming him, conducting an illegal search of his home and violating his privacy rights. The city denied the claim in October, clearing the way for a potential lawsuit.

The settlement with Kalish allows him to retire with full benefits, including the right to carry a concealed weapon, police identification card and retirement badge, according to sources. He will receive his full pension of nearly $10,000 a month.

Potentially the most costly aspect of the deal is the city's agreement to pay for Kalish's legal defense against civil lawsuits filed by his alleged victims, city officials said.

In exchange, Kalish agreed to retire, effective March 3, and not sue the city for any alleged improprieties during the LAPD's investigation of the molestation accusations.

Kalish, who was the highest-ranking openly gay LAPD officer, said Thursday that he was "quite pleased with the settlement," but declined to elaborate, citing a confidentiality agreement. He added, however, that he "looked forward to working with the city" to defend himself and the city against the "spurious claims" filed in civil court.

LAPD public information director Mary Grady confirmed that Kalish has retired, but declined to comment on the settlement. Chief Bratton would not comment on the settlement, she said.

Eric Moses, a spokesman for the city attorney's office, said the agreement "was negotiated between Kalish's attorney and the department." Resolution of such personnel matters don't require City Council approval, he said. Generally, the city has the discretion to pay the legal bills of officers sued for misconduct for actions taken on the job.

An attorney for the alleged victims expressed disgust with the settlement.

"It is disappointing that Kalish is able to retain so many rights, including his gun and badge, when the police wanted him prosecuted," said attorney Todd Walburg.

The settlement ends the LAPD's investigation of Kalish. In November, prosecutors closed their criminal probe, saying statutory deadlines prohibited them from filing charges. But they said there was sufficient evidence that Kalish molested two teenage police Explorer Scouts in the late 1970s. Prosecutors did not disclose the evidence.

Few details about the allegations against Kalish have been made public. Prosecutors released a three-page memo that contained brief descriptions.

In one incident, they alleged Kalish engaged in oral copulation and masturbation with an Explorer Scout in the LAPD's Devonshire Division Explorer program in the late 1970s. The alleged victim was 15 to 17 at the time, prosecutors wrote.

Kalish also was accused of sex acts with a second Explorer from 1977 to 1979. A third person accused Kalish of molestation in 1976 and 1977.

Several witnesses and officers testified before a grand jury over the spring and summer last year.

One of the alleged victims filed a lawsuit in April against the city, the LAPD and Kalish. The man accused Kalish of "sexually fondling him, molesting him and forcing, coercing" him from 1974 through 1979, according to the lawsuit. The victim, now 43, alleged that Kalish began "exploiting" him when he was 14.

The suit alleged that the incidents took place while Kalish "was in his police uniform, carrying a gun, in his police vehicle and on duty."

Two others have filed lawsuits, but they have yet to be served on the city.

Kalish's attorney for the civil case said he was confident that his client's reputation would be restored.

"We anticipate that there will be a vigorous defense, which will ultimately result in the vindication of Chief Kalish," said attorney David Poole.

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