After 16 Year Battle Former Police Officer Delivers $600K Challenge to Mayor Scotto

A tense uneasiness rested over the council chambers this past Tuesday evening when gulf war veteran and former Marine Sniper John Brumbaugh rose to speak and issued a $600K challenge to Mayor Scotto and the Council.  The challenge stemmed from a long legal battle Brumbaugh fought with the City in which he sought his reinstatement to the Police Department after having been dismissed in 1998.  The City of Torrance has spent at least $570K litigating this case.  According to Brumbaugh, “most of these funds have been spent unwittingly defending the illegal, unethical, and out of policy background investigation conducted by then Lt. Ross Bartlett.”

Brumbaugh urged the Mayor and council to “order a comprehensive independent investigation into the conduct/factual nature of the background investigation Lt. Bartlett submitted to the City Council.”  In his statement, Brumbaugh promised Mayor Scotto that he would reimburse the City of Torrance the entire $570K already spent in litigation, plus the cost of the independent investigation if that proposed investigation does not uncover the ethical violations he believes that it will.

All of this stems from an incident in 1998 in which his then girlfriend claimed she was physically assaulted.  He was convicted at that time, but the convictions were overturned seven years later on appeal.  To help win his case on appeal, Brumbaugh accumulated substantial evidence of his innocence including a letter his girlfriend had written him acknowledging that she had lied to the detective about the assault because she was mad at him.

The Torrance Police Department dismissed Brumbaugh after his initial conviction.  Brumbaugh claims, however, that the Department promised to reconsider his termination should his criminal conviction be overturned on appeal.  That’s why he sought reinstatement to the Department once his name was finally cleared.  The City, however, refused to entertain his request for reinstatement and Brumbaugh ended up turning to the courts once again for justice.

That course seemed to yield positive results as the court, at one point, directed the City to reinstate Brumbaugh absent a compelling reason not to do so. Prior to the reinstatement, however, the Council ordered that a background investigation be conducted by then Lt. Ross Bartlett. The Council then relied upon information contained in the report in their decision not to reinstate Brumbaugh. Brumbaugh, however, claims that the report generated by Bartlett contained evidence the Police Department knew was factually untrue and that relevant positive information was purposely left out.

Now, nearly 16 years later and having exhausted all of his legal options Brumbaugh showed up at the council meeting and made an emotional appeal directly to the Council. In his speech he referenced a letter he had sent directly to Mayor Scotto that he believes was intercepted by the City Manager. In that letter Brumbaugh commented:

“The fact of the matter is you [Mayor Scotto] and the other City Council members have been so thoroughly deceived by the Police Departments Background Investigation (regarding my fitness for duty) that for all intents and purposes the documentation you relied upon to deny my reinstatement was a complete sham.”

A former Daily Breeze reporter, Ian Gregor, who initially wrote a negative article pertaining to Brumbaugh, also spoke at the council meeting in Brumbaugh’s defense. Gregor claimed that Brumbaugh had reached out to him after he wrote his initial story. After sharing with him thousands of pages of evidence in support of his claims Gregor became convinced of Brumbaugh’s position. Gregor also asserted that Bartlett had interviewed him as part of the background investigation and that Gregor had provided a positive character assessment of Brumbaugh at that time. His interview as well statements from others that gave positive assessments were not included in the report by Bartlett.

In response to Brumbaugh’s plea, Mayor Scotto meagerly offered that a staff member might contact him. Thus, the question remains what, if anything, can or should the Council do? Is Brumbaugh a tragic victim of a Department that cast off and left for dead one of its own and that is now trying to save face? Or is he just another disgruntled former employee with an ax to grind? I might normally think the latter, but his impressive display of perseverance in pursuing this matter for the past 16 years has me wondering if there isn’t some scenario in which Mayor Scotto could take Brumbaugh at his word and order the requested independent investigation. After all if Brumbaugh’s claims are proven unfounded, then the City stakes to recoup its $600K invested into the matter.

What do you think? You can review Brumbaugh’s plea to the council here starting at the 02:09:00 mark.

9 comments

  • John Burtt

    Good job John. JBurtt

  • Lou C.

    As a former Police Office for the NYPD I have a strong bond towards Police Officers and the Departments, however knowing this case and John B. It disgusts me the way Torrance PD conducted itself and defended the shoddy investigation by Lt. Bartlett. Omitting critical information that would have reinstated John B., Lt. Bartlett himself should be charged with a criminal offense! In my opinion Mayor Scotto will also try to have this swept under the table, let me add that my testimony also was omitted from the report. SHAME on Torrance PD and the City ?

    • Marty Williams USMC ret.

      I have believed John from day 1. As another John (Adams) said defending the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre, “Facts are stubborn things.” If his case gets reviewed it’s a done deal. I hope Lou is wrong and the Mayor doesn’t sweep it aside. Either way I will always be proud and honored to call John my closest friend.

  • JERRY RICH

    IT VERY SAD TO ME THAT THE VERY PEOPLE WHO ARE THE SUPERVISION HAS THE ABILITY TO DESACRATE AN OFFICER LIKE JOHN .B , AND KILL HIS SOUL. JOHN’S PAST FOR THIS COUNTRY IN THE MILITARY AND THEN AS A POLICEMAN HAS BEEN HINDERED TO MOVE UP OR STAY WHERE HE WAS BY ROSS BARTLET. HIS LIFE CHOICES SHOULD BE HIS. AND THE GIRLFRIEND STEPPED FORWARD TO BARTLET AND HAD TIME TO FIX IT AND DIDN’T. NOW THAT IS AN OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. JOHN B. JUSTICE. WHEN IN FACT BARTLET’S FACTS OF HIS REPORT WERE UNTRUE, HALF TRUTHS AND LIES, AND ALL PLUSES FOR JOHN B. INTENTIALY LEFT OUT. A BADLY TAINTED REPORT. A MISUSE OF POWER. HE NEEDS TO BE PROSECUTED BY THE DEPT. I WONDER HOW MANY OTHER YOUNG MEN’S SOULS AND LIVES BARTLET HAS RUINED. 16 YRS OF OF TORTURE AND JOHN’S OWN MONEY SPENT TO CLEAR HIS NAME. I THINK ALL FACT RING TRUE TO JOHN B. INNOCENSE . PLEASE MAYOR SCOTTO ….RIGHT 16 YRS OF INJUSTICE AND FREE A MANS SOUL. IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO ! JERRY

  • Howard R

    While not knowing all the facts, and no direct involvement in the workings of this matter, I have been friends with John throughout this case and accordingly familiar with some of the issues involved. I can attest to John’s character and integrity and am familiar with the perseverance John exhibited throughout this period in order to exonerate himself. While having lived in the Torrance area for some time myself, I am shocked as to the lengths and expense the city of Torrance entertained to resolve this matter.

    As per the above discussions, I also believe the investigation to be tainted as omitting exculpatory “material facts” which, if taken into consideration may have affected the outcome here. Accordingly, Why not check into a few of the details as suggested concerning the investigation? What harm to determine if justice was truly served?

  • Dennis J

    Ross Bartlett was one of two Torrance cops videotaped beating Tommy Tice at a big crazy party back in 1989. James Lynch held Tice in a chokehold until he went unconscious and limp while Bartlett continued to whack him with a baton. Both officers were cleared in the incident.

  • Chris Moore

    I am so thankful that I do not live I that city being protect by a police department like that. As for the mayor and city council not wanting to look into a persons innocents with statement like what John has brought to them. Thank GOD I do not live in Torrence, CA. The. Corruption never stops

    • Linda Gottshall-Sayed

      Hi Chris. The facts alone do not prove … or even strongly imply corruption. I realize that word gets thrown around a lot but words are pretty powerful. Care should be taken by responsible adults to articulate a comment.

  • J

    I am not familiar with any of the details of the original allegations, nor the later police investigation. I have known John Brumbaugh as a co-worker, but have remained neutral through all of this due to my lack of knowing any details.

    Remaining impartial, the last paragraph above almost sums it all up. That John offered to reimburse the city for all costs if they hire an independent investigator to investigate the background investigation alone and said investigator proves John wrong, speaks pretty loud and clear against the disgruntled ex employee theory.

    The part that’s been left out of the article above is, given the alleged actions of the city manager, city attorney and the police department, would it be a conflict of interest for the mayor and/or city council to choose and appoint the investigator? The object would be to protect the mayor and council from any further allegations of bias. Take the bias question and allegations out of the South Bay arena.

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