The Untold Story of John Brumbaugh and Why Torrance Taxpayers Should Care
Throughout his longstanding legal battle with the City of Torrance John Brumbaugh fought for the opportunity to tell his side of the story. Torrance spent an unprecedented amount of money ensuring he never got that chance. That amount was reported by the Daily Breeze in December as $570K. This record number has now surely increased as the City’s costs continue to grow. Just this past July for example the City appropriated another $8K to the case. Taxpayers should take note because that’s a lot of money the City could have used to repair ailing sidewalks and roads or renewing its commitment to popular traditions like the Rose Float or fireworks at Wilson Park. Instead, that money has gone to high-priced attorneys to keep Brumbaugh from making his case before the City Council.
On September 25th, 2007 the City Council directed the Torrance Police Department (TPD) to conduct a standard background investigation on Brumbaugh prior to ruling on whether he should be reinstated as a police officer. City Staff made several assurances at the time that the background would be impartial and conducted just as it would for any other applicant. Brumbaugh claims that the TPD flagrantly violated the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) when conducting the background and that instead of being impartial it was a coordinated effort by the TPD to ensure he would fail the background and not be reinstated.
The TPD took nearly 7 months to complete the background investigation. Brumbaugh and his Attorney did not see any of it until just prior to the scheduled hearing on his reinstatement in front of the City Council on May 13, 2008. The report contained 13 reasons the TPD cited as justification for recommending that Brumbaugh not be reinstated. In the brief time they were allotted in front of the Council, Brumbaugh’s attorney called for a full evidentiary hearing claiming that the 500 page report lacked credibility and that they needed more time to review it and prepare a proper rebuttal. That request was not granted. Instead, the Council used the background report as just cause to not reinstate Brumbaugh.
Brumbaugh then sued for the opportunity to present his rebuttal evidence. Torrance fought it. During the lengthy legal proceedings, the City never conducted settlement negotiations or formal mediation. Had they, Brumbaugh claims there were concessions he was willing to make. After several years, Brumbaugh’s arguments prevailed in court as Judge Chalfant from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County ruled in his favor and ordered Torrance to hold the evidentiary hearing. Still not satisified, Torrance continued to fight the matter expending thousands more in legal costs and eventually winning only recently on appeal based on a nuanced legal technicality.
Had Brumbaugh been given the hearing he desired he believes he could have made a compelling case. For example, one of the 13 justifications used against him was a Department of Justice (DOJ) firearms ban. Brumbaugh believes that the TPD knew that the firearms ban was based on Brumbaugh’s felony convictions that had been overturned as the dismissal of those convictions formed the basis for Brumbaugh’s reinstatement claim. Once the DOJ was contacted they quickly apologized and fixed their mistake noting that the TPD actually should have let Brumbaugh know of the paperwork error once it was discovered in the background investigation.
On another point, Brumbaugh swears he has never been diagnosed with Scoliosis and yet he was dinged on his background report for failing to report that condition to the doctor that examined him to determine fitness for duty. Ironically, that same City doctor had previously cleared Brumbaugh for duty with no signs of Scoliosis when he was serving on the TPD. The background also noted that one former employer claimed he had stolen his gym’s clients when he left that gym to train elsewhere. Brumbaugh has signed written affidavits from each of the respected clients stating that Brumbaugh never approached them about leaving and that they left of their own accord. Brumbaugh can rebut each of the 13 justifications used against him in similar fashion.
More troubling to Brumbaugh than what’s in the 500 page background report, is what Brumbaugh claims was left out. He has binders full of positive references from past colleagues at the TPD and employers that fully commend him for service as a police officer. None of these were included in the report even though many were references that he provided. Key witnesses to incidents cited in the report that would have supported Brumbaugh’s version of events either were not contacted or their statements were missing. One individual that was contacted and interviewed extensively was a former Daily Breeze reporter. That former reporter testified that he provided a glowing recommendation. Yet, no evidence of that interview is included in the report. Indeed, the entire 500 page report contained virtually nothing positive about Brumbaugh at all.
The whole ordeal leaves the taxpayer with several questions. Why did Torrance fight this case so vigorously? Wouldn’t it have been a lot more cost effective to allow the evidentiary hearing Brumbaugh had requested? What harm was there in allowing Brumbaugh the chance to present his evidence and was it worth a small fortune of taxpayer money spent over nearly 7 years to have that evidence suppressed?
As for Brumbaugh, he still holds out hope that the current Council will reconsider the case and review the evidence he has for so long hoped that they would. He believes that this evidence was effectively screened by City Staff from the Council during the entire affair under the guise that it would impair their judgment should he ever be afforded the hearing he desired. Now, having lost his legal battle he realizes that they are under no legal obligation to review the evidence, but he maintains that it would be the moral and ethical thing to do. Brumbaugh has been through some tough times after his initial dismissal from the TPD, but he is currently doing well. Given the chance, however, he would still love to resume employment with the TDP and prove that the experience he has gained dealing with the courts as a largely pro se petitioner will only make him a better police officer.