Jim McDonnell LASD Paul Tanaka Sheriff Lee Baca

Longtime LA Sheriff’s Investigator Sues for Alleged Retaliation Over Refusal to Falsify Job Applications & to Campaign for Paul Tanaka


A longtime background investigator for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was severely retaliated against when he refused to falsify employment applications for unqualified applicants who were reportedly favored by then-undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

In the lawsuit filed last Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, plaintiff Ban Nyegen, who has been with the sheriff’s department since 1996, alleges that, at the end of 2012, he began getting requests to alter LASD employment applications so that certain job applicants who “failed basic requirements” would be able to “pass through the background process.” Nyegen was reportedly told by a sergeant in the personnel bureau that the orders to falsify documents came from then-undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

When Nguyen refused whitewash documents for the specially designated applicants, he alleges that the applications in question were given to other background investigators, who were presumably more willing.

The lawsuit further alleges that, sometime after he refused the orders to doctor the background checks, Nguyen was approached by LASD Captain Kevin Hebert who asked him to support Tanaka’s campaign for sheriff and actively campaign for him. Again, Nguyen declined.

(Previously, WitnessLA reported in depth on a pay-to-play scheme within the department involving Paul Tanaka’s previous campaigns for mayor of Gardena.)

Subsequent to his refusal to agree to campaign for the former undersheriff, Nguyen’s complaint states that Hebert moved him out of his position as a senior background investigator to another far less desirable entry level position in personnel.

The complaint describes other retaliatory actions including the filing by Hebert of “an unwarranted internal affairs investigation against the plaintiff.”


Near the end of 2013, according to the lawsuit, Nguyen told then Sheriff Lee Baca about the demand to “lie about or conceal damaging background information concerning Tanaka connected applicants,” and the retaliation that occurred when he would’t comply, or support Tanaka’s political campaign. Rather than helping matters, the lawsuit reports that after Nguyen went to Baca the retaliation got worse, and he was warned by another captain, Judy Gerhardt, that “he was not allowed to go beyond the chain of command again with his complaint, and she refused to transfer plaintiff out of the hostile workplace.”

(Note: by August of 2013, Paul Tanaka had been forced to retire, but reportedly he still had much behind-the-scenes influence in certain quarters, long after that.)

Nguyen alleges that, as part of the retaliation for his having reported to Baca, he was required to fill in as a bailiff at various court locations six times a month, and was given make-work projects by Captain Gerhardt “that prevented him from being able to do any meaningful work,” according to the lawsuit.

Eventually, the work-place stress got to Nygen and he took a medical leave

And in November 2014, of course, Jim McDonnell defeated Paul Tanaka for the office of Los Angeles County Sheriff.

Sheriff McDonnell was sworn in on December 1, 2014, with a strong message of reform.


Nyegen’s lawsuit has many things in common with other reports by department members who have alleged to us, and in still active lawsuits, that refusal to go along with wrongdoing, or any attempt to report alleged departmental wrongdoing, resulted retaliation. With some people the retaliation included unwarranted internal affairs investigations and, in certain cases, physical threats.

According to the reports we have received most recently, in some cases the retaliation is still occurring.


  • Gerhardt, now there is an embarrassment. Always looks like she just crawled out of a sleeping bag wearing the latest in Goodwill fashions, sporting her “once a year” Supercuts hair style. She was promoted to Captain by Tanaka because she could be controlled and would do, no surprise, whatever Paul or any of his henchmen told her to do. She couldn’t make an appropriate and ethical decision if it were written down for her. I certainly hope IAB is thoroughly investigating these allegations and if Founded, McDonnell shows no mercy to anyone involved. All eyes are on you, Sheriff. Now let’s see if things have really changed, or it will be 4 more years of the same old stuff.

  • And yet these thugs are still free and not indicted. Someone tell me why? If this doesn’t look like the Feds were paid off in the Pandoras Box case then nothing will. These 2 are the only ones responsible for Pandoras Box and are still without any indictments.

  • The above indicated facts is why TANAKA, BACA and FLOYD HAYHURST are gone. All three at one point, backed each other.

    Their minions are still out & about, mixing in with the masses, as not to attract the FIRING SQUAD of the NEW SHERIFF.

    Bottom line is those three are forever gone, never to return. For the record, there are more lawsuits pending. I guarantee it.

  • Well, no surprise here when you REFUSE to follow orders to falsify documents. I can’t imagine how many lawsuits are out there.

    I thought this was the United States America, where you have a given right to vote for any candidate you wanted and no one had a right to question it.

  • Deputy Nguyen’s claims are not surprising to anyone who works/worked LASD under Baca/Tanaka. With so many Tanaka acolytes still in command positions, Sheriff McDonnell must be out of breath swimming upstream wearing a double-layered Kevlar vest. I wish him well in his unenviable task.

  • The only thing the Sheriff cares about is high shines and rolled up sleeves. When that is your approach to the most corrupt department in the land, you are not capable of true reform.

    They have ruined lives in raid jackets and they will do it in Eisenhowers too…

  • As a long time, and continuing victim of retaliation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, I had hope that the new sheriff would do the right thing and send a message with regards to the former corrupt regime, and those who blindly followed. As a hopeful employee, I did reach out to the new sheriff to offer any assistance to him, with any information he may need. Sadly only crickets.

    Nothing will change if there is no change made to move the LASD away from its’ corrupt past practices. The use of false Internal Affairs “investigations” has been a favorite “weapon” of choice, when an employee failed to go along with the corrupt executives, and lie for them. Unfortunately the department has only served to validate the “blind followers”, by leaving them in place. That message is clear.

  • The 100 day mark is fast approaching and so far the “fresh eyes” that McDonnell promised to bring to the game have not materialized into honest reform efforts. A promise to fire those who are dishonest during the course and scope of their duties is great, but it does not solve the problem of all those supervisors, managers, and executives occupying ranks and positions achieved because of their willingness to be dishonest. And yes, pretty uniforms and spit shines do little to solve the big issues.

    Retaliation still runs rampant, and now a bevy of lawsuits are in the making, aimed at putting on the stand, under oath, all those supervisors, managers, and executives who lied, cheated, and stole their way to fortune and fame. The taxpayer will be on the hook for all the damages that will be paid out, and the list is long and distinguished.

    McDonnell should realize when he has GED educated executives, working for free and spending their time and energy enjoying the perks of power instead of reforming the department, their presence undermines his credibility as a reformer. There is much truth to the saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

  • The simple truth is the Department was once run by a drunk, a loon, and a tyrant. Until all three are practicing their golf strokes at a federal facility, there can be no healing. Saving grace is all three are now retired!

  • @Jack Dawson: You can’t expect years of corruption to be fixed over night. Some significant moves are starting to take place. What we have to wear daily, to do our jobs, is just a bump in the rode. If our daily attire is your biggest gripe, then clearly you have never been wronged by the past regime!

  • Huh!,

    You’re right. Sending out an email that addresses an issue approved by policy to a certain degree is completely warranted. You are also right again. As a person who has been whipped a few time by tankaites, my patience and tolerance for idiotic policies is a little short. So let’s stop whipping the line and address personnel issues at EPC.

    Thanks for being the example of painting with broad brushes and missing the point. I could start spewing off how I think you might be one of those people or close to SHB based on your comment. How would we know if I am right like you…??

    927C Baca’s closet in the basement and see if he left your transfer papers back to reality.

  • These lawsuits are from the past acts of our leadership. Nothing has changed with the new leadership !!! It is actually worse than it ever was. Wait till you see the retaliation lawsuits over the next few years that has nothing to do with Tanaka. LASD executives can’t help it. Remember they are just deputies like you and me raised in this culture over the past 30 years, they can’t help it. This retaliatory culture is ingrained in their fiber. Sad to say, we need all new outside executives…

    The retaliatory culture still exists, they just think their doing it smarter.

  • #16,I agree. It is in their fiber. Its how most got promoted. Its all they know. Not always by ability, but for loyalty. And they will continue this culture as long as they are in their positions. Unfortunately, a cultural shift will take many many years to accomplish.

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