La Verne Tentatively Agrees To Settle Firefighters’ Lawsuits For $5.5 Million

LA VERNE, CA — La Verne is moving toward a $5.5 million settlement with its firefighters union, likely bringing an end to a 14-month legal battle.

The city and the La Verne Firefighters’ Association, Local 3624 began talks the day jury selection was set to start in federal court in downtown Los Angeles. Thomas Brown, the attorney representing the association, confirmed the news by phone but said the terms are still being finalized.

La Verne City Manager Bob Russi said any settlement would have to be approved by the City Council before it is finalized. A comment from the attorney representing La Verne is expected to be released Wednesday along with more details.

The strife between the two parties began, the association alleged, when Fire Chief Peter Jankowski retaliated against union members for supporting the mayor’s political opponent during the 2017 campaign.

The initial 44-page suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Dec. 4, 2017. It claimed the firefighters were subject to “frivolous disciplinary investigations” and “unwarranted and excessive discipline,” among other complaints.

The suit was amended Feb. 22, 2018 with 55 more pages, asking the case go to a jury trial. The union was seeking in excess of $1 million for mental and emotional injuries, distress, anxiety and humiliation.

The second claim came Dec. 21, which alleged members’ Firefighters Bill of Rights were violated when Battalion Chief Michael Thompson secretly took more than 250 videos, 1,500 photographs and kept a 235-page file of notes, some of which included conversations union members had with their wives.

The union was being represented by the Los Angeles firm Brown White & Osborn, which also represented Downey firefighters in its $3.7 million settlement against that city.

A separate case was settled in December when La Verne agreed to pay 23 firefighters nearly $280,000 in uncompensated overtime and attorney fees. The 23 firefighters were represented by Rancho Cucamonga-based Dammeier Law Firm.

From The Daily Bulletin

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