Monterey County Superior Court Awards Officer Nguyen Punitive Damages for CSU’s

Monterey County Superior Court Awards Officer Nguyen Punitive Damages for CSU’s

Malicious Violation of His Rights

On August 5, 2015, the Monterey County Superior Court found the CSU violated Officer

Thanh Nguyen’s rights under the Public Safety Officer’s Procedural Bill of Rights Act. In its

decision, the Court determined the CSU violated Nguyen’s rights intentionally and with malice.

Because of the CSU’s malicious intent, the Court awarded Nguyen damages and reasonable

attorney’s fees and costs.

CSU placed Nguyen on paid administrative leave in April 2014 for alleged misconduct

during a February 2014 welfare check. The CSU then initiated a disciplinary investigation into

Nguyen. The CSU trumped up two completely unrelated policy violations to support enhanced

discipline. Commander Short, the number two in command at CSU Monterey Bay, coincidentally,

memorialized these purported violations in documented counselings the same dayhe placed Nguyen

on leave. Commander Short then conveniently failed to present the documented counselings to

Nguyen for review, signature and rebuttal. The CSU then used the documented counselings against

Nguyen.

The Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBRA) protects the rights of

police officers. POBRA requires police departments to notify police officers prior to placing adverse

comments in an officer's file. POBRA also affords officers the right to sign and rebut the adverse

comments. The documented counselings Short drafted were clearly adverse comments, a fact the

CSU never disputed. However, the CSU purposefully ignored its obligations under POBRA, and

never notified Nguyen of them.

Instead, the CSU used the alleged violations in its disciplinary investigation of Officer

Nguyen, providing them to its independent investigator. The investigator then copied the

documented counselings into his investigative report, and included them as exhibits to the report.

The documented counselings were then referenced in the CSU’s proposed discipline.

The law is clear about the CSU’s POBRA responsibilities. Nguyen’s attorneys at Mastagni

Holstedt immediately identified the CSU’s blatant violations of Nguyen’s rights and demanded

removal of the documented counselings. Unconcerned with POBRA, the CSU repeatedly denied

wrongdoing, refusing to remove the adverse comments. In response, Nguyen filed suit in Monterey

County Superior Court alleging the CSU maliciously and wilfully violated his rights pursuant to

Gov. Code 3305 and 3306.

The CSU mounted a weak defense claiming the documented counselings were drafts.

Incredibly, the CSU argued “draft” documented counselings provided to its investigator for purposes

of punishment did not violate POBRA. However, the CSU failed to explain how or why they were

incomplete and treated them as final for purposes of disciplining Nguyen. The CSU also made the

baseless assertion they did not control what documents the investigator used in his investigation.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills sided with Nguyen, seeing through the CSU’s excuses.

The Court explained the finality of a document is irrelevant. Because the documented counselings

had the potential to affect Nguyen’s employment, POBRA’s review and rebuttal requirements

applied. The CSU must now remove the documented counselings and all references thereto from

Nguyen's file.

Also finding the CSU acted maliciously, the Court awarded $5,000 in damages. Malice

requires “an act conceived in a mischief or with criminal indifference towards the obligations owed

to others” with an “intent to vex, annoy or injure.” The Court found evidence of malice, with the

CSU violating “the spirit of POBRA” “with the intent of taking increased discipline against

Nguyen.”

Nguyen is not thru battling the CSU. The CSU demoted and suspended Nguyen because

of the alleged misconduct during the February 2014 welfare check. To clear his name, Officer

Nguyen is appealing his discipline to the State Personnel Board, where Steven Welty of Mastagni

Holstedt is representing him.

Attorney Kathleen N. Mastagni Storm led Nguyen’s legal team. Attorney Charles H.

Glauberman argued on behalf of Nguyen at hearing

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