On the eve of trial, the City of Riverside settled a contentious lawsuit brought by two of its lieutenants--Darryl Hurt and Tim Bacon--brought against the City, its now retired Chief of Police, a City Manager, an Assistant City Manager, and two City Council members. The lawsuit alleged retaliation based on the lieutenants’ political activities on behalf of the Riverside Police Administrators Association [“RPAA”], the union for police management employees.
In 2006, Lieutenant Hurt became President of the RPAA and was vocal about the City violating numerous provisions of the union contract, including the City’s surreptitious attempt to convert various positions to “at will” status. Hurt was responsible for coordinating litigation against the City challenging its actions and spoke out in opposition at various City Council meetings. Of course, Lieutenant Hurt did not stand alone in his opposition to the various issues that confronted the RPAA. In 2006, Lieutenant Tim Bacon was a vocal and active member of the RPAA. He gathered a wide range of community support at City Council meetings to oppose the implementation of the “at will” employment contracts. Furthermore, Lieutenant Bacon was Chairman of the Political Action Committee [“PAC”] for the RPAA and endorsed a candidate for City Council that eventually lost an election against a current City Councilman.
In addition to their union activities, Lieutenants Hurt and Bacon also reported what they believed to be unlawful activities of Police Chief Russ Leach, City Manager Brad Hudson, and Assistant City Manager Tom Desantis to the California Attorney General related to the issuance of concealed weapons to the city managers, as well as unauthorized cold platting of city vehicles. Lieutenants Hurt and Bacon believed that their outspoken criticism of City Hall, City Council, and the reporting of the alleged illegal activity angered the city managers and city councilman. Unfortunately, these protected activities ended up coming back to haunt Lieutenant Hurt and Bacon when they later tested for Captain.
In November 2007, both lieutenants participated in the promotional process for Captain. Naturally, their combined extensive training and fifty six plus years of collective law enforcement experience led to a high ranking following the oral interview. Despite their excellent qualifications as senior lieutenants, they were passed up for promotion allegedly based on their political activities.
During the discovery phase, numerous depositions were taken and provided startling insight into the manner in which promotions occur within the City of Riverside. A former Deputy Chief testified that Chief Russ Leach was told by City Manager Brad Hudson and Assistant City Manager Tom Desantis that Lieutenants Hurt and Bacon would never be considered for promotion because of their union activities. In fact, the candidate that was ultimately selected for promotion over Hurt and Bacon by Chief Leach was specifically approved by the city managers after an unusual vetting process.
Before the official announcement of the captain promotion was released, Councilman Steve Adams met with the promotional candidate at a restaurant, intentionally selected outside the city limits to avoid the appearance of impropriety [presumably due to the timing of the gathering]. This meeting was allegedly needed to resolved personal differences between Councilman Steve Adams and the candidate. Amazingly the only apparent issue that has to be resolved is whether or not the candidate actually campaigned against Steve Adams during a prior election—like Hurt and Bacon did. Once Steve Adams accepted the candidate’s plea that he did not campaign against him, all the personal differences were resolved. City Councilman Adams told City Manager Hudson the next day that the meeting went well and coincidentally, the official announcement of the promotion of that candidate followed shortly thereafter. By the terms of the City Charter, members of the City Council are not supposed to be involved in the promotional process.
After they were passed over for promotion, Lieutenants Hurt and Bacon notified the Chief of Police of their intent to file a lawsuit. This act had immediate consequences as they were both suddenly transferred to an undesirable assignment for seasoned lieutenants, specifically the watch commander position.
The City’s assertion that the Lieutenants Hurt and Bacon were not promoted because they never made it to the top three choices for captain was going to be exposed as a sham at trial. They had compelling evidence that they were not going to be promoted because they previously engaged in protected activities. The circumstances surrounding the promotion of the other lieutenant only after the secret meeting outside the city limits, the testimony of Deputy Chief that both candidates were not going to be considered for promotion to captain, and the total lack of credibility of the former Chief of Police were going to show otherwise.
A few weeks before the case was set to go to trial in April 2010, the City came to its senses and met the plaintiffs’ settlement demand. The terms of the settlement were released to the public by the City Attorney’s Office and include the following: In exchange for dismissal of both lawsuits against all defendants, Lieutenants Hurt and Bacon agreed to be placed on administrative leave until they were eligible for retirement [July 2010 for Lieutenant Bacon and January 2011 for Lieutenant Hurt]. Both lieutenants will receive back pay at the captain rate from the date they were passed up for promotion in January 2008 until their retirement. The City will ensure that both lieutenants will receive top step captain pay for the twelve months prior to retirement. Furthermore, the City agreed to purchase additional PERS service time so that both lieutenants could retire at the maximum, thirty years of service. Finally, Lieutenant Bacon will receive payment of $300,000 and Lieutenant Bacon will receive payment of $250,000. The City further agreed to pay the Lieutenants’ legal fees and costs. In total, the Lieutenants will receive a combined cash settlement totaling approximately $750,000, not to mention retirement at top step captain—positions they would have had absent the retaliation by the Defendants.