In 2009, former UC Davis Police Officer Calvin Chang filed a lawsuit against the UC Regents and UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza, alleging complaints of racial and sexual orientation discrimination, housing discrimination, and retaliation.
According to the amended complaint, Officer Calvin Chang was “subjected to a pattern of harassment and discrimination because of his race and sexual orientation.”
The allegations include “a racial slur broadcasted to Plaintiff over the police radio by his supervisor, superiors referred to Plaintiff as ‘Mr. Chang’ instead of by his earned title of ‘Officer Chang,’ repeatedly referred to by the name of the agency’s previous Asian-American officer, denied timely backup, subjected to a derogatory slur (‘fag’) by a probationary police officer (whom Regents passed on probation) in the presence of his supervisor, offensive homosexual innuendos from a supervisor, referred to as a ‘****ing fag’ by his supervisor (whom Spicuzza promoted and assigned to the ‘professional standards unit’ in command of internal affairs), subjected to numerous false internal affairs investigations.”
After attempts to dismiss the lawsuit through SLAPP (stragetic lawsuit against public participation) and through a series of demurrers, the suit moved forward to depositions with most of the key complaints, regarding claims of racial discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and retaliation surviving.
As we have previously mentioned, in such cases the plaintiff’s case is viewed in the most favorable light and based on that reading of evidence, the court decides if there is a legitimate claim of violation. While they struck down some of the claims, the core claims remain in place.
The Regents failed to challenge the breach of contract claim, nor did they challenge the Peace Officers Bill of Rights Violations.
Perhaps of most significance is that the court has allowed a case to go forward against UC Davis Police Chief Spicuzza herself as an individual, ruling that her actions are not covered under the general immunity that a government employee would have.
According to the court, “Plaintiff has alleged, with respect to the housing allegations, that in March 2008, Defendant ‘maliciously abused her position of authority as campus police chief, when without justification she personally called the Real Estate Services staff and demanded that Real Estate Services must unlawfully and without any legitimate justification, evict Plaintiff from his Aggie Village home.’ “
The court argues that immunity, as set forth in Government Code section 822.2 as well as discretionary immunity set forth in section 820.2, does not apply.
They write, “Indeed, Defendant fails to demonstrate which allegations indicate, as a matter of law, that all of the actions in the tenth cause of action, upon which her liability is based, involved a ‘policy decision, consciously balancing risks and advantages.’ ”
They continue, “with respect to the allegations regarding Defendant calling Real Estate Services to demand Plaintiff be evicted, the Court will not conclude on a demurrer that this involved a policy decision. This is true even though Plaintiff alleged Defendant was at all times acting in the course of scope of her employment with the Regents.”
They conclude, “The Court rejects the argument that Plaintiff failed to allege outrageous conduct. Indeed, Plaintiff alleged that, among other things, Defendant sought to evict Plaintiff from his house by calling Real Estate Services and demanding they evict Plaintiff. The Court cannot say that this allegation relating to Plaintiff’s home and alleged attempts to evict him from his home, does not as a matter of law, constitute extreme and outrageous conduct.”
And they thus find that this conduct, if eventually proven to be accurate, does indeed demonstrate an allegation of outrageous conduct.
This finding should not be taken lightly, for it is a very high burden to breach government immunity.
The background to this case begins in July of 2003, when Officer Chang was terminated from the UC Davis Police Department. He almost immediately filed complaints of discrimination and harassment in connection with his termination, and this began a very long journey in which he would eventually be reinstated, only to be terminated again.
The Aggie continues, “Sacramento police records show only two accidents, both of which were determined not to be Chang’s fault. After Chang filed a complaint with Vice Chancellor of Administration Stan Nosek for discrimination, UCDPD reinstated him in Nov. 2003, citing ‘some confusion’ on the matter.”
Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said she “could not identify” which officer wrote the note that contained the alleged death threat and in response to complaints of discrimination, instead of investigating the matter further, stated to Officer Chang, “Why don’t you leave?”
The suit alleges a long list of various incidents of harassment and retaliations, including a punitive transfer, failure to properly protect Officer Chang and soliciting complaints against Officer Chang. Officer Chang claims that the Police Chief initiated several “malicious and false” internal affairs investigations against the Officer.
According to a 2009 press release by attorney Anthony Luti, representing Officer Calvin Chang, “These actions culminated in a lawsuit filed [where Officer Calvin] Chang alleges that in 2008, he was unlawfully terminated for the second time, after the UC Davis Police Department fabricated an internal affairs [sic] alleging that he ‘failed to have a backup officer’ when he searched a laundry room at the Segundo Residence Hall.”
It continues, “Chang’s lawsuit alleges that Spicuzza intentionally misrepresented that the internal affairs investigation had ‘no finding.’ However, UC Davis concealed and intentionally misrepresented that it had sustained the allegation and then falsely and maliciously reported that he had resigned as a result of the internal affairs complaint.”
UC Davis has also attempted retaliation, according to the plaintiff, by “unlawfully threatening [to] take his home of ten years—located in Aggie Village on the UC Davis campus.” As a result of a complaint Chang filed with the CA Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the University agreed that it would cease any further actions, again choosing to explain its actions as based on “miscommunication.”
Furthermore, the plaintiff reports, “In a letter responding to Chang’s complaint, [UC Davis Chancellor Larry] Vanderhoef described the University’s action as ‘a result of administrative error’ and that there was no ‘evidence that these actions were intended to be retaliatory.’ ”
Writes Mr. Luti in his complaint, “These government defendants misrepresented facts, in order to procure Officer Chang’s resignation by fraud, concealed records and evidence, and further continued to retaliate by committing the unlawful personnel file violations. To compound these statutory violations, defendants also breached its settlement obligations in every respect to destroy Officer Chang’s career.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting