The attorney for a former Burbank deputy police chief who claims he was fired because he complained about internal issues questioned the validity Thursday of an outside investigator’s report that played a role in his client’s termination.
The former deputy, William Taylor, alleges that he was demoted and then fired in retaliation for expressing concerns about racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
His lawsuit, which was being heard this week, 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.
Around the time the claims were filed, the FBI and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department were investigating the department for allegations of civil rights violations.
James Gardiner, the outside investigator brought in around April 2009 to re-examine the investigation of the Porto’s robbery after an officer came forward and alleged he witnessed a colleague use excessive force, defended his findings under questions from Taylor’s attorney in court this week.
Gardiner, a former police chief who now works as a licensed private investigator, was paid roughly $170,000 by the city for his investigation of the robbery incident. He said in court that he remains on the city payroll, adding that he had billed $6,000 of $100,000 set aside by Burbank for his work on the trial.
Gardiner testified that he thought Taylor lied when he interviewed him about the robbery investigation because the deputy chief said he couldn’t remember several things.
Taylor’s attorney, Gregory Smith, noted that his client at the time was on medications, including for high blood pressure.
Gardiner said he was aware Taylor had been on medical leave, but not that he was on medication that would make it difficult to remember things.
Taylor’s doctor testified that it was possible the medications he was taking could affect memory, although depending on when he took the medication, it was possible the medication was out of his system.
Expert witness Paul Kim — a 28-year veteran with the Los Angeles Police Department who has worked on other cases for Smith — said he did not see anything in Gardiner’s report that would suggest Taylor interfered with the investigation.
Kim added that if there is an accusation of interfering, there is an expectation that there will be consequences from the interference.
“The interference has to have negative consequences on the investigation,” Kim said. “I didn’t see it.”
The trial, which is being heard Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles, will continue next week.