Writ Victory

Jones & Mayer recently prevailed in San Bernardino County Superior Court on behalf of the City of Fontana in a Civil Code of Procedure §1094.5 petition for writ of mandate by a former police evidence technician appealing her termination for willfully poor duty performance.

The evidence technician had a prior history of very good to excellent duty performance in her crime scene investigations.  But in two incidents a few months apart in 2012 the evidence technician seriously mishandled crime scene investigations.  In the first incident, she mishandled a scene investigation of a burglary, including receiving blood evidence from an officer on scene, and then throwing the evidence away.  In the second, she took woefully poor photographs at the scene of an officer-involved shooting, and failed to take other necessary photographs as expressly directed by a lieutenant.

Given her past demonstration of not only competence but excellence in performing these very types of tasks, it was determined by both the Chief of Police and the City Manager that the misconduct warranted termination.

On appeal to advisory arbitration, the employee argued that she needed training in order to do better work, had pleaded for that training, and that her pleas were ignored by the Department.  However, her record showed extensive training, and multiple witnesses testified that she had over the years repeatedly demonstrated that she knew how to do her job very well.

Arbitrator Joseph Gentile returned findings in which he recommended that the City Council uphold the charges and the termination.  The City Council adopted that recommendation.

The employee also raised the issue of a violation by the City of the one year statute of limitations for civilian police employees, found at Govt. Code §3508.1. However, in the arbitration hearing she failed to establish the record necessary to show the Court when it was that her alleged misconduct was known by someone with the authority to initiate an investigation.

On judicial review, the Court found that the charges were sustained, that the penalty of termination was not a manifest abuse of discretion, and that the record from the hearing did not support the claims of a violation of the one year statute of limitations.