Jury Sides With City In Rejecting Former Police Chief’s Lawsuit

Former Colton police chief Ken Rulon’s wrongful termination suit against the city went down in flames on Thursday when a jury rejected his claims that he had been fired because he was a conscientious whistleblower.
Rulon was terminated as Colton police chief in April 2007 by then-city manager Daryl Parrish, a month after Rulon was placed on paid administrative leave.
The cashiered police chief filed a wrongful termination suit against the city, claiming he was fired for reporting allegations of corruption against city officials to the district attorney’s office.
At the center of that alleged corruption was former councilman Ramon Hernandez’s abuse of his city-issued credit card, against which he charged for unauthorized motel stays and calls to telephone sex lines between December 2004 and May 2006. Hernandez initially said the credit card had been stolen by his nephew, but Parrish did not cancel the card or reissue a new one to Hernandez, and the charges against it persisted.  After the full city council was informed of the circumstance, on June 7, 2006 the city’s finance department cancelled his credit card.
On June 20, Rulon learned of the unauthorized charges Hernandez had made  and initiated an investigation of the matter. Later that day, just before that evening’s city council meeting commenced, then-councilman John Mitchell used his personal credit card to reimburse the city for the $5,457 outstanding against Hernandez’s city-issued credit card. Hernandez would later claim he repaid Mitchell after the meeting concluded. A week later, on June 27, Rulon questioned Hernandez about the credit card billings and phoned the public integrity unit of the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office to provide a tentative synopsis of his findings. .
On August 18, 2006, district attorney’s investigators obtained warrants to search premises associated with Hernandez and on August 24, 2006 Hernandez was arrested and charged with  24 felony counts under California Penal Code Section 424 related to the misappropriation of public funds. He subsequently pleaded guilty. Despite Rulon’s urging, the public integrity unit declined to charge other Colton city officials with illegally assisting Hernandez or delaying or obstructing an investigation into his action.
In October 2006, Parrish without city council authorization hired an outside investigator to look into anonymously delivered accusations against Rulon that he misused his authority and was creating a hostile work environment by imposing citation and arrest quotas on officers and not promoting deserving Latino officers, as well as sexually harassing female employees, including his own secretary.
In March 2007, while the investigation commissioned by Parrish was yet to conclude, the Colton Police Officers’ Association cast an 85-6 vote of no-confidence against Rulon, questioning his ability to lead the department. A month later, Rulon was terminated.
Rulon and his attorney, Dan Stormer, maintained that he was shown the door because he had informed the district attorney’s office of the matter involving Hernandez and the apparent effort of Parrish and others to cover the embezzlement up. Rulon, who was provided with a $132,000 base salary and more than $60,000 in benefits as chief, sought $10 million for wrongful termination, defamation, damage to his reputation and harm to his current and future earning potential
John Higginbotham, the attorney representing the city, produced two department detectives who testified that Rulon initially sought to protect Hernandez by discouraging an investigation. Higginbotham said Rulon did not report the matter to the district attorney until after the matter was gaining wider scrutiny at the council and public levels.
After a 20-day trial concluded early this week, the 9-woman, three-man jury deliberated for two days before returning with a verdict in favor of the city.

Leave a Reply