A former police officer filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city of Burbank in Los Angeles County Superior Court last week, roughly two weeks after a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the original claim did not belong in federal court.
Former officer Pete Allen originally sued the city in federal court in January, claiming the city fired him more than two years ago in retaliation for providing information to FBI and county sheriff's officials about alleged misconduct by his colleagues during an investigation into a 2007 robbery at Porto's Bakery. In doing so, he claimed, the city violated two state laws — the California Whistleblower Protection Act and a section of the labor code protecting employees from retaliation when disclosing information to government or law enforcement agencies.
The city had submitted a motion arguing that the lawsuit should be thrown out of federal court because Allen had not yet exhausted the administrative appeal process, which is still pending.
But U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled last month that the lawsuit didn't belong in federal court. Gee, as a result, did not evaluate the city's motion to dismiss the case.
“The federal judge's ruling in no way has any bearing on the integrity of Pete Allen's claims,” his attorney, Brian Claypool, said Tuesday. “It was a procedural ruling.”
So Allen filed a similar lawsuit Thursday in Superior Court arguing the city violated the two state laws.
Burbank City Atty. Amy Albano said that while she had not yet seen or read the most recent lawsuit, “we're going to defend any lawsuit that we receive vigorously.”
Whether the state lawsuit will be put on hold pending the result of Allen's arbitration hearing is unclear.
“The law is very inexact,” Claypool said. “It can depend on the judge you have, how that judge interprets the cases that are out there.”
In the lawsuit, Allen — who was recognized as Officer of the Year in 2009 — claims he was fired after reporting officer misconduct to the FBI and Sheriff's Department. The agencies were investigating excessive-force allegations stemming from the Porto's robbery.
According to the lawsuit, Allen witnessed several suspects with facial injuries following their arrest, and heard loud bangs on office walls when an officer had a robbery suspect in the room.
Allen is seeking $2 million in compensatory and general damages, according to the lawsuit.
The city's own probe into the robbery investigation cost 10 Burbank officers — including Allen — their jobs.