In the past, attorney Bradley Gage has successfully sued the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in behalf of various department members who claimed that they had been retaliated against, and/or denied promotions, because they had in some way displeased former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka.
Gage has more lawsuits still in progress, brought by LASD employees alleging retaliation by higher ups, including the case of whistleblower deputies, James Sexton and Mike Rathbun, whose lawsuit Gage has just moved from federal to state court.
For years, according to Gage, when would-be LASD clients came into his office with cases of perceived retaliation, more often than not, Paul Tanaka was named as the one behind, or supporting, these alleged acts of retaliation.
“Now,” said Gage, “Tanaka’s gone and those people who are aligned with Tanaka seem to be the targets.”
Gage said he has agreed to represent five such people claiming retaliation by Sheriff Baca for their very public support of Mr. Tanaka, who is now challenging his former boss as Baca makes a bid for a 5th term in office. “And I’ve gotten calls about five more who are being represented by other attorneys, plus I hear from my clients that there are another four or five still out there who are afraid to come forward.”
Until the lawsuits are actually filed, Gage declined to name those department members who have come to him alleging retaliation. But he did say that his new clients were all people who either stood behind the former undersheriff at the August 15 press conference when he announced his candidacy, or they were listed as one if his supporters in a mid-September campaign announcement—or both.
As to what type of retaliation is alleged, Gage said, “In some cases, what we’re talking about is unjustified transfers to areas very far from home, what they call ‘freeway therapy.’ In other cases, [they are being hit by] internal affairs allegations and, in some instances, criminal allegations, for alleged incidents that are maybe two years old, and have never been pursued. These are things that were known for a long time and were evidently not considered a problem before. They are all situations that suggest disparate treatment, meaning that if you’re ‘in the car,’ as they say, you can get away with stuff, but if you’re not, they’ll come after you.”
Asked whether he was surprised to be approached by self-described Tanaka supporters, when he has repeatedly named the former undersheriff in lawsuits.
“No, because this department has a culture of retaliation,” he said. “It’s been a problem for a long time. But the difference is that now the yellow brick road leads back to Sheriff Baca.”
After speaking with Gage, WitnessLA asked Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore about the new string of allegations of retaliatory treatment reportedly coming from the Tanaka camp.
“Look, we understand that this is politics,” said Whitmore, adding, “Its a political maneuver to bring light to someone they’re supporting. There’s no truth to it.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Tanaka is busily campaigning in 88 cities in 88 days.
Photo of Manny Rayes from Manny Rayes collection, via Mission & State