Local News

Friday, Jul 27 2012 05:22 PM

Former Arvin police chief a no-show at hearing

By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

An attorney for former Arvin police chief Tommy Tunson said he and his client did not attend a Thursday night administrative appeal hearing before the City Council because an outside hearing officer was not recruited to hear Tunson's case.

Christopher Miller, the Sacramento attorney who filed Tunson's claim against the city following his ouster, said he and Tunson requested the hearing but asked that an outside hearing officer preside, rather than the body that fired Tunson.

"Our objection was that it was highly unfair for the council to be judge, jury and executioner," Miller said Friday.

In a news release, Miller said the city's decision to continue to hold the hearing "despite its obvious unfairness will only make litigation with the city more likely."

Arvin City Manager Tim Chapa could not be reached for comment Friday.

Tunson's attorneys said he received a notice of termination June 20. Tunson has since filed a claim for damages against the city alleging that city officials interfered with his leadership of the police department and undermined him. Tunson's claim also asserts that he was discriminated against because of his race. Tunson is African American.

The former police chief was the subject of a December 2011 vote of no confidence by the Arvin Police Officers Association.

Tunson's claim names three city council members and Chapa as "public employees causing injuries." The claim does not include Mayor Tim Tarver and Mayor Pro Tem Fernando Guzman.

Tunson is seeking damages in excess of $25,000, according to the claim.

Despite opting out of Thursday's hearing, Miller said he and Tunson are still talking with the city to resolve the dispute "in the best interest of the city of Arvin."

"We're still discussing with the city's representatives the possibility of reaching a settlement or a resolution to all of this," Miller said.

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