FBI Eyeing Unresolved Flap Over Upland Police Chief’s Rescinded Suspension

The contretemps that grew out of the abrupt suspension of Upland Police Chief Darren Goodman in June followed by the equally sudden manner in which he was reinstated has yet to fully resolve, and now involves an FBI investigation into some of the issues leading up to it, it was disclosed this week.
Earlier this year, Luz Barrett, a clerical employee in the police department, lodged a complaint against Goodman, which touched off a series of events that is creating problems for both Mayor Debbie Stone, who is up for reelection in November, and City Manager Rosemary Hoerning, who initiated the action against Goodman in June, apparently at Stone’s behest.
The precise reason why Hoerning put Goodman on administrative leave has not been publicly disclosed. What befell Goodman is widely believed to be an extension of the animus that Marty Thouvenell developed toward Goodman.
Thouvenell, who had been Upland’s police chief from 1991 until 2005, was brought in to serve as acting city manager in July 2016. He remained in that position until January 1, 2018, at which point Bill Manis became city manager, with Thouvenell remaining in the position of management consultant. The aggressive and domineering Thouvenell was reluctant to give up his primacy at City Hall, however, and he was in particular persistent in involving himself in issues relating to the police department. In the aftermath of the departure of Brian Johnson as police chief in October 2017 followed by Thouvenell’s arrangement to have a captain who had once served under him, Douglas Millmore, serve in the capacity of acting police chief, the city hired Goodman as police chief in 2018. After Goodman assumed command of the police department, he encountered difficulty in dealing with Thouvenell, whom Goodman felt was overstepping his authority as the city’s managerial consultant, encroaching on Goodman’s function as the head of the police department. Thouvenell on a constant basis came into Upland Police headquarters using a key card that he was not authorized to have. Thouvenell then inserted himself into various officers’ and staff members’ daily tasks and assignments, asking them for information about police department activities. Thouvenell contacted police department personnel directly, requesting or ordering them to send patrol units to various locations, including to remove campaign signs. Upon learning about this interference with the police department’s operations, Goodman at first politely requested that Thouvenell refrain from acting as if he was still the chief of police. When that did not work, Goodman took possession of Thouvenell’s keycard. This antagonized Thouvenell.
Thouvenell at one point sought to involve himself in the personnel decisions that were supposed to be Goodman’s exclusive province, those being hiring, disciplining and firing employees. In one known case, he directed Chief Goodman not to promote Lieutenant Cliff Matthews because, contrary to Goodman’s high estimation of Matthews ability, Thouvenell considered him ‘lazy’ and ‘worthless.’”
More than a decade-and-a-half prior to Goodman becoming police chief, Barrett had been hired into the department by Thouvenell, and their relationship may have had an impact on what transpired with Goodman.
Undisputed is that on Friday, June 19, a specially-called meeting of the city council, one hastily convened on the basis of what was said to be an emergency that dispensed with the normal 72-hour notification provided in advance of governmental board meetings, was held. The basis for the urgency, it was tersely disclosed, was the potential of the city being sued by a member or members of the police department.
Less than a month earlier, on May 31, Third District Councilman Ricky Felix’s resignation tendered on May 11 had become effective. Thus, on June 19, the Upland City Council, reduced to four-fifths strength, met during an emergency closed session to discuss a letter written to it that week by Goodman’s attorney, Stephen Larson, which some officials felt might presage legal action against the city. That letter strongly protested the treatment Goodman had received after Barrett had alleged Goodman had misappropriated her services. City officials, in looking into Barrett’s accusations, had insinuated that Goodman had acted improperly, triggering Larson’s letter.
At the June 19 meeting, Mayor Debbie Stone, Second District Councilwoman Janice Elliott, Fourth District Councilman Rudy Zuniga and Councilman Bill Velto, who had been appointed into what was the council’s last remaining at-large council seat, took no official action.
Three days after the June 19 closed-door meeting of the council, on Monday, June 22, Hoerning acting solely with the authority of the mayor’s backing and without any direction from the remainder of the city council, placed Goodman on administrative leave. When informed late that morning about the suspension of the police chief, Councilman Zuniga said he had not been informed in advance that it was going to take place. Councilwoman Elliott likewise said she had no inkling of the action before it was announced. Zuniga and Elliot said there had been no authorization of the suspension in any vote taken.
By June 25, it was widely known in Upland that Barrett’s accusation against Goodman consisted of her contention that she had assisted Goodman in translation and interpretation in his efforts to communicate with his family’s Spanish-speaking housekeeper, and that she had carried out that assignment while being paid by the city. Goodman marshaled evidence to demonstrate Barrett had forged the timecard she said supported her accusation.
On June 29, after the city had attempted but failed to prevent the widespread public surfacing of information relating to Barrett’s accusations against Goodman forming the grounds for the police chief’s suspension, Hoerning at the direction of Zuniga, Elliott and Velto reinstated Goodman.
While many assumed that was the end of the controversy, word has now come that Goodman has yet needed to walk on eggs while serving in the capacity of police chief.
According to a letter dated September 29 sent to Upland’s mayor and city councilmembers from Stephen Larson, Goodman’s attorney, a previous letter dated June 24 Larson had submitted to the city on Goodman’s behalf had strenuously protested the action suspending Goodman, while pointing out the elements of Barrett’s comportment that were problematic and brought into question the validity of the grounds the city had relied upon in placing Goodman on leave, what Larson characterized as “an overarching and concerted effort to launch a crusade against him based on fabricated, disparaging accusations.”
Moreover, according to Larson’s September 29 letter, “Hoerning issue[d] a notice [which] cited Chief Goodman for the simple act of we, his lawyers, sending the June letter. The notice went so far as to accuse Chief Goodman of insubordination and retaliation against Barrett in violation of city policy for simply defending himself against a threatened lawsuit and outrageous conduct by certain city leaders and Thouvenell. This notice was, of course, patently meritless and nonsensical for several reasons. First, the June letter, prepared and submitted by his counsel, is wholly protected by Chief Goodman’s First Amendment rights to free speech and the right to petition and seek redress from the city. Frankly, Hoerning’s and the city’s attempt to prevent him from exercising those rights is a blatant constitutional violation.”
According to Larson, he wrote a second letter to the city on July 20, upbraiding the city for its continued harassment of Goodman.
“In Chief Goodman’s July 20, 2020 response to that notice, we not only exposed its factual and legal flaws, but also pointed out that Hoerning issuing that notice constituted further retaliation against Chief Goodman based on his conducting the constitutionally protected activity of petitioning the city council and acting as a whistleblower for ongoing corruption in the city, which, as the city manager and city attorney are well aware, involves his cooperation with the FBI’s investigation into that corruption. Even though this response was sent to the city manager and the city attorney, again, no investigation was conducted into Chief Goodman’s complaint about retaliation. Even more baffling, while the city has now finally launched an investigation, it is not into Mayor Stone’s, Thouvenell’s, or Hoerning’s ongoing wrongful conduct, but rather, turning the chief’s complaint on its head, into the Upland Police Department’s practices and procedures – about which no one has complained. The chief and apparently numerous members of the police department have received advisements that the city is now conducting a wide-ranging investigation of the entire Upland Police Department. To justify this absurd development, Hoerning is hanging her hat on a passing reference made in our June letter to the department’s historical reputation for racism. Reviewing how the city is handling this investigation exposes it as a transparent attempt to further harass Chief Goodman and an ill-fated attempt to turn his department against him.”
On Monday night September 28, at the Upland City Council’s last regularly scheduled meeting in September, Larson addressed the city council.
After alluding to the letter delivered to the city earlier that day, Larson said, “I am appealing directly to you because, as explained in the letter, I am getting the runaround from the city manager and the city attorney.”
Larson said, “We live in a time when our collective support for good policing by good police officers could not possibly be more important to the safety and well-being of all of our families and the property of all of our businesses. This is not time for undermining, harassing and trying to sabotage the career of the first African American chief of police in Upland’s history, which is exactly what certain members of our city government are doing.
“Chief Goodman is a good man,” Larson continued. “Chief Goodman is a great police chief. Chief Goodman has the complete support of all of his officers and the peace officer and police management associations of this city. Significantly, Chief Goodman enjoys the broad support of the citizens of Upland.”
Larson than counseled the city council to “consider the broader implications of what is happening, stop the ill-conceived campaign of harassment, discrimination and sabotage, and support the chief.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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