The Burbank City Council this week voted this week to appeal a nearly $1.3-million verdict awarded to former Deputy Police Chief William Taylor after he claimed in a lawsuit that he faced on-the-job retaliation.
The move will prolong a case that has already racked up more then $1 million in legal fees and other costs for the city, a fact that prompted Councilman David Gordon to be the lone dissenter in the 3-1 vote on Tuesday.
Councilman Jess Talamantes was absent from the closed session meeting.
Taylor sued in 2009, claiming he was demoted to captain, and later fired, for highlighting sexual and racial issues within the department. In March, a jury awarded Taylor nearly $1.3 million, siding with his claims that he was retaliated against, demoted and fired for complaining about problems in the department and refusing to fire minority officers.
“My understanding is that employment law retaliation cases are extremely difficult to defend as demonstrated by the recent jury verdict,” Gordon said in an email this week. “I believe we need to put this behind us and move on before spending any more taxpayer funds.”
Mayor Dave Golonski said he could not comment, citing pending litigation.
City Atty. Amy Albano said the city stands behind its assertion that they did not discriminate or retaliate against Taylor.
The city also contends misconduct among jury members created an unfair bias against the city.
“When you couple that with other errors we feel occurred in this case, there’s definite grounds for an appeal,” Albano said.
She acknowledged the costs involved in litigating the case, but said not doing so could also have long-term impacts.
“The decision to go forward, and go forward and use taxpayers’ money, may ultimately save taxpayer money in the end.”
If the appellate court agrees with Burbank, they would not have to pay Taylor’s attorney’s fees or the jury award.
The City Council’s decision comes after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John Segal, who presided over the jury trial, denied the city’s motion for a new trial on June 7.
Gregory Smith, Taylor’s attorney, has requested the trial court force the city to pay his legal fees, which amount to about $1.75 million, including roughly $876,000 in hourly charges for him and his co-counsel, Christopher Brizzolara. Two other attorneys assisted.
In an interview Tuesday night, Smith said he was not surprised by the city’s decision.
“It appears in the near future, the only winners in the Taylor case are the defense lawyers who are packing away over $1 million,” Smith said. “The lawyers appear to have convinced the City Council that there is some merit to their appeal. There is no merit to an appeal.”
Taylor’s case is the first of several lawsuits involving former and current police officers to go before a jury since the Porto’s bakery robbery and the subsequent probes launched by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI into allegations of police officer misconduct and civil rights violations committed during the investigation.
Some of the lawsuits have been dismissed, while some former officers continue to wade through the city’s administrative appeals process.