A jury this week sided with former Deputy Police Chief William Taylor to the tune of nearly $1.3 million, siding with his claims that he was fired in retaliation for refusing to sign off on the terminations of minority officers.
In his 2009 lawsuit, Taylor also said he was retaliated against for raising concerns about how a sexual harassment incident was being handled.
Late Monday afternoon, jurors awarded $1.29 million, with $250,000 of that awarded for pain and suffering, his attorney Gregory Smith said. The rest was for loss of earnings.
Smith said he was not surprised by the jury’s verdict.
“Bill Taylor is one of the most honest and truthful men I have met in my life,” Smith said. “I always believed his story. I have great faith in the justice system and I knew people would see that as well.”
Taylor was among 10 officers who were fired in 2010 for alleged misconduct in how a 2007 Porto’s Bakery robbery was investigated, including accusations of excessive use of force.
The jurors realized that the Porto’s internal affairs investigation was “a complete sham,” Smith said, because evidence presented in Los Angeles County Superior Court showed James Gardiner, who was brought on by the city to probe how the department investigated the Porto’s robbery, was there to buttress the city’s position.
The city alleged Taylor interfered in an internal investigation, and that he was not demoted. Rather, former Chief of Police Tim Stehr was restructuring a department in turmoil.
Ronald Frank, one of the attorneys for the city, did not respond to a request for comment.
Taylor’s lawsuit is the first of several filed after the Porto's Bakery and Cafe robbery in 2007 to go before a jury. The other lawsuits include allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment and are winding their way through the legal system.
Opening statements in a trial involving Det. Steve Karagiosian were scheduled to begin this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Karagiosian, along with four other officers, alleged discrimination and sexual harassment in the lawsuit that was filed in 2009.
Taylor is a witness in the case, Karagiosian’s attorney, Solomon Gresen, said.
That could prove troublesome for the city, Smith said, because if Taylor is asked if he sued, he can also be asked about the result of the lawsuit.
“It makes Bill [Taylor] a much more credible witness,” Smith said. “It’s a big problem for the city.”
Burbank City Atty. Amy Albano said in an interview that she believed “all witnesses testified truthfully” when they told the court they knew nothing of Taylor’s concerns about attempted minority firings.
Under a fair employment claim Taylor has filed, Smith said they would push to have Taylor reinstated as deputy chief.
If that is not successful, Smith wants the city to allow Taylor to retire honorably and return his badge.
The court can order the city to issue a retirement badge that says deputy chief, Smith said, along with a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which is given to all honorably retired officers.
It’s an effort that will likely face an uphill battle.
“My immediate reaction is that Taylor sued for money damages and that’s what he was awarded,” Albano said of any possible reinstatement.
The city has 30 days to file a motion for a new trial, or 60 days to appeal.