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.