LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Sheriff Alex Villanueva responded Tuesday to the latest whistleblower case brought against him as well as Los Angeles County, calling a sheriff’s lieutenant’s allegation Villanueva quashed an investigation into a police dog’s death part of “yet another frivolous lawsuit.”
Lt. Joseph Garrido’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was filed Monday and alleges whistleblower retaliation, civil rights violations, violation of the state Civil Code, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, false light and defamation.
Garrido seeks at least $5 million in general damages and another $5 million in special damages.
In a response with a caption, “Advisory: Yet Another Frivolous Lawsuit,” Villanueva downplayed Garrido’s case.
“Several months after a criminal and administrative investigation began regarding alleged misconduct by Joseph Garrido, he has filed a lawsuit and claimed whistleblower status,” Villanueva said. ” Absent from this lawsuit is any explanation as to why Mr. Garrido supposedly witnessed misconduct, yet took no action for years until after he was under investigation.”
Garrido worked in the Special Enforcement Bureau and oversaw the Canine Services and Special Enforcement details. His lawsuit states that he supported and donated money to the campaign of one of Villanueva’s rivals, retired sheriff’s department veteran Eli Vera, in the June primary; spoke out against the denial of explosive breacher pay to some deputies, forcing the department to shell out $3 million; and reported the death of a police dog, Spike, who allegedly succumbed to overheating after being left in a hot car by his sheriff’s department sergeant handler.
Garrido alleges Villanueva quashed an investigation into the dog’s death to avoid “bad media” for himself and the department.
“Shockingly, Villanueva did not even do a tribute, internally at LASD and/or publicly, for Spike, and talk of Spike’s years of loyal service before his tragic death,” Garrido’s court papers state.
In retaliation, the department reversed a promotion Garrido had been granted, made the plaintiff the subject of a trumped up criminal investigation and told his neighbors in a letter that he had stolen a vehicle, destroying his career and slandering his name, his court papers state.
But a copy of a memo attached to Villanueva’s statement explains that a sheriff’s department captain reviewed the animal’s death and concluded that the sergeant “followed the protocols” in place for all police dog handlers and was not negligent. The sergeant’s car had previously had problems with its air conditioning, according to the memo.
According to Garrido’s lawsuit, his emotional distress has kept him out of work for months and he has been “constructively terminated” by the county.
Cmdr. Allen Castellano, former Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon and retired Chief LaJuana Haselrig are among those who have also filed whistleblower lawsuits against the county and Villanueva.