Judge dismisses fired officer’s complaint, leaves option to refile

BARSTOW • A judge dismissed a complaint filed by a former Barstow Police Department officer against the city in federal court but left an open door for him to file an amended complaint.

U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson issued the order Dec. 15, after an Oct. 6 hearing on the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint by fired officer Ray Warren. The complaint named the City of Barstow, former City Manager Hector Rodriguez, former police Chief Caleb Lee Gibson, and former Lt. Rudy Alcantara as defendants.

Larson dismissed two of the five allegations in Warren’s complaint with prejudice, meaning he is barred from bringing up the same issues in another complaint. The judge dismissed the other allegations as well, but allowed Warren the option to bring them up again in an amended complaint.

Warren, who had been employed with the police department since 1986, according to his complaint, was fired in March 2007 after recording a meeting with supervisors where they reprimanded him for his job performance. The city maintained that it was illegal for the officer to record a conversation without permission. Warren’s position was that the meeting was an interrogation, and he had the right, as an officer, to record it.

Attorneys representing Warren did not return calls for comment on whether they plan to file another complaint following the dismissal. The offices of the city of Barstow were closed for the Christmas holiday and city spokesman John Rader was unavailable. Attorneys for the defendants could not be reached.

The judge entirely dismissed claims that Warren was harassed on the job and that his firing violated public policy.

Warren also alleged that he was fired for acting as a whistleblower because he made a written complaint about excessive use of force by a fellow officer, and because he complained that Alcantara was making improper advances toward a female officer. His complaint stated that he was targeted because, as president of the Barstow Police Officers Association, he encouraged officers to pursue grievances regarding issues in the workplace. He claimed that the city and police supervisors violated his rights to freedom of speech and of assembly by firing him.

Larson ruled that Warren must file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner before taking the city to court over the issue, and must provide more information to back up his claims.

A separate lawsuit filed against the city in federal court by former Officer Pete Holm is currently awaiting a settlement conference hearing. Holm quit in April 2007 after supervisors allegedly changed a traffic collision report he had written that put Gibson’s son-in-law at fault.

• January 2007: Barstow Police Department Officer Ray Warren records a meeting with supervisors in which they reprimand him for performance issues.

• March 2007: Warren is fired for recording the conversation. Warren later asserts that the meeting was an interrogation, and he had the right to record it under the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights.

• September 2007: Warren files a complaint against the city in the San Bernardino County Superior Court, asking that the court order the city not to discipline him for tape recording the conversation, which would effectively do away with the city’s case for firing him.

• March 2008: Warren files a complaint against the city in the United States District Court alleging that the firing was illegal and violated Warren’s civil rights.

• July 2008: A commissioner in the San Bernardino county court rules that the January 2007 meeting was not an interrogation and Warren did not have a right to record it. Warren is currently appealing the ruling.

• October 2008: A U.S. District Court judge hears a request by the defendants to dismiss Warren’s complaint.

• December 2008: The judge dismisses the complaint but allows Warren the option to file an amended complaint containing some of the allegations.

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