A Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that sheriff’s officers targeted him with a fabricated criminal investigation in retaliation after he made a campaign donation to one of Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s political challengers had done.
In the lawsuit, filed Monday in LA County Superior Court against the county, Villanueva and other sheriff’s officers, Lt. Joseph Garrido’s $1,500 donation to retired Cmdr. Eli Vera’s campaign resulted in him being the subject of a fake criminal investigation into whether he misused his department-issued vehicle.
Garrido also alleges in the lawsuit that a coveted contract he was offered was withdrawn because of his support for Vera.
Garrido’s attorney Vince Miller accused Villanueva of being behind efforts to punish his client.
“He’s putting someone out, ending someone’s career, destroying their reputation for exercising their right to free speech,” Miller said. Miller is currently representing more than a dozen department employees in lawsuits against the department.
A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying officers have not yet seen it.
The lawsuit also alleges that the retaliation Garrido faced was due in part to his attempts to report misconduct by others in the department. In addition to helping uncover a scheme by sheriff’s officers to withhold bonuses from deputies with special training in explosives that caused the county to pay more than $3 million in back payments, Garrido alleges he had access to the overheated death of a police alerted dog.
Garrido, who has been a member of the department’s elite Special Enforcement Bureau since May 2018, is a close friend and supporter of Vera, who ran for sheriff in the June primary but failed to garner enough votes to advance to a runoff.
Campaign funding records show that Garrido made his contribution for Vera in June of last year. In November, Garrido claims he received a call from Carl Mandoyan, a former deputy who had a close relationship with the sheriff. During the call, Mandoyan repeatedly urged Garrido to explain why he donated to Vera’s campaign, the lawsuit states. Mandoyan became a controversial figure in the department when Villanueva fought unsuccessfully to reinstate him after he was fired over allegations of domestic violence and dishonesty.
Mandoyan told the Times on Monday Garrido called him asking for help getting into the department’s arson and explosives unit and offered the information about the donation to Vera himself.
“I said, ‘Okay, you’re free to do that,'” Mandoyan said.
After the call, Villanueva reportedly asked his staff to compile information on candidates for a job supervising the department’s arson unit — a job Garrido says in the lawsuit he had already received.
According to the lawsuit, Asst. Sheriff Bruce Chase overheard Villanueva mention several times the fact that Garrido supported Vera and had given to his campaign. During one of the encounters, the lawsuit states, Chase told Villanueva that he believed Garrido was the most qualified person for the arson unit job.
Villanueva selected someone else for the position, the lawsuit states.
Chase did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this year, the lawsuit states, Garrido got wind of false allegations circulating around the department that he had been seen towing a boat in his department-assigned Chevrolet Tahoe.
In May, Garrido wrote a memo to a supervisor refuting the false allegations against him, the lawsuit says. The day after he sent the memo, a sergeant showed up on his block to question neighbors, the lawsuit alleges.
Garrido confronted the sergeant, who confirmed that he was conducting a criminal investigation against Garrido, according to a recording of the conversation Garrido had and verified by The Times.
During the conversation, Garrido pointed out a “Vera for Sheriff” campaign sign on his home, which he believes was the reason for the investigation.
“Probably,” the sergeant said, according to the recording.
The lawsuit also states that the sergeant offered one of Garrido’s neighbors $300 for the username and password for their security video system.
The sheriff’s department has for months refused to answer Times questions about the death of the police dog Garrido’s lawsuit allegedly reported. Garrido’s lawsuit says the dog, named Spike, overheated after a sergeant left him in a car for more than four hours.
Lt. Oscar Martinez, a department spokesman, confirmed the 6-year-old dog, who was trained to track down accelerant used by arsonists, died in East LA in 2020, but declined to give details of how the death happened.
He said the incident was investigated and “it was determined that no employee misconduct or negligence was involved in the death.” He also said “medical personnel” were unable to determine the cause of death.
A source, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to discuss the matter, told the Times there was no record of an investigation into the handler.
The Times reviewed an email around the time of the dog’s death in which a sheriff’s officer advised dog handlers to check the warning system in their cars.
“Under no circumstances should you put a dog in a vehicle without first checking and making sure the heat warning system is working as intended. Under no circumstances should you put a dog in a vehicle with an inoperable or faulty heat alarm system,” the email said.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-17/sheriff-retaliation-lawsuit L.A. sheriff targeted lieutenant for donating to opponent, lawsuit says