City of Burbank agrees to $1.4M settlement in Dahlia case

The city has reached a $1.4-million settlement with a former Burbank police detective who sued the city for retaliation after he was fired four years ago for alleged misconduct during the investigation into a takeover robbery at Porto’s Bakery in 2007.

The settlement brings closure to a years-long legal battle between the city and former Det. Angelo Dahlia, who was placed on administrative leave after two decades on the force when he came forward in April 2009 with information that some officers were involved in excessive force during the Porto’s robbery investigation.

City officials accused Dahlia of attempting to cover up the misconduct during an initial investigation, though Dahlia claimed that fellow officers threatened him to keep quiet.

Dahlia sued the city in federal court in November 2009, while he was still on paid leave, alleging that he was retaliated against for speech that was protected by the First Amendment. Dahlia also sued the city for six state causes of action.

Separately, he appealed his termination internally. Last December, an arbitrator ruled in an advisory decision that Dahlia should not have been fired, but instead should have been disciplined with a six-month suspension, according to the settlement.

The agreement puts to bed the administrative appeal, as well as his state and federal lawsuits. Dahlia will receive a retired detective’s badge and pension benefits, according to the settlement.

The agreement states that the city intends to “avoid continued litigation and buy its peace” through the settlement, and is not admitting to any violations of state or federal law.

“At this point in time, I think the city is trying to bring conclusion to all this to the extent we can,” said City Atty. Amy Albano, referring to the litigation the city faced in the aftermath of the Porto’s investigation. “That way everyone can concentrate on what the police really do, which is protecting our community, and they do a fantastic job.”

Dahlia’s attorney Jeff Lipow could not immediately be reached for comment.

Each party is responsible for their own attorney’s fees under the settlement.

To date, the city has spent more than $500,000 defending the lawsuits filed by Dahlia, Albano said, which brings the cost of the case, including the settlement, to roughly $2 million.

The city has to pay $1 million out of pocket from its liability fund, which receives contributions from the General Fund, in this matter, while the Authority for California Cities Excess Liability, of which Burbank is a member, is responsible for the remaining roughly $1 million.

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