20 January 2010|
The police chief in Montebello has stepped down amid a $30-million legal battle with officers over alleged discrimination and retaliation, officials said this week.
Dan Weast was placed on administrative leave in December after a legal complaint filed in late October accused the police chief of “promoting individuals who are ‘friends,’ as opposed to qualified minority candidates,” particularly from an alleged "all White Group" within the police force known as Mahan’s Marauders.
Interim City Manager Randy Narramore put Weast on administrative leave Dec. 14.
“I received a call from his attorney that said he would like to retire, and we honored the contract," Narramore said. "The city council has given me direction to bring in an interim chief. I am negotiating with one now.”
The Montebello Police Officers Assn. in August issued a 90% vote of no confidence in the police chief. Weast once headed the association.
Narramore said he is in talks with the plaintiffs’ attorney to reach a settlement. The police officers originally asked for $30 million in damages, but the figure has been reduced to less than a quarter of that amount, said Daniel Hitzke, an attorney for the officers.
“We’re very encouraged by the new city council and the new city administrator. We’re very excited to have this matter put behind us,” Hitzke said.
Attorney Rob Wexler, who is representing Weast in his retirement talks with the city, called the lawsuit "baseless."
Mayor Bill Molinari said he had criticized the chief’s qualifications and the lack of an open selection process. Unlike most police chiefs in the area, Molinari said, Weast did not have a college degree and held a high school general equivalency diploma.
Molinari said morale in the department had slowly worsened under Weast’s watch.
“You cannot have this kind of a disruptive environment in law enforcement,” Molinari said. “These are men and women who put their lives on the line on a daily basis.”
Councilwoman Kathy Salazar said Weast had done an admirable job as police chief and that his departure was not handled as she would have liked.
“I didn't think he had to be put on administrative leave before Christmas,” Salazar said. “I'm sorry to see him go.”