New POBR Case Protects Whistle Blowers in Law Enforcement

A new case came down today from the 4th Appellate District, Jaramillo v. County of Orange, which establishes that POBR waivers are not enforceable for any Law Enforcement officer, even executive staff.  This case, factually, exposes extreme corruption in the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.  The Appellate Court made every attempt to make whole the Asst Sheriff Jaramillo after he was summarily fired at will for protesting corruption, (such as selling police badges, selling concealed weapons permits and reporting about Sheriff Carona trying to cover up and asking the DA to go easy on fellow sheriff’s deputies’ teenage kids who had gang raped a comatose 16 year old girl.)  After Jaramillo protested, he started protesting to the Sheriff himself, about having to cover other things up for the Sheriff, such as abuse of funds and trysts with women in the County’s helicopter. 

Once Sheriff Carona wanted to run for Lt Governor and Jaramillo refused to endorse him, things went south and Jaramillo was fired.  Jaramillo was also prosecuted for 2 felonies as a result of his assistance to the sheriff for things he should not have done, and for that reason, could not be reinstated.  However, he won sanctions under the Peace Officers’ Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBR), as well as back pay, and his attorney received $300,000 in Attorneys Fees under the Private Attorney General Act, with a 15% enhancement due to having to take on the Orange County Sheriff’s Department on corruption issues and enduring public scorn, among other reasons.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Interestingly, although the case focuses on POBR, it is actually a huge win for Plaintiff’s trying to sue under whistle blowing statutes if you’re in law enforcement.  Law Enforcement officers can prevail as a whistleblower if they report the illegal or wasteful activity to their own employer now, their Department.  Previously, the Court’s stated that you had to report to an entity outside of your own employer, to another agency, such as OIG or the Governor’s Office; however, as a result of this new Jaramillo case, a law enforcement officer can maintain a whist blowing claim if he reports information to his own employer, since the statute only requires an employee disclose information to “a law enforcement agency.”

Here is a link to the case:

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/G043142.PDF