LASD Paul Tanaka

Tentative Settlement Reached in Case of LASD Investigator Alleging Retaliation Over Refusal to Falsify Job Apps & Campaign for Tanaka

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

Back in 2015, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy Ban Nguyen accused department higher-ups of retaliating against him for refusing to falsify paperwork for job candidates Nguyen found unsuitable, but who were favorites of department leaders. Nguyen said this was especially true for the candidates connected to then Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

Nguyen, a former background investigator for the department’s personnel bureau, also alleged that the retaliation intensified when he refused to fundraise for Tanaka’s campaign for sheriff.

Attorneys representing Nguyen told a judge late last week that a tentative settlement had been reached in the lawsuit, which named the sheriff’s department, Paul Tanaka, two LASD captains, and two sergeants. The settlement came just as the case was headed for trial.

Nguyen, who joined the department in 1996, worked in the personnel division’s “Pre-Employment Unit” starting in 2008. His job involved recruiting new deputies, and overseeing portions of the application process. Then, in 2012, Nguyen moved to the “Administrative/Reserve” unit, where he was tasked with handling the applications of people favored by members of the department’s command staff—like then-Undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

Nguyen said it was common practice to doctor the applications of those pet candidates who failed necessary polygraph tests and/or psych evaluations, or who were otherwise unqualified. When Nguyen refused to alter candidates’ applications, Nguyen’s immediate superior, Sergeant Ismael Chavez allegedly “berated and screamed” at him.

Around that same time in 2012, Nguyen said then-personnel division captain, Kevin Hebert, found out that Nguyen had experience with raising money for political campaigns. The investigator reported that he turned down Hebert’s alleged request to fundraise for Tanaka’s campaign for sheriff, and turned down numerous subsequent requests.

Nguyen said he went to meet with then-Sheriff Lee Baca. He reportedly told the sheriff about the order to to “lie about or conceal damaging background information concerning Tanaka connected applicants,” as well as the retaliation he faced. Afterward, then-Captain Judy Gerhardt told him not to take his complaint “beyond the chain of command.”

The environment at work grew increasingly hostile, Nguyen said. Then, he was transferred to an entry-level position. When he tried to transfer to something more appropriate, the deputy says he was moved to a desk job and informed that there was an investigation into an anonymous complaint filed against him.

According to Nguyen, these events triggered mental and physical health problems. In September 2014, he was put on sick leave. He retired in November 2015. According to Nguyen, he would have continued working at the department, if not for the alleged retaliations.

(Read more about the Nguyen case—here.)

14 Comments

  • Where is Judy Gerhatdt now? What about Sgt Ismael Chavez. They will wear a “Scarlet Letter” of shame & disdain wherever they go.
    No doubt regarding a settlement, due to the fact that a trial would have “blown the doors” off of more corruption in LASD
    Smart move for LASD to settle Enjoy your money Nguyen and never look back.

    • Unfortunately the Sheriff saw fit to promote this bag of shit to Commander. SMDH… Instead of getting rid of the problem, lets promote her! Wow!

  • Judy Gerhardt!!! The now commander that’s plaguing TPD with rumors, misinformation, hour long “soap box” rants anytime she can hijack an audience and pure incompetence. Amazing how the same names keep popping up!!! Disgusting!!!

    • Now shes trying to get as many deputies to attend some stupid seminar about recruiting millennials. A lot of deputies are being FORCED to attend this waste of time and money.

  • @Ownership, there is so much more than just her incompetence going on. The future of LASD is a bleak one, That Is For Sure.

  • Celeste, will you or other media outlets be formally asking Sheriff McDonnell for a statement regarding the allegations of misconduct involving Commanders Gerhardt and Hebert? There is more than sufficient cause to initiate a major IAB investigation against these two. It would be a travesty if the Sheriff sweeps this under the rug. The media gave Baca more passes than thrown in a Super Bowl game, look how that worked out.

      • There was more than ample cause to investigate a number of EPC members for cause when McDonnell arrived and over the last couple of years. Instead, he retained and promoted virtually all of them. Captains and above involved is serious allegations of misconduct, nothing other than hammering line personnel for the slightest infraction. Gerhardt and Hebert with prima facia unethical conduct allegations of the highest order, I mean off the charts. The Sheriff’s response? He promotes both of them. I mean is there any shred of decency and morals left at 211 W. Temple Street? So where is ALADS and PPOA in all this? Having high tea with the Sheriff? Where is the media? High dollar settlement on this case amidst serious allegations of misconduct? Glad to be retired.

        • When all of the above-mentioned are sharing the same bed the code of “no big deal” is enacted. Until the majority of deputies wake-up and smell the coffee & not the rose scented bullshit, no one will be held accountable. What is Max Huntsman doing about this?

  • Spade makes an excellent argument and asks good questions.

    Ostensible complicity by the two unions (now) in the present sheriff’s corruption, is readily explained. A guy some years ago got attention in economic and political theory circles in a work called The Logic of Collective Action (Mancur Olson, 1965). One of the book’s arguments was that in the absence of selective, specific incentives, a union’s attempts to organize and take collective action will face relatively high costs. For example, Baca-Tanaka (and now, under Sherriff Jim McDonnell’s ‘leadership’) made wide-scale collective action by the unions against certain kinds of working conditions (e.g., corrupt practices in hiring and promotion, administrative discipline that would have interfered with the management philosophy of ‘working the gray and working it hard’) unnecessary. The unions may have made a utilitarian calculation on behalf of the ‘good’ (i.e., collective interests) of their broader membership. Even more compelling is the idea that the union leadership made a utilitarian calculation to protect its own leadership’s special interests. In effect, the union places an economic bet that Tanaka would be Baca’s handpicked successor and its political support would bring long-term payoffs in future collective bargaining. ‘Looking the other way’ is a form of negotiation.

    In effect, the argument goes, Baca and Tanaka had co-opted the deputy and management unions by lowering the risk of deputies, supervisors, and managers incurring disciplinary action, otherwise prompting expensive, protracted union legal action and membership mobilization (e.g., look at LBPD’s union the last 30 years), in exchange for union leader political support. Arguably, the sheer scale of the unions and the inherent costs of collective action made the co-opting of the unions by its union boards and representatives easier. And wresting control from existing union leadership by union reformers have been difficult for many reasons. Consequently, professional/ethical individuals (e.g., Deputy Ban Nguyen) or say small groups of Ban Nguyen’s lost more employment ground as their votes, voices, and agency rights were diluted by the size of the union, not only the union’s size but also by the concentrated, minority interests that emerged when the Tanaka and his allies with the unions’ boards and representatives. In terms of ethics, the pragmatic tradeoffs under utilitarianism is the driver of such outcomes, with one twist: in the corrupt organization, such as the executive teams under sheriffs Baca and McDonnell, the view of the ‘greatest good’ can drift to mean the fewest number of people—those with concentrated interests and asymmetrical information affected by such decisions. The promotions of Gerhardt and Hebert have logic when analyzed through Olson’s theory of concentrated special interests, yet it also reveals a craven self-interest, deep professional ineptitude, and an intellectual and moral failure on a level and magnitude Spade suggests. The fact that the original actions were willful and intentional fraud assures us that it was done with hubris. The fact that Gerhardt and Hebert were promoted – when so much talent was available to fill those positions – signals that hubris and corruption, and even the fraud, are alive and well under sheriff Jim McDonnell. There are no doubt other takes on what’s going down, but this one drawing from Olson might be interesting for some.

    • As usual Brizz, you are spot on. What will be interesting to see is how the LA Times editorial board will try to rubber stamp McDonnell’s endorsement, undoubtedly by dredging up a fluff list of fake successes. They won’t use the old “quirky” endorsement like they did with Baca, but they will ignore the obvious with the line swine and look for some worthless anecdotal quotes from Dignity and Power now, the ACLU, or the Board of Supervisors. I’m sure that crack team of law enforcement experts the LA Times employs is already busy working on the wording. For some reason, North Korea’s regime comes to mind…

      And we will be back to enjoying our own Ground Hog Day, the movie…

  • @ Brizz – You are spot on with the analytical power point concerning unions. It totally mirrors ALADS connection to Paul Tanaka. Alads ex president Floyd Hayhurst was a “Coin Holder & Cigar Club” crony of Tanaka. Hayhurst swayed and convinced the majority of the Board and many of the ALADS Representatives. Glad it’s over.

    • The game remains the same, only the lineup changes. Unfortunately there is no David for ALADS Goliath (Richard Shinee).

  • EDITOR’S NOTE:

    FYI, the creepy, trollish, ultra personal comments that keep coming through about a single person have been deleted. Whoever is posting them, you know better than to put up this kind of crap. Please don’t continue to waste my time or yours.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

    C.

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