Sunday, January 4, 2015

What Happened to the John Ellins vs. Marilyn Diaz Case?

Ellins: Shiny eyed and lawyered up
As we should know by now, the wheels of justice do not turn very quickly. And as far as I can tell, in the case of the legal imbroglio between former Sierra Madre Police Officer John Ellins and retired Sierra Madre Police Chief Marilyn Diaz, those wheels haven't budged in quite some time. You have to wonder what the delay is all about.

Or, if you want to look at this from another perspective, John Ellins first began suing the City of Sierra Madre in the middle of last decade, which means that we are now getting close to ten years in an absurdly long and I assume rather painful legal process.

Though I am certain the lawyers involved are all enjoying themselves immensely.

That said, the last time we checked up on this case the controversial and highly litigious X-SMPD Officer Ellins, who also served as a crash test dummy for the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association, had won a huge victory in court. Which means his lawsuit is once again moving up the legal food chain and towards much bigger and enriching things.

Here is how the Los Angeles Times reported it on March 22, 2013 (link):

Appeals court revives ex-Sierra Madre officer's retaliation suit - John Ellins' case involving a delayed pay raise is sent back to trial court on grounds of violation of his free speech rights (link): A former Sierra Madre police union official whose pay raise was delayed after he led a no-confidence vote against the police chief may sue for retaliation in violation of his free speech rights, a federal appeals court decided Friday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit by Officer John Ellins, who headed the Sierra Madre Police Assn. from 2006 to 2010, against former Police Chief Marilyn Diaz.

The police chief should have known that "depriving Ellins of salary in retaliation for his protected speech was unconstitutional," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court.

Ellins sued Sierra Madre and Diaz for retaliation after she delayed signing an application that would have given him a 5% pay raise. He claimed she was punishing him because he had led the no-confidence vote and the police association had issued two press releases that severely criticized her performance.

Also on March 22, 2013, the Courthouse News Service had this to say (link):

Delayed Raise May Link Chief to Retaliation A California police officer can advance claims that the chief delayed his pay increase in retaliation for union activity, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday. John Ellins, a police officer in Sierra Madre, Calif., sued Police Chief Marilyn Diaz in 2009, alleging that she had improperly refused to sign off on a 5 percent raise he had earned by completing a training program.

Ellins, who was head of the local police union chapter at the time, claimed the delay was retaliation for his role in leading a no-confidence vote against the chief. The union membership had initiated the vote because of Diaz's "lack of leadership, wasting of citizens' tax dollars, hypocrisy, expensive paranoia, and damaging inability to conduct her job," according to Ellins' complaint, as quoted in the ruling.

Diaz said that she delayed signing Ellins' pay increase because she felt he "lacked the requisite good moral character." At the time, Ellins had been investigated three times by Internal Affairs, and Diaz had recently "provided the district attorney's office with information about Ellins's alleged sales and use of anabolic steroids, assault with his duty weapons, and other matters 'relating to sexual misconduct while on duty,'" which she claimed to have received from an unnamed fellow police chief. Diaz eventually signed off on the raise after learning that charges against Ellins would not be filed. She retired in 2011.

After Diaz approved the raise, a federal judge in Los Angeles granted her and Sierra Madre's motion for summary judgement on Ellins' claims. The court found that Ellins had failed to show that he was acting as a private citizen when he led the no-confidence vote against Diaz, and that the chief had immunity.

The federal appeals court in Pasadena reversed on Friday, finding that Ellins had showed enough evidence of potential First Amendment retaliation to survive summary judgment. Furthermore, "a jury could find that Ellins spoke in his capacity as a private citizen," according to ruling, which also denied Diaz qualified immunity.

"In light of the Supreme Court's longstanding and unequivocal precedents protecting employee speech, we conclude that a reasonable official in Diaz's position would have known that delaying Ellins's application to the P.O.S.T. program because of his union activity, which resulted in a lower salary than that to which he otherwise would have been entitled, violated Ellins's First Amendment rights; that in leading a union vote Ellins acted as a private citizen addressing a matter of public concern; and that depriving Ellins of salary in retaliation for his protected speech was unconstitutional," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for a three-judge panel.

The panel reversed summary judgment as to Diaz and remanded the issue back to the District Court, but agreed that Ellins had failed to make a case against the city.

OK, so we know that John Ellins won his big victory way more than a year ago, and his lawsuit against his former boss Marilyn Diaz can now go forward. Empowered by a stunning victory in a federal appeals court, no less.

But when exactly will the action resume? As far as I can see that trail has now grown cold. There are no further stories to be found anywhere on the Internet.

Monday the Pasadena City Council will blame their failures on the help
Nothing much going on here.
Apparently the highest priority at Pasadena City Hall right now is making certain all of the blame for the $6.4 million dollar Parson Wooten Embezzlement Affair is firmly fixed upon the backs of the hired help. This rather than the ultimate authority of any City Hall, its elected officials. In this case a City Council that apparently believes it functions as a kind of royal family. The following is from an article published in today's edition of the Pasadena Star News (link):

Pasadena City Council to question city manager over alleged $6.4M embezzlement case - Worried that Pasadena is not the model community they’ve envisioned, members of the City Council announced they plan to grill City Manager Michael Beck on Monday about $6.4 million allegedly embezzled from an obscure public works fund designed to pay for beautifying the Crown City.

A special meeting will take place at 5 p.m. Council members will discuss the decade long embezzlement case publicly for the first time. Details of the case have been known for weeks, but kept secret while the Los Angeles County District Attorney conducted a criminal investigation.

“We in Pasadena have always held ourselves out as a model of municipal government, so it’s an extra blow to find out ... for the past 11 years (that) one of our employees was stealing from us,” said Councilwoman Margaret McAustin. “It’s a shock.”

Ms. McAustin's somewhat overstated protestations aside, the responsibility for the culture of incompetence and corruption in Pasadena is hardly the City Manager's fault alone. This City Council, who as elected officials bear a full legal responsibility for everything that goes on there (whether they were awake enough to know about it or not), will do all it can tomorrow to blame its own sad failures to safeguard the public purse on the city staff. Who, by the way, have been instructed not to talk to anyone.

Monday's little show trial for the townies will be an unfortunate and sad spectacle.

Word is Michael Beck is going to take the fall for Pasadena's City Council, possibly as early as this week. That he is being forced to accept the blame on behalf of an equally culpable City Council is a pretty good indication of why this all happened in the first place.

As they say, a fish always rots from the head. The elected head.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

52 comments:

  1. I am confused about something, Mod. Why is John Ellins a "crash test dummy"?

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    1. A crash test dummy is an oftentimes naive soul who puts himself up as the face of a lawsuit on behalf of lawyers who see the opportunity to make lots of money.

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  2. The citizens of Pasadena have to care enough to get rid of the city council. We'll see if a group emerges to go after Bogard, et al. Makes me want to take a hard look at Sierra Madre.

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    1. That is the problem. The cynicism behind this PR stunt tomorrow has to come from the belief that the average resident of Pasadena is going to buy into this nonsense and accept a public sacrifice as the fitting solution. Voter turnout in the 2013 PUSD BOE election was 11%. Despite the fact that the election was rigged to favor Pasadena subdistricts. It's a city that lives with its head between its legs.

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    2. Pasadena used to be a community that had a sense of itself. That was before the overdevelopment plague wiped it out. Now it's just another crowded overbuilt city.

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    3. 8:01 am, you overlook the fact that the citizens of Pasadena put Pasadena's mayor and city council in place! Yip, they all ran for office and were voted in. So what's to say a replacement council will serve the public any better?

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    4. Good point. But at least it will show the world that the voters of Pasadena don't enjoy being ripped off by crooks. Hopefully they at least have that amount of pride and awareness.

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    5. You mean the 15% that have even the vaguest clue about what is going on?

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  3. Michael Beck arrived in Pasadena in October 2008? What happened from 2003 until then? On former City Manager Cynthia Kurtz' watch. What about the time from 2010 when Public Works Director Martin Pastucha left the City and Siobhan Foster took over? Or during the time between Kurtz and Beck, and Passtucha and Foster? Assistant City Managers Julie Gutierrez and Steve Mermell were in charge. The Finance Directorship also turned over two or three times and Mermell figures prominently in that transition. This whole bag of cats is being contained and as usual the City is being very closed mouthed about just how flagrant this violation of accounting oversight really is. Somebody will fall on their sword but not Beck.

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    1. You don't think he is going to take the drop and get the City Council off the hook?

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    2. Not at $300,000 a year he's not, unless he's got a better offer in the wings.

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    3. They could fire him. Tomorrow's little kabuki theatre show could very well be leading up to that.

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    4. Between the time Kurtz left and Beck was hired there was an Interim City Manager, Bernard "I Am the Chief" Melekian.

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    5. What have you done for me lately? Beck will be dismissed.

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  4. Dear God in Heaven, please send us another Sid Tyler! A better man and public servant would be hard to find.

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  5. Take that, citizens of Sierra Mare! $350,000 for a forensic audit to perform a really basic search that could be handled by first year accounting students involving one department and a few hundred forged invoices to basically four "vendors" all submitted by one not too smart employee. Of course because the paperwork from 2002 to 2004 was destroyed (freshness date exceeded), no one will ever know the real magnitude.

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  6. Didn't Marilyn Diaz come to us from Pasadena?

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  7. Say, Girardot, how come I can't read today's PSN story? I get a screen that says I have to pay 99C a day to view your on-line paper? In all my years going to the electronic PSN I've never had that experience. Okay, I could pay something but I'm not entirely sure it's worth $30 a month to read the occasional story that interests me. What the deal?

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  8. Much easier to have a fall guy, besides, we know were not talking about a con.spir.a.cy now are we? Don't know if I have ever looked that word up in Webster's. Wow, it says, : a secret plan made by two or more people to do something that is harmful or illegal. Guess it's all a matter of were the letter of the law starts and stops. Some times many suffer for the actions of one.

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    1. Not so much a conspiracy as dirty politics. P'dena's inept CC is falling all over itself to deflect blame for the worst corruption in recent history there.

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  9. Problem with getting rid of the city council, is who is going to replace them? Who wants the job and is competent?

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    1. They could take the name of every taxpayer in Pasadena, print all of them on bingo balls, shake 'em all round and round as thousands watch, and end up picking 8 more qualified people.

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  10. Don't judge me because my sins are different than your sins.

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    1. Depends on what your sins are....

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    2. Interesting point. Is an addiction to litigation a sin?

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    3. When I was a kid there was this guy who used to steal women's underwear at laundromats. Nobody knew who he was until he was finally caught. When the cops searched his apartment it was filled with panties and bras. He became known as the Panty Bandit.

      His sins are not mine.

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    4. Creepy post 10:54.

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    5. 10:39 - are your sins being paid for out of my taxes?

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    6. Leave the panty bandit alone you jackals!!!!!!!!!!!! Nip nip nip until *his* panties are gone you jackals!!!!!!!!!! Leave him BE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He hurts nobody and the tingly he gets from boffing panties is no sin compared the sins of the JACKALS on this forum!!!!!!!!!!

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    7. Ok, I've given it a lot of thought. Bring back CAPS GUY and ditch the hyena.

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  11. I don't know the real truth about any of the Ellins complaints, but there was a rumor that when Diaz got to the department, it was so incompetent that it was not considered to be an authentic police department. Ellins was one of the worst of the bunch and campaigned to get rid of Diaz, who was ruining his good thing.

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    1. 10 years later and it is still in the courts.

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    2. Diaz did come from Pasadena where she had a sterling reputation. She cleaned up the Sierra Madre department and made our police department much more respectable. We now have several fine officers who really like working here. Let's hope that scumbag Ellins loses in the courts.

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    3. Ellins came to my house once and was a total jerk.

      I hope he loses and I certainly hope we aren't stuck paying a pension for this guy

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  12. Sounds like Ms Diaz is in damage control...

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  13. LOL at 10:54 but yes is creepy

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    1. I wonder what he told the other convicts when they asked him what he is in for.

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  14. How come the Pasadena Weekly hasn't written about Wooten?

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  15. Ellins is just one of many pending lawsuits that are going to cost "we" the taxpayers. There is one than one that has the potential to bankrupt the City.
    Who do we blame the City Manager, the City Council, the lawyers or our selves!

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  16. Michael Beck should take the fall. He makes nearly $300,000 plus benefits/pension and failed at his job as the top paid administrator in the city of Pasadena. The City Council will pay come election time.

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    1. Beck is a distraction. Once he is out of the way we can all focus on the elected officials. They need to learn where the buck stops.

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    2. Beck is not just a distraction. He is incompetent and a failure at his job for the amount of money he is being paid. The elected officials need to be voted out also.

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  17. This is what I found, but they could be making more. This is why Michael Beck will be fired:

    City of Pasadena:
    Mayor $24,615.48
    Council members $16,410.72
    City Manager $264,999.90
    Police Chief $214,999.82

    City Clerk’s salary,

    $143,006.03

    Parks and Rec Director’s salary,

    * Parks is under the Public Works Department, and that director’s rate is $192,058.88

    * Recreation is under the Human Services and Recreation Department, and that director’s rate is $160,600.96

    Fire Chief, $212,015.86

    Assistant City Manager $201,690.32

    Head Librarian $166,243.58

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    1. Maybe they will hire Sierra Madre's city mngr.

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    2. Ahh, but it gets worse if you read the City Council agendas for Pasadena. All of the directors AND the City Manager received pay and benefit increases over the last two months:

      December 8, 2014 -- Benefit/contract/salary increases for Department Heads (including Director of Finance & Director of Public Works)

      http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2014%20Agendas/Dec_08_14/AR%209%20ATTACHMENT%201.pdf



      In the midst of all this, on November 17 th , the City Council evaluated the City Manager, renewed his employment contract , and gave him enhanced/additional benefits:

      http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2014%20Agendas/Nov_17_14/AR%205.pdf

      http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2014%20Agendas/Nov_17_14/AR%205%20ATTACHMENT%201.pdf

      · $292,520 BASE annual salary

      · + 100% of annual deferred comp 457 account paid by City to Beck ($17,500 in 2014 and $18,000 in 2015)

      · 2.5 at 55 CalPERS retirement

      · Lump Sum Incentive Bonus annually in September (a FOIA request to see how much the City Manager has been making in annual bonuses may be quite interesting)

      · $3,822 additional annually to his EOBF (Employee Option Benefit Fund)

      · City vehicle OR $500/month car allowance

      · City cell phone, tablet, computer, phone plan, internet, etc.

      · Professional development expenses

      · Travel expenses

      · 184 hours of vacation annually + 80 hours of management time off (which apparently he doesn’t actually claim, because when he doesn’t claim it on his timecard then it can later be paid out to him in cash – see below)


      · $63,460 in vacation time converted to cash/deferred comp account

      o think about this one -- $292,520 annually divided by 2,080 working hours in a year = $140.625/hr

      o $63,460 divided by $140.625/hr = 451.27 hours of vacation time that were converted to cash in a deferred comp account

      o How did the City Manager have 451.27 hours of vacation time to convert?

      · AND, “The City Council may authorize and grant to employee additional compensation and/or benefits in the future as may be deemed appropriate. Such additional compensation or benefits shall be considered to be within the terms of this agreement , as if they had been specifically amended into this agreement, to be applied prospectively, unless City Council acts to provide otherwise.”



      Is it that much of a stretch to imply that Danny Wooten is not the only one scamming the system?

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    3. Several posters said Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck was making nearly $300,000, but what you just posted goes way beyond that. THIS IS TRUELY OBSCENE!!!! FIRE MICHAEL BECK!!!

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    4. Michael Beck has to go!!! Thanks for posting this.

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    5. Recall Terry Tornek.

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    6. Although I hate to say it, I think that if we did pay our city council and mayor more, we would have a better crop of candidates. Right now, because of the paltry city council salaries, no one really good will want to run, they can make more money in the private sector with their time. So, what you are left with are people with really big egos, or those who have "regular" jobs and the council is more of a trophy position. Then there is the incentive to get kickbacks through cronyism, free lunches, perks (free tickets to the Rose Bowl, etc.) Really, who wants the job?

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  18. Hopefully the right people are let go...as opposed to clerical....and the few that threw their hat in to run for Mayor should take a step back....time to clean house from the top....

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  19. An old friend of mine had a saying that just about covers that possibility: "She'd be busier than a cat trying to cover s*** on a linoleum floor." In my opinion Elaine isn't quite up to the job...

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