Monday, November 30, 2009

Maloney Family Dies in Tragic Car Crash

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We are praying for the Lord to comfort all the family and friends touched by this tragedy...

Sonoma family of 4 dies in crash; father was Marin executive

Marin IJ
Brent Ainsworth
Posted: 11/29/2009 03:10:36 PM PST

Johnathan Maloney, shown in a 1990s handout photo from Panamax. Friends and former Marin County colleagues on Sunday mourned the death of Johnathan Maloney, his wife and two young children, killed Saturday night in a multicar crash east of Novato.

The minivan in which the Maloney family was riding was struck by an oncoming Mini Cooper at the intersection of Highway 37 and Lakeville Highway, about two miles east of the Marin County line. Maloney, 45, his wife, Susan Maloney, 42, and their children Aiden, 8, and Grace, 5, died in the impact, said Officer Jon Sloat of the California Highway Patrol.

The man who was driving the Mini Cooper, Steven Culbertson, 19, of Lakeport (Lake County), was listed in critical condition Sunday night, said Vanessa Begier, a spokeswoman for Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that Culbertson had died.

Johnathan Maloney had worked at Panamax in San Rafael, a high-tech manufacturer, for many years and more recently with Novato-based SolarCraft, a solar energy company.

"I knew him for about 20 years and he was my best friend, a wonderful father and a very generous man," said attorney and neighbor Bob Smith, who also works for SolarCraft. "You are lucky if you ever have a friend like John. Now we don't have him anymore. I don't know what else to say."

Henry Moody, a Ross resident who founded Panamax, learned of the fatal crash at about 5 a.m. Sunday.

"We had a great relationship," Moody said. "John was an exceptional person - very bright. He was well-liked in that he never made an enemy with anybody.

"The mind cannot assimilate something like this. It's a tragedy, especially because of the children. We cry a lot for kids who haven't had a chance to have a life."

The Maloneys' minivan was heading east on Highway 37 as the family returned from a vacation in Hawaii on their way home to a neighborhood just north of downtown Sonoma. As the minivan crossed through the four-way stop at about 9:20 p.m., a Mini Cooper driven by Culbertson hit a car that was stopped for a red light on southbound Lakeville Highway and slammed into the minivan, the CHP said.

The minivan was rendered nearly unrecognizable by the collision.

The Mini Cooper also struck a sedan waiting at the light and three people in that vehicle were hospitalized in Novato with injuries, according to the highway patrol.

"He clipped two vehicles and broadsided the family of four," CHP Sgt. Trent Cross said. "Right now there is no evidence of drugs or alcohol. That could change later, but right now, there is no evidence."

After the impact, the minivan pushed into a 2002 Mitsubishi Galant that was also traveling east on Highway 37, the CHP reported. Novato resident Carrie Rodriguez, 52, of Novato, and her passengers Liberty Rosario, 47, of Fairfield, and Adelaida Nicholas, 53, of Novato, were taken to local hospitals and treated for minor injuries before being released, according to the CHP.

Two medical helicopters and the Sonoma County coroner were called to the site. Culbertson was flown by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Traffic in the area came to a standstill and was backed up for hours just east of the Marin-Sonoma county border near Black Point. Fire crews from Novato, Lakeville, Wilmar and Petaluma were called to the crash.

Johnathan Maloney started at Panamax in the late 1980s, Smith said. Eventually he became co-owner with Smith, Moody and Bill Pollock. Moody said the group sold the company to Nortek, and it is now based in Petaluma with Pollock as its president.

After Maloney left Panamax, he went back to school at Dominican University to work on a master's in humanities and focused on creative writing. He already had at a journalism degree from the University of Georgia.

"He worked on his writing skills and wrote a children's book, which was part of his dream," Moody said. "He loved the arts."

Last spring he joined Solarcraft as vice president for sales and marketing, Smith said. He worked at both the Bel Marin Keys headquarters as well as the Petaluma office.

Maloney had a daughter, Molly, from a previous marriage. Molly Maloney was a sports standout at Tamalpais High and now attends the University of Wisconsin. The family had flown in from Hawaii in order to have a Thanksgiving dinner with Molly on Saturday, Smith said.

The Saturday night crash had the highest death toll since the 2007 crash on Highway 101 in Santa Rosa that killed five members of a Windsor family.

Contact Brent Ainsworth via e-mail at

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John Maloney

Susan Maloney with children Aiden and Grace

Steve Culbertson

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December 1, 2009 UPDATE

Thieves raid empty home of family killed in crash


Tue 12/1/09 2 PM
By David Bolling

Sonoma Police Officers Rocky Seffens and Mike Baraz stand guard over the Maloney home while crime scene investigators process evidence inside. Robbi Pengely/Index-Tribune

Compounding the tragedy that took the lives of four Sonoma family members in a Saturday night auto accident, thieves broke into their empty home Monday night, ransacked the contents taking numerous items of value, and drove off with family's remaining car, a two-seat, 2006 Nissan 350Z sports car.

"It is incomprehensible that someone would capitalize on this tragedy," said a tearful Nancy Pollock, who with her husband, Bill, was a close family friend of John and Susan Maloney, and their children Aiden and Grace. The Pollocks were present at the house Tuesday morning as crime scene investigators from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department processed the scene.

"It shakes your faith in mankind," said Nancy's husband, Bill Pollock, president of Panamax Corporation, the Petaluma company where John and Susan met. John Maloney, with fellow Sonoman Bob Smith, had been co-owners of Panamax until Maloney decided to sell his interest in order take a break form work and write a book while spending more time with his family. The Maloneys were returning to Sonoma Saturday after a Thanksgiving vacation in Hawaii when their mini-van was struck by a speeding teenage driver who ran the red light at Lakeville Road and Highway 37. The driver, 19-year-old Steven Culbertson of Lakeport, died Sunday.

The family was returning home to spend time with 19-year-old Molly Maloney, John's daughter from a previous marriage, before she returned to college in Wisconsin.

Staring into the open garage that had been ransacked the night before, Nancy Pollock said through anguished tears, John and Nancy "are in a safe place now. But to do this to Molly ... they ransacked the whole house, they threw things all over ... even went in the little kids ... they went in Aiden and Grace's rooms. Sonoma police Chief Bret Sackett said the break-in happened sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. this morning (Tuesday). He said the thieves appeared to have entered through a side garage door and that sheriff's detectives and CSI personnel were carefully processing the house all Tuesday afternoon. Sackett said a complete list of what was taken had not been compiled but that it included electronics and other valuable items, including the 350Z sports car, which was silver in color, with the license plate, 5XOH067.

Meanwhile, a memorial service has been planned for Friday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. in Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center. Space will be somewhat limited.

Additionally, a benefit fund to aid Molly Maloney's continuing education is being established and fund details will be released as soon as they are available.

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CHP probes whether driver was drinking before fatal crash

Published: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 6:48 p.m.

The inquiry into Saturday night’s violent car crash that killed a Sonoma family of four broadened Tuesday into whether the teen driver of a speeding Mini Cooper had been drinking before causing, and dying in, the crash.

19-year-old in crash liked to race cars Mini Cooper driver had DUI as a 17-year-old 5 killed in Lakeville Highway crash CHP investigators Tuesday afternoon interviewed a witness who has come forward with information that could shed light on the activities of the driver, Steven Culbertson, 19, in the hours leading up to the collision.

The information raises questions about liability if someone served the underage man alcohol prior to the crash.

In interviews Tuesday with The Press Democrat and later with the CHP, Michael Loffredo of Petaluma said his family saw Culbertson sitting at the bar of Traxx, a Petaluma bar and restaurant, as they were having dinner between 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday. He said he saw a white Mini in the parking lot.

Whether alcohol was involved in Saturday night’s crash remained unknown, pending results of Culbertson’s toxicology test ordered by the CHP.

The CHP confirmed Tuesday that Culbertson had been arrested for drunken driving in a 2007 Lake County crash when he was 17. His driver’s license was suspended for a year, the standard punishment after such an arrest.

Culbertson had no other driving infractions, according to the CHP.

Investigators said Culbertson caused the crash when his Mini, traveling at an estimated 70-90 mph on southbound Lakeville Highway, slammed broadside into the family’s eastbound van at Highway 37.

Susan Maloney, 42, her husband, John, 45, and their children Grace, 5, and Aiden, 8, died on impact in the 9:20 p.m. crash, the CHP said.

Culbertson of Lakeport died Sunday at a Santa Rosa hospital.

Loffredo, an art instructor at the Santa Rosa Junior College campus in Petaluma, told The Press Democrat that he and his sister remarked on the white Mini with Lakeport markings as they went into the restaurant. He said they saw a tall, dark-haired young man sitting at the bar and he had a mixed-drink style glass in his hand.

“I thought, ‘That’s a kid...He’s drinking. It must be a busboy or dishwasher, but they’re giving him a drink.’ He was noticeably young,” Loffredo said.

The information, if proved true, could result in criminal charges or administrative sanctions if the underage Culbertson was served alcohol in violation of state law, CHP spokesman Officer Jon Sloat said.

Results of Culbertson’s toxicology tests could be available in two to three weeks.

“We need to backtrack 24 hours leading up to the collision,” Sloat said. “If he was somewhere drinking underage, that opens up a whole other can of worms for whoever was serving him.”

The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which issues licenses and investigates related violations, is also involved, CHP Sgt. Robert Mota said.

Traxx owner Chris Cheney said Tuesday evening he hadn’t been contacted by investigators. He said he didn’t know if Culbertson had been at his establishment, but that his employees use standard age-checking procedures before they serve alcohol to young-looking patrons.

Typically, bars, wineries and other licensed alcohol purveyors are not responsible for what intoxicated patrons do once they walk out the door.

The exception is when someone serves an obviously intoxicated minor, said Santa Rosa attorney Pat Emery, who has handled numerous civil lawsuits involving alcohol-related crashes.

Loffredo said after dinner he drove southeast on Lakeville Street toward the marina and he realized the Mini was behind him, driving fast.

“As we left, he must have been right behind us,” he said. “That car blew by us in the lane and cut off two cars coming off the freeway. That was the beginning of a death ride.

“He was doing at least 70,” he said. “I told my dad, ‘That SOB just went through the red light.’ It was suicidal. Nobody in their right mind would do that.”

Loffredo said the Mini split between two vehicles exiting Highway 101 at Lakeville, causing those drivers to honk their horns. The Mini continued east, he said.

“I looked at the clock and it was 9:08,” he said. “Then they showed his picture on the news and I went ‘bingo.’”

That time frame matches the crash that occurred about 10 minutes later at Lakeville Highway and Highway 37, approximately 12 miles away.

The CHP said that as Culbertson approached the intersection on Lakeville, he came upon a Honda CRV stopped for the light. The Mini clipped the back of that vehicle and then flew into the intersection against the light.

It appears he didn’t try to slow down before running the red light and into the intersection at 37, Sloat said. There were no skid marks at the scene.

“It didn’t look like he was trying to brake,” Sloat said.

The Maloney family was returning to their Sonoma home from the airport after flying in from Maui, where they had spent Thanksgiving.

Whether Culbertons still had control of the car wasn’t known, but at that speed he wouldn’t have been able to stop from running the light, Sloat said.

“He was going fast enough, he was going into that intersection in control or out of control,” he said.

Meanwhile, autopsies on the bodies of the Maloney family were scheduled for Tuesday, according to the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office. Culbertson’s autopsy was scheduled to follow.

A family friend said Monday that Culbertson had a passion for racing cars. The friend said Culbertson and his father frequently travelled to race tracks in the state to race a BMW and an Acura.

On his Facebook page, Culbertson listed his occupation as “pro driver/mechanic.”

Efforts to reach Culbertson’s family since the crash have been unsuccessful. Sloat said officers intend to interview his family, but wanted to give them time.

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Fairport native, family killed in crash in California

Mitch Pritchard – Staff writer Local News – December 1, 2009 - 5:00am

Molly Maloney, 19, left, was supposed to visit with her father, Johnathan, center, and his family Monday.

Molly Maloney was looking forward to a belated Thanksgiving with her father and his family Monday, but instead the 19-year-old was grieving for her loved ones.

Fairport High School graduate Johnathan Maloney, 45; his wife, Susan, 42; their son, Aiden, 8; and their daughter, Grace, 5, were killed in Novato, Calif., late Saturday night after a driver ran a red light and smashed into their minivan.

The family, which lived in Sonoma, was on its way home from the San Francisco International Airport after a weekend trip to Maui. The crash occurred 10 miles from their home.

Molly Maloney, who is a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, was with her mother, Tina Maloney, at her home in Sausalito, Calif., when the crash happened.

Mr. Maloney, a 1982 Fairport graduate, moved to California 25 years ago after graduating from the University of Georgia.

Mr. Maloney was an executive at SolarCraft, a solar energy company. According to Molly Maloney, he had just returned to work after taking two years off to write a book for young adults based on the bedtime stories he had told his children.

“It was his dream to live in California, so after college he just packed up his car and drove out here,” Molly Maloney said by phone Monday. “He always wanted to write this book, so he took the time off to do it.”

Molly Maloney said the book is finished, but Mr. Maloney was in the process of getting it published.

“I knew him for about 20 years and he was my best friend, a wonderful father and a very generous man,” attorney and neighbor Bob Smith, who also works for SolarCraft, told the Marin Independent Journal. “You are lucky if you ever have a friend like John. Now we don’t have him anymore.”

Mr. Maloney started at Panamax, a company that designs and manufactures electronics, in San Rafael in the late 1980s, Smith said. Eventually he became co-owner with Smith, Henry Moody and Bill Pollock. Moody said the group sold the company.

After Mr. Maloney left Panamax, he went back to school at Dominican University to work on a master’s degree in humanities and focused on creative writing. Last spring he joined SolarCraft as vice president for sales and marketing, Smith told the Journal.

Steven Culbertson, 19, who was driving the Mini Cooper that crashed into Maloney’s van, died Monday at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital from injuries sustained in the crash.

Culbertson’s car first clipped a car that was stopped for the light at the intersection of Highway 37 and Lakeville Highway and then smashed into the minivan near Novato, about 30 miles north of San Francisco, the California Highway Patrol said.

He was the sole occupant of the car.

The three people in vehicle at the light were hospitalized.

Apart from Molly Maloney, Mr. Maloney is survived by brother Jim Maloney and his wife, Debi, of Honeoye Falls; sister Cathleen Phipps and her husband, Will, of Fairport; and mother Caroline Maloney of Fairport.

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COMMENTS from Lake County Record-Bee - some knew Culbertson

COMMENTS from Press Democrat - witness saw Culbertson drinking & driving reckless before accident

COMMENTS from Press Democrat - Maloney house robbed

COMMENTS from Press Democrat - DUI at 17

COMMENTS from Press Democrat - first report/info on Culbertson family

COMMENTS from Press Democrat - couple caught & arrested

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December 3, 2009 UPDATE

Police nab pair in Maloney home burglary

Wed 12/2/09
10 AM
Sononma Index Tribune

A San Mateo County couple, 26-year-old Michael Vincent Guiterrez and 29-year-old Amber Marie True, were arrested Tuesday afternoon after San Mateo County Sheriff's deputies caught True with a credit card belonging to Susan Maloney.

The empty Maloney home was burglarized Monday night following the Saturday accident that killed four members of the family. Maloney, her husband John, and their children Aiden and Grace, were killed Saturday evening by a speeding 19-year-old who ran a red light at Highway 37 and Lakeville Road and hit the Maloney minivan broadside at a speed estimated at 70 to 90 miles per hour. The driver, Steven Culbertson of Lakeport, died on Sunday.

Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett reported Wednesday morning that the San Mateo arrests began with a traffic stop at a San Mateo convenience store where local deputies saw True acting suspiciously and discovered she was driving on a suspended license. They then discovered she had in her possession a credit card belonging to Susan Maloney and jewelry that appeared inconsistent "with her type," said Sackett.

Sonoma County Sheriff's Department detectives, who had earlier posted alerts and stop notices on all the Maloneys' missing credit cards, traveled to San Mateo Tuesday afternoon and went to True's residence where they found the Maloneys' stolen Nissan 350Z sports car parked in the driveway.

They staked out the house and sometime after 5 p.m., Giuterrez came out, got into the Nissan and started to drive away. Having a suspect in a known stolen car gave waiting deputies immediate cause to make an arrest and they took Giuterrez into custody.

They then served a search warrant on the home and, according to Sackett, found more jewelry, financial records, credit cards, electronic devices and other of the Maloneys' personal belongings. Sackett said a full inventory had not been completed but it appears likely that all of the Maloneys' stolen property has been recovered.

Giuterrez and True were transported back to Sonoma County and booked into the county jail on charges of burglary and vehicle theft. Bail was set at $500,000 apiece.

Reader Comments
The following are comments from the Sonoma IT readers. In no way do they represent the view of wrote on Dec 2, 2009 11:48 AM:

" Great news!!!! Throw the book
at them. " wrote on Dec 2, 2009 2:01 PM:

" I am so glad they caught them.they deserve to rot..I am a little relieved that is was not people from our community i was losing faith in our town " wrote on Dec 2, 2009 3:06 PM:

" in my eyes the driver who killed this poor family got exactly what he deserved, really how many chances do you liberals want to give these repeat offenders? the two that stole and did the unbelievable should get that absolute top penalty for this unholy act. one of them has many ties to sonoma, and never give up hope for sonoma, its a town that is a family to most. " wrote on Dec 2, 2009 3:16 PM:

" being liberal has nothing to do with anything. thankfully they caught these horrible people " wrote on Dec 2, 2009 4:24 PM:

" bryjag. Pretty low of you to use a serious tragedy like this to take a political swipe. In fact in the most conservative states such as Georgia the DUI laws are much less stringent than Cal. If it's true that he was served drinks at Traxx in Petaluma they'll be held liable. Wouldn't happen in the South or any 'non liberal' states. Get a clue. " wrote on Dec 2, 2009 4:51 PM:

" the worst thing we can can do is even acknowledge someone like bryjag1965 wrote something about this terrible situation. just let him/her be with their opinion and move on. it is obvious they don't have a clue about what they are writing about and they are trying to make more out of something than it already is.

i think it is awesme that these idiots were caught and hopefully they spend the maximum time possible in jail so that our law enforcement resources don't have to spend any more time or effort on them.

to the family and friends of the Maloney's please know that everyone's thoughts and prayers are with you.

to the family and friends of the driver who caused all this, our thoughts and prayers are with you too. you have a grieving process and a loved one gone as well, so there is definitely some healing you have left to do and negative remarks about your lost family member are not necessarily what you should be paying attention to.

Sonoma is strong. It is amazing to see how many people were angered and ready to do something knowing this happened in our small town. Pretty cool to see how we can all agree on something and want to act on it positively. " wrote on Dec 2, 2009 6:36 PM:

" This is such a tragedy to have happen to Sonoma residents who were sooo close to home. Both families have had losses that we can't begin to understand. Many lives were needlessly lost in this accident...but that doesn't make it easier to accept...There but by the grace of God go I...any one of us could have been hit...As for those who knowingly went into the home of the victims...they should be punished to the very limit. How tragic that they would tread in the deceased families home...I am glad I am not on their jury as I would throw the book at them...There is absolutely no excuse for what they did and I am so glad they have been caught. " wrote on Dec 3, 2009 5:45 AM:

" I don't think there is a severe enough punishment that fits this crime.

Thankfully, this family and their friends will have more peace now. "

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KTVU News VIDEO and article

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December 4, 2009 UPDATE

Driver seen in bar before fatal crash
By David Bolling and Emily Charrier-Botts
Thu 12/3/09
8 PM

STEVEN CULBERTSON Photo courtesy of the DMV

Steven Culbertson, the 19-year-old Lakeport man whose white, 2009 Mini Cooper raced through a red light Nov. 28, and killed four members of Sonoma's Maloney family, may have been the same man spotted by a witness drinking heavily in a Petaluma bar not long before the accident.

Culbertson also died following the accident. According to Michael Loffredo, 53, a Petaluma resident and art instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College, he saw someone identical to Culbertson at Traxx, a Petaluma bar and restaurant, Saturday night. And on his way into the facility with his girlfriend, sister and parents, Loffredo told the Index-Tribune he stopped to admire a white Mini Cooper in the parking lot.

"My sister pointed it out because she was thinking about buying one," he said. "It was a very fancy one, with fancy rims." Lofreddo said he could plainly see a license plate badge saying "Mini of Lakeport." The time was between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Loffredo said his party was seated at a table in the dining room with a view straight into the bar. "After a while," he said, "there were only two guys at the bar, one older guy and this kid who was really tossing them back. I thought, 'Wow, they're getting the busboy hammered.'"

Loffredo said the man resembled a young Ashton Kutcher, the actor. At one point, said Loffredo, he went to the bathroom and ran into the young man, meeting face-to-face. "I looked at him like, 'Hey kid, I know you're underage and I know you're hammered.'"

Loffredo said the young man made a short laugh and went into the women's bathroom. Loffredo said he subsequently left the restaurant, located on Lakeville Street near East Washington, and was driving his parents back to their hotel when he stopped at a red light close to the Highway 101 interchange. He said he saw in his mirror a car racing up behind him. When the car got to the light, said Loffredo, the driver "gunned it, he blew through the red light," and drove right between two cars exiting onto Lakeville Highway from 101.

"My sister said, 'that's the guy from Traxx,' and I told everybody in the car, 'That guy wants to die. This isn't going to end well.'"

At 9:20 p.m., Culbertson's car, a white Mini Cooper, clipped one car, roared through a red light at Lakeville Road and Highway 37, and drove broadside into the Maloneys' Nissan Quest, killing John Maloney, his wife Susan Maloney, and their two children Aiden, 8, and Grace, 5.

Culbertson died Sunday, after being taken off life support.

The California Highway Patrol reported that Culbertson was driving at between 70 and 90 miles an hour when he hit the Maloney minivan.

Authorities are still piecing together Culbertson's activities prior to the crash, and they have interviewed Loffredo about his sighting of the person alleged to be Culbertson at Traxx.

Police are still awaiting the results of a toxicology test to determine if Culbertson was in fact intoxicated at the time of the crash, but he did have a history of drinking and driving.

According to DMV records, he had his license suspended July 14, 2007, for driving with "excessive blood alcohol content." As is typical for first time juvenile offenders, his license was suspended for a year and, as a condition for his license to be reinstated, he was required to carry costly liability insurance, known as SR22 insurance, as a high risk driver through 2011. Culbertson was 17 at the time of the DUI and the details of that incident were not made public.

"All we have on him is a juvenile record, which is not public record," said Richard Hinchcliff, chief deputy district attorney for Lake County.

Culbertson's DUI was his only brush with the law in Lake County. Terri Menshek, spokeswoman for the Sonoma County District Attorney's office, said Culbertson had no criminal record in Sonoma County.

CHP Officer Jon Sloat said his department is working to determine exactly what Culbertson was doing during the 24 hours prior to the crash. Law enforcement contacted Culbertson's family in Lakeport for additional information, but as of Wednesday had not interviewed the family, Sloat said. Attempts by the Index-Tribune to reach Steven Culbertson's father, who is also named Steven Culbertson, were unsuccessful.

The Culbertson family shared a love of racing cars. According to the younger Steven Culbertson's Facebook page, he enjoyed racing a BMW and shared aspirations to become a race car driver or mechanic. He attended Clear Lake High School for several years before transferring to the alternative school, Natural High School, where he graduated in 2008.

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North Bay News

Family killed in Highway 37 crash remembered

Updated at 01:08 PM
Teresa Garcia

SONOMA, CA (KGO) -- Preparations are underway for a memorial service this afternoon for a Sonoma family of four killed in a traffic accident last weekend. John and Susan Maloney and their two young children were killed when a speeding car ran a red light and slammed into their vehicle on Highway 37.

A separate memorial service was held this morning at the school that both their son Aiden and daughter Grace attended.

The city of Sonoma is already grieving the loss of the young Maloney family of four. Today emotions are heightened even more in this small North Bay community, with both a family memorial set for 2 p.m. this afternoon and an earlier memorial held at the children's school.

John and Susan Maloney and their two children Aiden and Grace were all killed last Saturday by a high-speed driver who crashed into their car on Highway 37.

Second-grader Aiden and his sister Grace, a kindergartner, both attended Prestwood Elementary School in Sonoma.

On Friday morning, the school held a memorial for them and about 500 people attended. Students, parents and staff observed a moment of silence and released balloons and four doves for the four Maloney family members who died when driving home from the airport after a trip to Hawaii.

In such a tight-knit community, the loss of the children and their parents is being felt by all at Prestwood Elementary School.

"They do have moments when it just kind of hits them, so we do have children that break down during the day. We do have extra counselors and support for that. We have teachers that break down during the day. But we go on, we have ways to back each other up and take care of things and we go on and we try to keep things as normal as possible," said Prestwood Elementary School Principal Linda Tiesenthal.

To help support the children who were in the same grade levels as the Maloney children, each student in kindergarten and second grade was given a blanket by a group called Project Linus.

Later this evening, parents and children are invited to take part in a memorial walk from Prestwood to Sonoma Plaza at 5 p.m.

This afternoon's private memorial is for family and close friends only.

(Copyright ©2009 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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ABC News Videos

Lake County News

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December 6, 2009 UPDATE

Man's organs donated by family after fatal collisionBy Staff reports

Updated: 12/04/2009 09:54:16 PM PST
Lake County Record-Bee

LAKE COUNTY According to a press release from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, the Culbertson family has authorized Golden State Donor Services and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital to release the following statement on their behalf:

"19-year-old Steven Culbertson's organ donation provided the gift of life to others waiting for a life-saving transplant."

Culbertson died Sunday after crashing into and killing a family of four about 9:20 p.m. Saturday at Lakeville Highway and Highway 37 in Sonoma County, officials stated.

Medics took Culbertson off life support Sunday at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Officer Jon Sloat of California Highway Patrol said.

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MeganMac-AFriendOfSteven wrote:
"Touche Jerry. You may have educated words and strong opinions but I still very much think you are a stubborn a s s h o l e who needs to go away. Do you even know every corner of the story? Steven had very bad health problems. He had horrible seizures very often and took medication for them. He passed out numerous times during school. How do you know he didn't have one right before the crash, and was blacked out and had no idea what was going on? Don't jump to conclusions. You aren't God... you don't know EVERYTHING even though you may think you do."

Reply by Cathy:
"horrible seizures"? Really? Did the DMV know?

From the 2009 Calif Driver Handbook:
"If you have a medical condition or a disability, DMV may require you to take a driving test and/or present a statement from your physician regarding your condition."
Source: Page 2 of California Driver Handbook 2009

"Physicians and surgeons are required to report patients at least 14 years of age and older who are diagnosed as having lapses of consciousness, dementia (mental disorders) conditions, or related disorders.(Health & Safety Code §103900)"
Source: Page 61 of California Driver Handbook 2009

Also check out Calif DMV website regarding 'Lapses of Consciousness Disorders':

Drunk or sober, with such a severe medical condition, should this 19 year-old been behind the wheel of any vehicle in the first place???

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BMW FORUM: Was Steven Culbertson a forum member (MINI driver kills four)

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December 17, 2009 UPDATE

No alcohol found in teen who crashed into Sonoma family of four

Published: Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.

The 19-year-old driver involved in a crash at Lakeville Road and Highway 37 that killed four members of a Sonoma family nearly three weeks ago didn't have any alcohol in his system, California Highway Patrol officials announced Thursday afternoon.

Steven Culbertson of Petaluma reportedly sped through a red light at the intersection and crashed into several cars, including a Nissan Quest carrying the Maloney family.

Susan Maloney, 42, her husband, John, 45, and their children, Grace, 5, and Aiden, 8, were killed. Culbertson died later at a hospital.

CHP investigators also said they found no evidence that Culbertson had been at a Petaluma bar before the crash.

“We all expected he'd come back under the influence of alcohol,” CHP Officer John Sloat said. “Now we're scratching our heads wondering why he'd be driving like that sober.”

CHP officers had interviewed Michael Loffredo of Petaluma, who reported that on the evening of the crash he had seen Culbertson sitting at the bar of Traxx, a Petaluma bar and restaurant. Loffredo said he also noticed a white Mini Cooper, the make and color of Culbertson's car, in the parking lot.

Even if Culbertson was at the bar, it would have been legal, according to investigators with Alcoholic Beverage Control.

“The bar in question, Traxx, is licensed as a bar and restaurant, which would have allowed Culbertson to be inside the bar,” the report said.

Examiners found some prescription drugs in Culbertson's system which were likely given to Culbertson at the hospital after the crash, CHP Officer John Sloat said. Further toxicology tests are being done to determine if that's the case, Sloat said.

Investigators will continue interviewing friends and family of to piece together Culbertson's state of mind leading up to the crash, Sloat said.

The CHP has reported that as Culbertson approached Highway 37 southbound on Lakeville, he came upon a Honda CRV stopped for a red light. The Mini, speeding at what witnesses estimated was 70 to 90 mph, clipped the back of that car and flew into the intersection against the light at about 9:20 p.m. Nov. 28, hitting the Maloney's vehicle.

Sloat said it appears Culbertson didn't try to slow before running the red light. No skid marks were at the scene.

The CHP confirmed that Culbertson had been arrested once before for drunken driving in a 2007 Lake County crash when he was 17. His driver's license was suspended for a year, the standard punishment after such an arrest.

Culbertson had no other driving infractions, the CHP said.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wind Advisory for Sonoma Today


Winds topple power lines and trees in the Bay Area

Updated at 05:01 PM 11/28/09
ABC News

Much of the Bay Area was wind whipped and battered on Saturday. The North Bay suffered the brunt of the gusts, they were so strong in some spots they pulled down power lines and toppled trees.

A large cedar crashed on a truck and part of the roof of a home in Sonoma. No one was hurt, but the incident did shake-up the people inside the house. Wind gusts of over 32 miles-per-hour were reported in Sonoma County.

The CHP issued a high-wind advisory Saturday morning for bridges in the Bay Area including the Bay Bridge, and Golden Gate Bridge. Drivers are advised to be careful and those with high-profile vehicles are being discouraged from traveling on some highways in Solano County because of the high winds.

The winds also caused power outages; about 22,000 PG&E customers were affected stretching from Napa to San Jose.

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High winds cause damage, confusion in Santa Rosa

Published: Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 10:45 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 10:45 a.m.

Morning wind gusts of up to 32 miles per hour brought down a number of power lines, trees and branches in Sonoma County, with one power outage leaving thousands in West Santa Rosa without electricity, officials said.

The winds, which have since died down to about 12 to 15 miles per hour, left numerous hazardous tree conditions in the area.

The outage, which was first reported at 8:35 a.m., affected 2,780 residents who live in the area of Jennings Avenue, from Ridley Avenue to Coddingtown Mall, PG&E spokesman JD Guidi said. An hour after the outage was reported, PG&E crews were making their way to the scene and the company had no estimate for when power would be restored, Guidi said.

There were initial reports of one person being injured by a downed power line in West Santa Rosa. Guidi said he could not confirm whether the West Santa Rosa power outage had caused an injury, since crews were not yet at the scene.

“If any customers see any downed powerlines always assume that the line is live or carrying electric current," he said. "Do not try to touch or move any downed lines and keep children and animals away.”

The National Weather Service said the strong morning winds were brought on by a sharp pressure difference associated with a cold front leaving the area and a high pressure system coming into the area.

National Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson said winds should slow to between 5 to 10 miles per hour by later this afternoon or tonight. "It’s dying down in a lot of places. Nothing like what it was earlier," she said.

The winds left some local residents scratching their heads. When Lorin Prushko woke this morning, she noticed that the 14-foot trampoline in the backyard of her Agua Caliente home was gone.

"I ran to the front door and noticed it was in the front yard," Prushko said. "There's no fence or house damage. The trampoline is just standing upright in the front yard."

Prushko said nothing else was moved and she didn't hear any loud noises last night.

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Original Post

Sat, 28 Nov 2009 07:34

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory this morning that is expected to last until 5 p.m. today.

At about 5 a.m. today, northerly winds gusts of between 40 and 50 mph were measured in parts of the North and East Bay Hills. Gusts of about 50 mph are expected to continue throughout the day at elevations above 1,000 feet.

Strong winds can make driving difficult, especially in tall vehicles, so motorists are encouraged to be cautious when driving today.

San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Marin, Monterey, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma, Santa Clara and Alameda counties are affected by the advisory.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sonoma State U Foundation Has Some Explainin' To Do!

PD Editorial: Loan unknowns
SSU foundation must explain how loan was left unsecured

KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat
Published: Monday, November 16, 2009 at 5:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 16, 2009 at 5:28 p.m.


A loan from from the Sonoma State Academic Foundation helped pay for remodeling Salazar Hall, the campus building that houses the administration. Loans from the foundation to financier Clem Carinalli have raised questions about the foundation.

Not long ago, lenders were pretty loose with cash and credit when it concerned anything having to do with real estate. But even in that environment, we have a hard time understanding the cozy financial relationship that existed between the Sonoma State University Academic Foundation and financier Clem Carinalli.

Foundation board members have defended the practice of making personal loans to Carinalli — seven in all, the first one issued two days after Carinalli stepped down as a foundation board member — saying they were all secured with real estate.

Now it turns out that this wasn’t exactly the case. As Staff Writer Nathan Halverson reported on Saturday, one loan from 1997, with an outstanding balance of $232,500, was unsecured.

This has added significance because, although Carinalli paid off the balance during the summer before filing for bankruptcy protection, the court is likely to force the foundation to pay that money back on grounds that it received preferential treatment.

This would leave the Sonoma State foundation at the back of the line of Carinalli’s creditors, many of whom are owed money for loans that were properly secured.

Foundation officials contend they didn’t find out that the loan was left unsecured until July of this year. Somebody, they say, altered the deed, without the foundation’s permission, when Carinalli paid off a significant portion of the loan in 2005.

But how exactly does something like that happen and then go undetected for four years? It’s sloppy and unprofessional at best. At worst, it’s indicative of something possibly more underhanded.

Either way, we challenge the university to conduct a thorough investigation and offer a complete public accounting of what transpired with these funds — all of the $9.6 million in loans made to Carinalli.

We say “challenge” because although the foundation manages millions of dollars and gifts, endowments and scholarships on behalf of a public university, it’s permitted to operate under a veil of secrecy unique among public and quasi-public institutions in California.

A recent attempt to pull back that veil through legislation was vetoed by the governor.

As a result, the public is left to hope that the Sonoma State foundation will be forthcoming with what happened with these loans.

There’s little doubt that the university’s endowment benefited financially from a majority of the loans made to Carinalli — as well as those loans brokered by him — and that much of that money was invested back into the community in ways that benefited the county.

But in the process these and other personal loans exposed the foundation, and the university, to inordinate risk and, now, ridicule. Local residents deserve to know the full story of what happened.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sonoma Hiking Trail Update: Mtg 11/16/09

Open-space impasse

Bill Montini, owner of the Montini Ranch in Sonoma, traverses part of his land that was purchased by the Open Space District, the city of Sonoma and the Coastal Conservancy. The land is above the Gen. Vallejo home, just off of Spain Street. KENT PORTER / PD

Published: Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 4:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 4:15 a.m.

Construction of two miles of hiking trail into Montini Ranch pastureland, which forms Sonoma's hillside backdrop, will start next year even though a nettlesome side issue of public access from an adjacent subdivision remains unresolved.

More Photos:Montini Ranch Sonoma

Sonoma County supervisors have approved the bulk of a public access plan for the Montini Ranch property purchased in 2005 for $13.75 million by the county's Open Space District, the Coastal Conservancy and the city of Sonoma. The ranch is historically significant because it was part of the foothills purchased in 1850 by Gen. Mariano Vallejo.

The plan provides for paved trails from a parking lot near the police station to two vista points that offer views of Sonoma, as well as the 157-acre ranch now designated as open space.

However, county officials acknowledged an impasse concerning location of another path that is supposed to lead to the vista points from neighborhoods that border Montini Ranch and the Gen. Vallejo home. For decades, the residents of these homes have enjoyed open space views and they aren't happy about trailheads in their neighborhoods.

"My backyard faces the ranch," said Carillo Court resident Patricia Talbot. "My concern is parking space."

Since 2007, residents of the neighborhoods bordering on Fourth and Fifth streets have opposed trailheads in the area, saying "they did not wish to see hikers in the view from their backyards," according to a county staff report.

One plan for a trailhead and 10-space parking lot on Fifth Street has been abandoned. Another idea for a land swap between the county and the state parks department also has foundered.

Despite mediation sessions and an attempted compromise offered by Jared Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat who is chairman of the state Assembly parks committee, county officials agree that it's past time for the rest of the public access plan to move forward.

Sonoma Valley Supervisor Valerie Brown said she was frustrated that the western trailhead issue hasn't been resolved, even after multiple negotiations among county and city officials, the state parks department and the neighbors.

"I want access, I am supportive of anything that makes sense," Brown said. "I understand that there are going to be people critical of parking in their neighborhoods, but the city has to deal with that."

City officials have scheduled a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Sonoma Community Center to discuss the issue, including yet another trailhead and path proposal.

The latest idea involves establishing a trailhead on Fourth Street with two handicapped parking spaces and paving an informal pathway on state parks property that could be extended to the two Montini Ranch vista points. Brown said she is encouraged that state parks officials like this idea after having rejected others.

Dave Gould, superintendent of the Diablo Vista District, said there already is a well-worn path "used by people over the course of time and there is already a hole in the fence."

Gould said the path would cut across a small corner of the property of the historic site and would be acceptable if it has minimal impact.

"We've looked at all the alternatives and we are all trying to create something so the public can access what public money has purchased," Gould said.

Sonoma planning director David Goodison said he hopes Monday's meeting will produce feedback on trail options that will result in a recommendation to the city council.

"There are certainly some loose ends associated with this project," Goodison said. "It will be a beautiful hike once this is done."

You can reach Staff Writer Bleys W. Rose at 521-5431 or

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering Our Veterans

And Looking for Peace...

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PD Editorial: Honoring vets

Remembering those in military service — now and long ago

CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat

Published: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 5:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 5:43 p.m.


The 90th observance of Veterans Day — previously known as Armistice Day — finds the nation confronting a number of troubling issues about the security of those in uniform.

Foremost is whether soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood, Texas were needlessly put in harm’s way — in the path of an unstable Army psychologist with ties to a radical cleric in Yemen. Given the information available at the time, we’re at a loss to understand why federal authorities were willing to drop an investigation last year of Nadal Malik Hasan, the man suspected of killing 13 people during a shooting rampage at Fort Hood on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Americans also wait to see how President Barack Obama will respond to appeals for another 40,000 troops in Afghanistan.

But Veterans Day is primarily a time to honor those who already have served this country. And there, too, many concerns arise.

At one time, veterans responded to the call to lead our nation in war and/or the preservation of peace. Today, veterans lead the nation in homelessness, depression and areas such as suicides.

As Staff Writer Jeremy Hay reported on Tuesday, Sonoma County is home to roughly 35,000 veterans. Of those, at least 400 are homeless — a number equal to about 12 percent of the county’s homeless population. Across the nation, are an estimated 131,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets and in cars. Many of these veterans have been hit hard by the downturn in the economy.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is responding to this rising need by committing $3.2 billion over the next five years to helping get veterans off the street. Congress is working on boosting the number of housing vouchers available to help vets get into stable housing.

Locals can honor those who have served this country today by writing to their congressional representatives to support these meaningful measures. They also can attend one of a number of local events honoring Veterans Day, including a flag-raising at the Veterans Memorial at Santa Rosa City Hall at 10:30 a.m. and the Petaluma Veterans Parade at 1 p.m.

The public can do little to ensure the safety of soldiers in foreign lands. But we can do much better as a nation in keeping them out of harm’s way here at home — now and long after they’ve completed their service.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gunn Family Fundraiser Tonight, Nov 10


Gunn Family Fundraiser

A Dinner Night Out Fundraiser for the Gunn Family will be held on Tuesday, November 10th, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m., at Barney’s Beanery, 250 N. First Street, Burbank. They have agreed to provide 25% of the proceeds earned to establish a scholarship fund for Sergeant Neil Gunn’s grandchildren.

Please be sure to mention the Gunn Family to your server. We hope you will all come out and enjoy the evening.

Burbank Police Officers’ Association

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November 13, 2009 UPDATE

Mailbag: Who is in charge of this city and its police?

Burbank Leader
Published: Last Updated Friday, November 13, 2009 9:29 PM PST

The Burbank City Council meeting Nov. 3 was one of the most disgusting displays of municipal manipulation I have ever seen (“Police chief called out,” Nov. 4).

It is abundantly clear the City Council, with the exception of Councilman David Gordon, is intent on using every method at their disposal to dismiss any attempt to hold the council responsible for what has been happening in our Police Department for years.

Accusations of impropriety, misconduct or inattention are always dismissed as unfounded at these meetings. The police matters are too far reaching to be ignored or hidden.

It is becoming clear who the culprit is in all this turmoil. Who tells the council they can’t interfere with the city manager? Who tells the Police Commission what they can and cannot investigate? Who tells the Civil Service Board how they should arrive at decisions? It is always representatives from the city attorney’s office.

Are Burbank citizens so naive as to think our system of city government is controlled by the council? Who is in charge here?

The city staff should not be allowed to run roughshod over the city’s operations. When is the council going to act responsibly and take control?


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Group of officers vote 'no confidence' in chief

Union leaders call it 'long overdue action.'

Burbank Leaders / By Christopher Cadelago
Published: Last Updated Friday, November 13, 2009 1:22 PM PST

DOWNTOWN — A group of police officers Thursday voted no confidence in Police Chief Tim Stehr, three days after he announced plans to retire at year’s end amid an FBI investigation into police misconduct and a growing stack of lawsuits against the city.

In a special meeting of the Burbank Police Officers’ Assn., 64 sworn officers — less than half of the union’s 163 active members — cast their no confidence votes Thursday at the Holiday Inn Burbank-Media Center, said Det. Mike Parrinello, president of the association.

Fifteen other retired officers also joined to bring the vote to 79. While the group represented a minority of the union’s total membership, union leaders described the vote as an “unprecedented, but long overdue action.”

“This is an unprecedented position for the police officers to take so it’s important that the leadership of this city recognize how passionate we are and how we believe this is really what was necessary to fix the Police Department,” Parrinello said. “When you have the FBI, the sheriff’s department and an internal investigator, when you have people on administrative leave and this type of division in the department, you have serious, serious problems.

“Chief Stehr’s actions and inactions have resulted in where we are today.”

FBI officials in September confirmed that they were investigating allegations of excessive use-of-force and civil rights violations by officers. Seven current and former officers have also filed four lawsuits against the city, alleging everything from racial discrimination and retaliation, to unlawful demotions and firings.

In April, Stehr called in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to launch an investigation into his department. City officials followed up with their own independent review.

Union leaders originally approached Stehr April 6 and expressed concern that the organization was headed toward crisis. Although some members discussed a no-confidence vote, none was taken.

Stehr announced his retirement Monday, citing his desire to remove himself as a possible hindrance as the city works through the lawsuits and investigations. Mayor Gary Bric on Friday said he was surprised by the union vote, especially given Stehr’s decision to retire at year’s end.

“I respect their opinion and their vote, but ultimately the decision is in the hands of the city manager,” he said.

Still, a growing segment of officers at the meeting indicated that the chief should leave his post immediately rather than stay on until Dec. 31 and assist in the transition for 30 to 60 days.

“But they also understand there is the running of the Police Department that we need to be concerned with and I don’t believe the membership has a lot of faith in those in the building right now to takeover in the chief role,” Parrinello said. “If the membership has no faith in the captains, you have to weigh that between having [Stehr] step down now or giving it a little bit of time to get an interim chief in there.”

Councilman David Gordon, who was rebuffed last week when he called on his colleagues to direct the city manager to place Stehr on administrative leave, said he took the vote as indication that the chief’s continued service is a distraction the city and department don’t need.

Stehr met with each council member a month prior to his decision, but the council remains split on what he indicated as far as a retirement date, which ultimately came after Gordon’s motion last week in front of police officers and the family of the late Sgt. Neil Thomas Gunn.

“I think what Councilman Gordon did was despicable,” said Councilman Dave Golonski, who this week agreed it was time for Stehr to retire. “It was everything you shouldn’t do in a charged, emotional situation.”

The matter is expected to return to the City Council Nov. 24.

On Friday, Gordon remained unwavering, citing the fact that other officers are typically placed on immediate leave pending the outcomes of internal investigations.

“They’re escorted to the door and they leave,” he said. “That’s the way it works. I think it’s appropriate. There’s too many important issues here to let things linger.”

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November 19, 2009 UPDATE

Lawsuit filed against Burbank Police Dept.

By Christopher Cadelago
Published: Last Updated Thursday, November 19, 2009 6:36 PM PST
Burbank Leader

DOWNTOWN (5:26 p.m.) — A seventh member of the Burbank Police Department filed a lawsuit against the city and members of the department in federal court Tuesday, alleging that his civil rights were violated by a rogue group of cops who used intimidation, harassment and brutality to keep him and witnesses from talking about several investigations.

Burbank Police Det. Angelo Dahlia alleged that high-ranking members of the department investigating the 2007 robbery of Porto’s Bakery assaulted and beat witnesses and suspects “under the color of authority,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. Central District Court.

The lawsuit brings to eight the total number of current and former officers suing the city for everything from a pattern of racial discrimination and retaliation, to unlawful demotions or firings.

When Dahlia took his complaints up the chain of command he was told to “stop his sniveling,” and later intimidated and threatened, the lawsuit claims.

As his superiors worried about reprisal from an internal and then later an FBI investigation, intimidation and threats mounted, Dahlia claims.

His attorney, Dieter C. Dammeier could not immediately be reached to comment.

The lawsuit brings to eight the total number of current and former officers suing the city for everything from a pattern of racial discrimination and retaliation, to unlawful demotions or firings.

These are a new set of allegations related to cases already being investigated, city spokesman Keith Sterling said in a statement Thursday. As with all serious charges, it is important for the investigations to be completed, he said.

FBI officials in September confirmed that they were investigating allegations of excessive use-of-force and civil rights violations by officers.

The city brought in an outside attorney and investigator to conduct an investigation into allegations of wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation and abuse of force, officials said.

Outgoing Police Chief Tim Stehr requested the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conduct its own investigation.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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November 20, 2009 UPDATE

Looks like the same article as was posted above BUT there are differences. See if you can find them:

Another lawsuit filed against Burbank Police Dept.

Burbank Leader by Christopher Cadelago
Published: Last Updated Friday, November 20, 2009 12:48 PM PST

DOWNTOWN — A seventh member of the Burbank Police Department has filed a lawsuit against the city and members of the department in federal court, alleging that his civil rights were violated by a rogue group of cops who used intimidation, harassment and brutality to keep him and witnesses from talking about several misconduct investigations.

Burbank Police Det. Angelo Dahlia alleges that high-ranking members of the department investigating the 2007 robbery of Porto’s Bakery assaulted and beat witnesses and suspects “under the color of authority,” according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. Central District Court.

The filing marks the fifth suit by a total of eight current and former officers. The plaintiffs claims span the gamut, from racial discrimination to retaliation, unlawful demotions to firings.

Dahlia’s claims are a new set of allegations related to cases already being investigated, city spokesman Keith Sterling said in a statement Thursday. As with all serious charges, it is important for the investigations to be completed, he said.

Dahlia was called in on the morning of Dec. 29, 2007, and advised to conduct the investigation into the robbery, according to the lawsuit. After several suspects were brought into the station, he allegedly witnessed Lt. Omar Rodriguez place the barrel of his handgun under a suspect’s eye and threaten him. Dahlia alleges that the lieutenant had a reputation for illegal and corrupt practices.

Solomon E. Gresen, Rodriguez’s attorney, said in a statement Friday that the allegations were “categorically untrue.”

“The current lawsuit brought by Angelo Dahlia is the latest incident in a long string of retaliatory conduct against Rodriguez, and seems designed specifically to discredit Rodriguez and to detract from the claims of Rodriguez and officers Steve Karagiosian, Jamal Childs, Elfago Rodriguez, Cindy Guillen-Gomez and Christopher Dunn,” said Gresen, who represents the officers in three lawsuits against the city.

Rodriguez and five other high-ranking members of the department, including Police Chief Tim Stehr, are named as defendants in Dahlia’s lawsuit. Stehr this month announced plans to retire effective Dec. 31.

When Dahlia complained of brutality and witness intimidation, he was told to “stop his sniveling,” and was later intimidated with a brandished gun, the lawsuit states.

As his superiors fretted over an FBI investigation into police misconduct, the intimidation and harassment mounted, Dahlia claims.

He allegedly was told to “watch your back” and “keep your head down.” He also claims he was constantly monitored.

On May 11, four days before being placed on administrative leave, Dahlia talked with investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department about the Porto’s robbery investigation and the events that followed, according to the lawsuit.

His attorney, Dieter C. Dammeier, could not be reached to comment.

FBI officials in September confirmed that they are investigating allegations of excessive use-of-force and civil rights violations by Burbank police officers, focusing on complaints generated in response to the Porto’s Bakery robbery and records in connection with the August 2007 arrest of Rene Escarsega, according to the subpoena.

In April, Stehr requested the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conduct its own investigation before the city brought in an outside attorney and investigator to probe the allegations, officials said.

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What was the weapon used in Sgt Gunn's alledged suicide? I'd recently been told it was a shotgun and the following article confirms it.

Police address council concerns

Member of Glendale police advisory group brings up Burbank woes at meeting.

Glendale News Press by Veronica Rocha
Published: Last Updated Tuesday, November 17, 2009 10:06 PM PST

CITY HALL — Police officials assured at least one Glendale Police Advisory Council member Monday night that the turmoil consuming Burbank’s finest was a far cry from things here.

Advisory council member Mike Gomez said he wanted to prevent tragic incidents similar to those that recently occurred in Burbank from happening in Glendale. He cited the recent public suicide of Burbank Police Sgt. Neil Thomas Gunn and the decision by Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr to step down at year’s end amid a slate of outside investigations, including by the FBI.

“What assurances do you provide us . . . that what happened in Burbank is not happening here in Glendale?” Gomez asked during the meeting.

Glendale Police Capt. Kirk Palmer said that while he was in no position to comment on the Burbank police situation, “you have to allow the process in Burbank to work its course.”

Glendale police are handling the investigation into Gunn’s suicide, in which he shot himself Oct. 29 with a shotgun on a neighborhood sidewalk, and have back-filled shifts left vacant by grieving Burbank officers.

“I think to make any assumptions, or for me to respond in relation to their issues, is just presumptuous,” Palmer said, adding that he wasn’t sure anyone “truly understands the complexity of what’s really going on” in Burbank.

Glendale has a concrete system to respond to any police misconduct and constantly evaluates its progress, he added.

Earlier this year the FBI confirmed that it had launched an investigation into misconduct of several Burbank Police Department officers. Gunn was named in the investigation.

Less than two weeks after the suicide, Stehr announced his retirement.

Seven current and former police officers have also filed lawsuits against the Burbank Police Department, alleging racial discrimination, sexual harassment and on-the-job retaliation.

While Glendale has seen its own share of discontent within its ranks, Palmer told Gomez that the city had a “very professional” police department.

“Will mistakes be made along the way by this department? Absolutely, but I think the big thing is to be transparent to admit we make mistakes and take corrective actions, so that’s the assurances I will give you for that,” Palmer said.

At least two claims from police officers have been filed recently against the Glendale Police Department, according to the city clerk’s office.

In one, Officer John Balian alleged that he was the subject of discrimination by peers in the department because he is Armenian. And Glendale Police Sgt. Tigran Topadznikyan said in his claim that he was defamed, retaliated against and harassed at work.

The city is also gearing up for a trial in a lawsuit filed by Glendale Police Sgt. Vahak Mardikian, who’s suing the city for allegedly failing to allow him return to full duty after corrective surgery to his knee, despite getting consent from his physicians. He also claims that his superiors retaliated, and that he was discriminated against because he is Armenian.

Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz, the department’s spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation and referred comments to the city attorney’s office.

On Monday, City Atty. Carmen Merino, general counsel for the Police Department, told Gomez city officials took “any complaints regarding harassment, discrimination and retaliation very seriously.”

The lawsuit is scheduled to start Jan. 5, Senior Assistant City Atty. Ann Maurer said.

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This Nov 3, 2009, Glendale article says 'shotgun wound to the chest':

Burbank chief called out

Councilman says department leader should be on leave in light of controversy.

Glendale News Press by Christopher Cadelago
Published: Last Updated Tuesday, November 3, 2009 11:47 PM PST

CITY HALL — In front of the bereaved family of a police sergeant who killed himself last week, Burbank City Councilman David Gordon on Tuesday called on his colleagues to direct the city manager to place Police Chief Tim Stehr on administrative leave amid an FBI investigation into police misconduct and a growing stack of lawsuits against the city.

Citing the recent public suicide of police Sgt. Neil Thomas Gunn, who was named in an FBI probe into police misconduct along with several other officers, Gordon said the City Council had a “moral and legal responsibility” to place Stehr on leave until the investigations were concluded.

“The stress and tension in our Police Department has understandably become toxic,” Gordon said. “We cannot close our eyes or cover our ears to what is going on.”

Gunn died Thursday of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the chest at the corner of North Sunset Canyon Drive and East Harvard Road, said Lt. Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Gordon’s comments were met with repeated applause from a chamber packed with Burbank police officers, many of whom joined the Gunn family in a candlelight vigil outside the steps of the police station.

The group, carrying a large portrait of Gunn and candles bearing his name and badge number, marched up the steps of City Hall before the council meeting.

Stehr’s “actions and inactions” pushed the Police Department “to the brink of disaster,” said Burbank Police Lt. Omar Rodriguez, a 22-year member of the department who is on leave.

Although FBI officials would not expand on why the officers were named in the probe into civil rights violations and excessive use of force, several of the officers listed in the investigation — Rodriguez, Bill Taylor and Steve Karagiosian — have also filed lawsuits against the city alleging racial discrimination, harassment and on-the-job retaliation.

The City Council took no formal action on Gordon’s proposal after City Atty. Dennis Barlow questioned the legality of the request.

Council members, arguing that they had yet to receive any information linking the chief to police misconduct, made clear they had no intention of declaring an emergency order.

“I don’t believe there is an emergency,” Councilman Dave Golonski said. “I can’t help but feel that you’re grandstanding.”

Vice Mayor Anja Reinke characterized Gordon’s request as hasty and later bemoaned the applause and jeers in council chambers as a “three-ring circus.”

“I think it’s a little vigilante, to be honest,” she said.

Dozens of Gunn’s friends and family members made their way to the front steps of City Hall where they briefly memorialized the life of the 22-year department veteran whose list of commendations included Ministerial Officer of the Year in 1992 and two Professional Esteem awards.

Remembered as a dedicated officer who mentored up-and-comers, Gunn’s brother-in-law and longtime motor officer Chris Topolovich blamed the Police Department and union officials for failing to offer the sergeant adequate support.

Just days before committing suicide, Topolovich said a heartbroken Gunn had asked why people hated him so much.

“My brother was the victim of retaliation for defending officers falsely accused of wrongdoing,” Topolovich said at the news conference outside City Hall.

Gunn was married to Tina Gunn, who works in the Burbank city manager’s office, and his son, Neil Jr., began in the department as a police cadet.

“No matter what he did, he was going to be the fall guy,” Topolovich said. “Because he was the one who stood up.”

Gunn was named in a federal subpoena for the personnel records of 12 officers. The subpoena specified information related to use-of-force issues and possible civil rights violations.

FBI agents also sought police internal affairs investigations initiated in response to use-of-force complaints dating back to 2003. Topolovich maintained that Gunn was “a good man” and “beyond clean.” Neil Jr., who looked on in uniform, joined in an emotional family hug before the flashing lights of media.

“Please,” said Topolovich, who spoke for the family Tuesday. “No more dead bodies in the city of Burbank.”

— Jason Wells contributed to this report.

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Original October 29, 2009 post:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Special Meeting for the Vote of No Confidence Nov 12, 2009

6:30PM UPDATE: Police Chief Tim Stehr Retiring Dec 31, 2009 (scroll down)

From the City Newsdesk: Burbank Police Chief to Retire



Burbank PD Chief to Retire Amid Probe

Updated: Monday, 09 Nov 2009, 10:55 PM PST
Published : Monday, 09 Nov 2009, 6:03 PM PST
Text Story by: Associated Press
Reporter: Gigi Graciette
Posted by: Tony Spearman

Burbank ( - The Burbank police chief says he is stepping down. Tim Stehr announced Monday that he is retiring and his last day on the job will be Dec. 31. His announcement comes a month after the FBI said it was investigating allegations of excessive force by several current and former officers in the department.

Police officers have filed least seven civil rights lawsuits accusing the department of racial discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

In a statement released by the city, Stehr admits that the department is facing "challenging times."

He joined the department in 1978 and became chief in 2007.

The San Fernando Valley suburb about 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles has a population of 103,000.

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The Burbank Police Officers' Association, Board of Directors received a written request to call a Special Meeting to consider a vote of "no confidence" in Chief Tim Stehr.

Notification for the November 12, 2009, meeting was sent out last week.

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Police chief announces retirement

Burbank Leader / By Christopher Cadelago
Published: Last Updated Monday, November 9, 2009 5:48 PM PST


CITY HALL – Against the backdrop of waning support from rank-and-file officers and a frustrated City Council, Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr on Monday announced his intent to retire effective Dec. 31.

The announcement came less than a week after City Councilman David Gordon called on his colleagues to direct the city manager to place Stehr on administrative leave amid an FBI investigation into police misconduct and a growing stack of lawsuits against the city.

The recent public suicide of police Sgt. Neil Thomas Gunn, who was named in an FBI probe into police misconduct along with several other officers, focused further scrutiny on the troubled department.

Stehr began in the Police Department in 1978 as a police cadet and served in number of positions before being named chief in 2007.

“It has been my absolute privilege to serve as chief in the City of Burbank,” Stehr said in a statement. “Our department is facing challenging times. The healing process will be a long one, but I have tremendous confidence in the brave men and women of our department and the citizens of this community. As I prepare to retire, I wish to thank all those who made the department’s success possible.”

An interim chief will assume duties no later than Jan. 1, with Stehr assisting in the transition for 30 to 60 days, City Manager Michael Flad said.

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11/10/09 UPDATE


Major Announcement! Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr to retire!

Stehr needs to leave right now. Pronto

Larry Koch is in business with Lt. Eric Rosoff and Julie Scott’s husband. That disqualifies him from BPD top job

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Original October 29, 2009 post:

Silence about Vaccine Deaths in Media is Due to the Confidential Contracts with Vaccine Manufacturers

Silence about Vaccine Deaths in Media is Due to the Confidential Contracts with Vaccine Manufacturers
Dr Beeth on 03 November, 2009 13:15:00

The Flu Case - I am a Swedish general practioner working in Belgium, and quite involved in this issue, as together with three citizens and another GP we advised the Belgian Government last Friday in court that this is a disguised pharmaceutical trial on human subjects, with real risks involved.

I put in two comments on the story (see below), that are quite relevant in the context that the Swedish Newspapers have seemingly stopped reporting the intermediary results of this disguised pharmaceutical trial.

If you can read French, you will discover at medias.pdf that the maker of PandemRix, that is used in Sweden, passed a secret contract, the same in every European country, which specified a "Green List" of what the government MAY communicate (hardly anything!) and the "Red List" of what may absolutely NOT be made public, like intermediary results of the side effects that appear in the studies of the controversial squalene (and thiomersal) adjuvantated PandemRix until they have been sanitized by Glaxo Smith Kline researchers, and published by GSK themselves.

These contracts also confirm what was announced in Sweden in October, that these pandemic vaccines where actually ordered already back in 2006: there was a standing order to foresee a vaccination for large parts of the population IF the WHO would declare a PANDEMIC of degree 6. When the "New-Type" A/H1N1 appeared, and it started spreading to other continents, the WHO changed their definition of grade 6 pandemic by dropping the criteria that it should be highly deadly. Thus, the government discovered that it’s signed standing orders were passed simply to combat a new (designer!) strain of flu that may or may not become more or less lethal than the common Influenza A or B flu.

This has allowed GSK to do a large scale tolerance experiment of their specialy formulated AVIAN-flu vaccine "Pre-PandRix" paid for by the governments, where doctors are recruited for a large scale pharmaco-vigilance study, without being paid as researchers, and patients receive government propaganda to sign up "to protect the weak in our society", while de facto subjecting themselves to be guinea pigs in this "H1N1-dry-run" study for the future benefit of registering GSK's AVIAN flu vaccine "Pre-PandRix".

If you are to receive the "Pandremix" against the benign “new-type” H1N1-flu this season, we recommend that you first learn about the possible side effects, as GSK asked their own employees to sign an "informed consent form" before receiving the vaccine: see for ex:

These contracts were labeled "secret defense":

These contracts were labeled "secret defense", and we learn a lot about "who is the boss, Government, or Big Pharma?" by reading them! You can still access them here: Keep them on your computer, they are historic!

What I found mind boggling, as a doctor, is to discover Glaxo Smith Kline's "Green List" of what the government MAY communicate (hardly anything!) and the "Red List" of what may absolutely NOT be made public, like intermediary results of the side effects that appear in the studies of the controversial squalene (and thiomersal) adjuvantated PandemRix until they have been sanitized by GSK, and published by GSK themselves.

Looking Back at the Burbank Lawsuits

In an effort to understand the Burbank problem and connect some dots, here's a bit of info beginning with the original lawsuit by five Burbank Police Officers earlier this year.

5 officers sue Burbank police for discrimination
By The Associated Press
Friday, May 29, 2009 at 10:28 p.m.

BURBANK, Calif. — Five Burbank police officers filed a lawsuit against the department, the city and police officials alleging discrimination and sexual harassment against minority officers.

The lawsuit, filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks damages of up to $25 million, said the plaintiffs' attorney. It also names seven police officials who allegedly tolerated slurs about race, ethnicity and sexual preference directed at officers and suspects.

The plaintiffs say those who reported the harassment were threatened and demoted. They also allege that police Chief Tim Stehr and other officials conspired to exclude minorities from the best jobs in the department.

Plaintiff's attorney Solomon Gresen said the Police Department "is run as an insider's club where if you aren't white, male and heterosexual you had better keep your mouth shut and play along with the bigots or suffer the consequences."

The plaintiffs said they were regularly exposed to slurs such as "beaner," "towel head" and other objectionable language.

A message left with the department was not immediately returned Friday night.

Lt. Omar Rodriguez, a 21-year veteran of the department and one of the plaintiffs, claims he was put on administrative leave and reassigned to patrol after he filed a complaint about harassment and discrimination.

Cindy Guillen-Gomez, also a plaintiff, claims she was threatened with rape and passed over for promotion in favor of men who scored less than she did on the detective examination.

She said she was told that she and other female officers were "worthless," and the verbal abuse worsened when she became pregnant.

Two other plaintiffs, Elfego Rodriguez and Steve Karagiosian, said a special unit was disbanded to demote them after they complained about racial harassment.

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Following this were lawsuits by two more BPD Officers: Christopher Lee Dunn and William (Bill) Taylor.

Sixth Burbank officer sues department over discrimination
LA Times - Andrew Blankstein
July 16, 2009 5:46 pm

A decorated Asian American police detective filed a civil lawsuit today against the Burbank Police Department, alleging that he was the victim of discrimination and retaliation before being unlawfully fired.

Christopher Lee Dunn, who won the Medal of Valor as a Los Angeles Police Department officer before joining the Burbank force, argued in a 22-page complaint that he was subjected to years of racial taunts and discouraged from joining the department's narcotics unit because he was not white. After success with another unit, the lawsuit alleges he was targeted by management before eventually being run out of the department.

In May, five Burbank police officers sued the department and seven current police officials, alleging that they tolerated an environment in which officers commonly used slurs about race, ethnicity and sexual preference directed at them, their colleagues, suspects and the public at large.

Dunn's suit, filed separately, seeks civil penalties and compensatory damages. The Burbank city attorney's office did not immediately return a call for comment.

In addition to the Medal of Valor and the 1999 Top Cop Award, which was presented to him by then-President Bill Clinton, Dunn was the recipient of the 2007 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Award and the Professional Esteem Award from the Burbank City Council.

According to the suit, Dunn's troubles began over his efforts to join an elite narcotics unit. Dunn alleges that he initially was discouraged by members of the “all-white” unit who said they did not want work with non-whites. When he ultimately was promoted, he alleges that he was subjected to racist jokes and comments.

Dunn's suit alleges that he was given less desirable assignments in the unit despite having more narcotics seizures than any other Burbank officer. When one of the offending colleagues was transferred, Dunn claims the harassment got worse.

A 2007 complaint against Dunn alleged that he had “tipped off” an informant about a Culver City Police Department investigation. The informant was arrested in possession of enough narcotics to support felony trafficking charges and ultimately recanted her allegations against Dunn.

Dunn was first transferred to another unit and later placed on paid administrative leave. Despite an unsubstantiated complaint that did not result in criminal charges, Dunn alleges that he was terminated on charges that he interfered with the investigation and for insubordination.

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9/25/09 City Statement on Taylor Lawsuit

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Police captain sues city

High-ranking officer claims he was demoted for seeking investigation into several complaints within the department.

Burbank Leader / By Christopher Cadelago
Published: Last Updated Tuesday, September 22, 2009 8:46 PM PDT

CITY CENTER — A Burbank police captain on Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit against the city, alleging he was unfairly demoted from his post as deputy chief after he tried to compel the command staff to address a series of internal complaints.

Capt. Bill Taylor, known by many in the city as the moral compass of the Police Department, filed the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles Superior Court, the latest in a series of police-related legal woes that have struck Burbank.

Four officers and one lieutenant filed a lawsuit in May alleging racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Then in July, a decorated Japanese American police detective sued the department, alleging he was subjected to racial discrimination and retaliation before being unlawfully fired.

A second lawsuit filed by attorneys for the detective, Christopher Lee Dunn, charges that City Atty. Dennis Barlow and his deputy disclosed the private personnel file and termination notice of the former detective to the Burbank Leader “and other members of the press and general public.”

The flow of legal action has pummeled the city’s Police Commission, which this summer agreed to meet more frequently in an attempt to step up its oversight and public liaison role. Police Chief Tim Stehr has maintained that the department takes allegations seriously, but has declined to comment directly on the investigations or pending litigation.

A city spokesman said officials had yet to be served the lawsuit and could not comment.

Stehr, at the Police Commission meeting earlier this month, confirmed that Taylor is on leave.

Taylor joined the Burbank Police Department more than 20 years ago. He began his career as a police recruit in 1984, moving up through the ranks as a patrol officer, school resource officer, detective, sergeant and lieutenant before overseeing professional standards and the Property Bureau, according to his department biography.

His attorney, Gregory W. Smith, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Discord started in 2007, when Taylor requested the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department be brought in after the evidence for an internal investigation into a police sergeant who allegedly used excessive force against a suspect was stolen from a locked office in the Burbank Police Department, according to the lawsuit.

He claims the request was angrily denied.

Shortly before being demoted from deputy chief to captain, an officer was accused of sexually harassing numerous women at the Burbank Animal Shelter, which is operated by the Police Department. In the lawsuit, Taylor claims that he recommended to Stehr that the officer be placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

But Stehr, who Taylor alleges had sex with a woman while on duty in a Burbank patrol car several years ago, reacted angrily and eventually brought the officer back before a complete investigation took place, according to the lawsuit.

“[Taylor] alleges that Chief Stehr’s motivation to retaliate against [him] arises from his own personal experiences being subjected to discipline for having sexual intercourse in a police vehicle while on duty,” the lawsuit states.

When Taylor informed City Manager Mike Flad that he believed the incident was handled improperly, Flad said: “What difference does it make what Tim [Stehr] did in the back of a police car 20 years ago,” according to the suit.

In 2008, Taylor also complained to Stehr that discrimination toward minority candidates and officers was “systemic and rampant and sanctioned by the chief,” according to the lawsuit.

And when he brought his concerns to Flad, the lawsuit states the city manager took no action and played a key role in demoting Taylor, an action initiated by Stehr in retaliation for his complaints.
According to the lawsuit, Flad allegedly told Taylor that if he didn’t fight the demotion, he would be allowed to keep his deputy-chief paygrade, later adding that his career in Burbank was finished, but “why don’t you go over to Glendale and become chief.”

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Then all the above apparently led to this:

FBI probes Police Dept.

Burbank Leader / By Christopher Cadelago
Published: Last Updated Tuesday, September 29, 2009 9:36 PM PDT

CITY HALL — Four days after the city released a statement calling the latest lawsuit filed against its Police Department “baseless and disingenuous,” Mayor Gary Bric on Tuesday said the FBI was investigating the allegations.

He also announced that the Burbank Police Department was being investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which was to turn over its findings to the county district attorney’s office, paving the way for the city to bring in its own outside attorney to review the allegations.

Seven current and former members of the Burbank Police Department have filed lawsuits since May, claiming everything from unfair demotion and retaliation, to sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

The City Council had remained silent on the legal action building against the city, but Bric on Tuesday blew the lid off the investigations as a way to reassure the public that “the City Council is taking every step possible to make sure all of the issues are identified” and “dealt with in a manner that ensures they are never repeated.”

"These are all very serious allegations, and I think it is clear to everyone that the Police Department is facing some major challenges,” he said at the meeting.

Last week, Capt. Bill Taylor filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming he was unfairly demoted after pushing for internal investigations into allegations of officer misconduct.

It was the latest in a string of legal woes for the department.

A former decorated Japanese American police detective sued the department in July, alleging he was subjected to racial discrimination and retaliation before being unlawfully fired. Attorneys for Christopher Lee Dunn also filed a second lawsuit claiming City Atty. Dennis Barlow and his deputy disclosed private personnel records to the Burbank Leader “and other members of the press and general public.”

And in May, four officers and one lieutenant filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

The influx of lawsuits prompted the Police Commission to meet more frequently.

Despite the City Council’s relative silence on the legal action, Bric said the Police Department and outside agencies had thoroughly investigated the claims long before the lawsuits were filed.

“In addition to these investigations, the FBI has been conducting their own investigation into these matters, and we are cooperating with their inquiries to the city,” he said.

Reading from a statement approved by the entire City Council, Bric stressed that the majority of men and women in the Police Department were not involved in the allegations.

Last week, the city released a statement responding to Taylor’s lawsuit, contending that the former deputy chief “has chosen to deal with his own personal career disappointments with a lack of leadership and professionalism.”

The change in tone by City Hall drew a quick response Tuesday from Councilman David Gordon, who called for all future press releases to be “professional and measured” in tone and that they be approved by the council prior to release.

Bric added that the council was frustrated that it could not share more detailed information, but that the integrity of the investigations and strict legal rules prevented the council from doing so.

He also sought to reassure the public that city officials were taking the allegations seriously and investigating them fully.

“This may mean some severe consequences for any persons involved in misconduct, but we believe the integrity of our Police Department is extremely important to this community and is our paramount concern,” Bric said.

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Original Post:Burbank Police Sergeant in FBI Probe Killed

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Over the years my opinions have changed but this will never change: Jesus Christ, Lord, God and Savior, died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sin.