Corona, CA: Corona officer says she faced retaliation over expose

A Corona police lieutenant said in a claim against the city that she was denied a promotion, among other retaliatory measures, because she threatened to tell another law enforcement agency that her department was allowing an officer to associate with a gang member while off duty.

Kelly Anderson is seeking $750,000 in damages from the city. She said in the claim that she was also removed from command of a special-enforcement team, was punitively transferred ahead of schedule, denied special assignments and improperly reprimanded.

The officer she complained about was Lt. Brent Coleman, who was on paid administrative leave for 10 months in 2009-10 during what was believed to be an investigation into his association with a member of the Vagos. Coleman eventually left his job under unspecified circumstances after he rejected the city's offer of $25,000 to resign.

Anderson is on medical leave, Corona Sgt. Frank Barron said. The law office representing Anderson, Stone Busailah of Pasadena, would not say whether her leave is related to her claim. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

Claims are filed as a first step. Lawsuits usually follow if the claim is rejected.

"The city did receive a claim from Lt. Anderson, and while the claim has been formally denied, the city is continuing to work with its legal counsel," Barron said. "Unfortunately, due to the litigation and the confidentiality of a personnel matter, we are unable to further comment on this matter."

Anderson said in the claim that she became aware in January 2008 that Coleman was associating with members of the Vagos, who police consider a notorious motorcycle gang. Anderson said she believed that association was "unethical and a conflict of interest" because Coleman was in charge of the Police Department's gang unit and a regional gang task force, the claim said.

Anderson reported Coleman to her captain, Ray Cota. Later, Anderson said, she was told by Coleman's captain, Richard Madory, that Madory had told Coleman to discontinue his relationship with the Vagos and that there would not be an investigation. The police chief at the time, Richard Gonzales, told Anderson to "let it go," the claim said.

In September 2008, Anderson said, Coleman confronted her and told her to stay out of his way.

Coleman continued to associate with the Vagos, one of them being Carlos Padilla, the claim said.

In October 2009, after Anderson saw Padilla at two police-sponsored events, she told her captain that Coleman's continued association with Padilla was "adversely affecting good order, morale, discipline and confidence in the leadership of the Police Department."

Anderson, deciding that the department had failed to address the Coleman situation, then said she would report the case to an outside law enforcement agency. It was only then, the claim said, that Madory, now the police chief, asked the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to investigate Coleman.

Coleman was on paid administrative leave from Nov. 30, 2009, to his final day on the job, Oct. 6, 2010, during which time he was paid $193,000 in salary, benefits and longevity and marksmanship bonuses.

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