CALEXICO — It’s been about five years since several Calexico cops, most of them high-ranking members of the police officers’ union, were suspended and most later fired amid allegations that never resulted in criminal charges.
At least one of the
officers, Luis Casillas, was given his job back, but all indications are he has
yet to return to work. It is not clear what his job status is today other than
he is possibly still earning a paycheck.
The saga of the eight officers
began with their suspensions in 2014 and continued with seven being fired in
2015. In the years since the cases have taken several legal paths that to this
day appear to be ongoing, but it’s difficult to tell. There is scant
information about developments since 2017.
With so many officers
disciplined and so many separate lawsuits and administrative hearings and
appeals having taken place over time, just where everything stands is elusive.
How much money has been paid out and to whom is also unknown, because some of
the officers have been awarded back pay, but it’s not known how many of them or
to what degree.
What is available is from
short interviews, a few documents released by the city and online federal court
City officials are not
rushing to help clarify the issues, either. Several inquiries into the status
of the seven fired police officers’ cases have resulted in the current police
chief and city manager not addressing the situation directly or saying at
various times they don’t know how all of the cases turned out or don’t remember.
City Manager David Dale and Police Chief Gonzalo Gerardo have not returned messages and emails specifically seeking information for this story. Also, a call to City Attorney Carlos Campos has not been returned.
Several calls and
messages left with an attorney who represented the seven fired officers–and
one suspended officer–in a federal wrongful-action lawsuit have not been
returned as well. It appears that lawsuit at some point turned into a First
Again, what exactly
happened is unclear without the assistance of the attorney of record, Michael
McGill with the firm of Adams Ferrone & Ferrone.
The latest known development
is at least one fired officer who appealed his termination through an
administrative hearing recently had his termination upheld by an administrative
law judge in San Diego in late 2019.
For reasons unknown, the
decision was to go before the Calexico City Council, Dale said a few weeks ago,
but that did not happen.
However, Dale did turn
over the Nov. 22, 2019, decision affirming the firing of Officer Gabriel
To understand the fate of
all seven fired officers who were initially put on leave by then-police chief
Michael Bostic in October 2014–Rodriguez among them–this newspaper requested
other documents similar to the Rodriguez decision.
Dale sent along
arbitration awards and decision documents for officers Rudy Alarcon and
Those documents are under
review by this newspaper.
Alarcon’s Dec. 30, 2017,
decision shows that his termination was upheld but he was awarded years of back
pay while the arbitration process reached finality.
Casillas’ March 9, 2018,
decision shows his firing by the city was found unwarranted, that he could get
his job back as a police officer and that he was to be paid from the time of
his 2015 termination to what apparently is the present, although that is
unclear as well.
Casillas could not be
reached for this story, but it does not appear he has returned to work. He has
made various appearances at city council meetings over the last year to speak
in public comment about the backpay the city owes him and about returning to
the job, but so far he has yet to again don a uniform.
Gerardo has previously
alleged there are “administrative things” that Casillas has not done to return
to the job.
Other than this, it’s
been difficult to figure out what happened to the other officers.
The most recent legal
action that can be found online pertaining to the federal civil lawsuit against
the city by the officers is a May 2019 opinion by a U.S. District Court in San
Diego denying a new trial for three of the original eight officers.
In the decision/opinion,
the judge denies a new trial for fired officers German Duran, Frank Uriarte and
The decision/opinion is
tied to the July 2015 First Amendment retaliation suit filed by McGill
collectively on behalf of Rodriguez, Alarcon, Casillas, Duran, Uriarte, Frazier
and fired Officer Steven Garcia and suspended Officer Isaisis Navarro.
In the suit, the
plaintiffs claim they were fired or, in Navarro’s case, became the subject of
an investigation, for exercising their First Amendment right of free speech and
union activity. Six of the seven fired officers were members of the Calexico
Police Officers’ Association.
In the background to the
decision, it is alluded to that “the Court” has issued summary judgments
previously in favor of the defendants, former Chief Bostic, former City Manager
Richard Warne, Gerardo (then a lieutenant) and the city of Calexico, over
plaintiffs Uriarte, Garcia, Duran and Frazier. Former Calexico City Council member
Martiza Hurtado was listed as a defendant on an earlier version of the suit,
but it was not immediately clear when she was removed or why.
What the summary
judgments mean wasn’t known by deadline. It isn’t known if the collective cases
remain in some part active and whether that is so with either all or some of
the original plaintiffs.
Just whose firing has
remained and whose has been challenged through some other arbitration or employment-related
process is unclear as well.
A former member of the
council at the time of the firings did not want to be quoted as part of this
story, but said they were also unclear as to how all of the various
machinations played out, including who appealed their firings and in what
As of Feb. 18, it only
appears Casillas was given his job back and it wasn’t available whether
suspended officer Navarro remained with the department.
In 2014, then-city manager
Warne and the council at the time fired then-police chief Pompeyo Tabarez and
hired former top-ranked Los Angeles Police Department official Bostic as
interim chief to come in, investigate the department and clean house. Within
weeks of Bostic’s arrival, at his request, the FBI raided the department and
began looking into reports of corruption within its ranks and Bostic suspended
most of the eight officers.
At the time, the moves
got the attention of the national news media as Bostic accused officers
involved in the police union of running a mafia-style “extortion racket” within
By mid-2015, seven of the
officers were fired for various reasons, none of those reasons ever rising to
the level of criminal charges. Some were fired for allegations such as falsifying
documents related to a federal grant program, threats to co-workers, excessive
use of force, among others.
The political tide
shifted in Calexico over the next couple of years, and a new council fired
Warne, Bostic, a former public works director, Nick Servin, and suspended then-Lt.
Gerardo and police executive secretary Martha Gomez. By mid-2016, Bostic,
Gerardo, Gomez and Servin all sued the city in federal court for retaliation
and won their case.
When the political tide
shifted again Gerardo ended up emerging from a 408-day suspension unscathed and
was eventually named interim police chief in 2018. He was made permanent chief
in December that same year.