Fired Police Chief Samuel L. Buntyn has filed a $6.5-million lawsuit against the city, alleging that the leak to the press of his letter of termination last August invaded his privacy, held him up to public ridicule and damaged his reputation.
The letter from City Manager John Bernardi to Buntyn, who was fired in the fall, charged Buntyn with sexual harassment of a female subordinate, attempting to influence a police review board and insubordination. Copies of the letter were obtained by The Times and the Pasadena Star-News and became the basis of news stories.
Buntyn’s suit also names Bernardi and the City Council members at that time, David Margrave, Lee Prentiss, Sam Knowles, Ted Shaw and Robert Wagner.
Buntyn’s attorney, Gregory Wedner, said he believes that a city official leaked the letter to the press, but Wedner declined to name the official.
Bernardi said city officials have been advised by the city attorney not to discuss the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, a hearing on Buntyn’s appeal of his firing has been postponed because of a disagreement over personnel to sit on the appeal board, Bernardi said. Buntyn, 42, had been police chief for eight years when the City Council agreed in a June 5 closed-door session to ask for his resignation. Buntyn refused to resign, and filed a claim for stress-related disability retirement. He was out on medical leave from then until his dismissal. William Reese, who served as acting chief during that time, subsequently was named as Buntyn’s permanent replacement.