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Pasadena Agrees To Settle Federal Civil Rights Case

Wrongfully arrested sister of Pasadena Police Sergeant receives settlement. (Image used for illustration only.) – Courtesy photo

The City of Pasadena Monday agreed to settle a civil rights suit in the amount of $300,000 for plaintiffs Michelle Rodgers and Selah Chavet, who were wrongfully arrested as a result of a dispute involving Rodgers and her brother, a Pasadena Police Sergeant. The women were represented by John Burton, a nationally recognized police misconduct litigator, and William Paparian, former Mayor of Pasadena.

“What happened here was really outrageous,” Paparian said. “The city council ultimately did the right thing by settling this civil rights claim after mediation. These women are innocent victims of a department that has continually rewarded problem police officers instead of disciplining them.”

In March 2015, police officers handcuffed and jailed Rodgers and Chavet after Pasadena Sgt. Michael Bugh made a false report about a disturbance at the home of Rodgers’ and Bugh’s mother. The arrest came just 10 days after Rodgers filed a personnel claim with the Pasadena Police Department against Bugh. In the claim, Rodgers said Bugh abused his position as a police officer in an attempt to gain control of their family trust.

The dispute began on Feb. 27, 2015. Rodgers was falsely arrested by Pasadena police officers including Sgt. Keith Gomez on information supplied by Bugh, who alleged elder financial abuse. At the time of the arrest, Bugh headed the Pasadena Police Department’s financial crimes unit and supervised the police officers investigating his sister.

In a personnel claim filed with Pasadena PD against Bugh, Rodgers called the arrest a “preemptive strike by my brother Sgt. Michael Bugh to attempt to silence me.” She noted that Bugh hoped to prevent Rodgers from protecting the assets of the family trust.

Rodgers also said her brother “abused his position as a police officer for personal gain.” The March arrest of Rodgers and Chavet followed the filing of the personnel claim.

Ultimately, the Los Angeles District Attorney rejected the elder abuse case and the Pasadena City Prosecutor rejected the trespassing case.

“The actions of the officers are part of a larger malady within the city and PPD, wherein Chief Sanchez and his predecessor have allowed officers to treat the PPD as a personal fiefdom,” Paparian said.

The case was filed in United States District Court, Central District of California.

According to William Boyer, Pasadena PIO, “The city is pursuing a settlement in this lawsuit, and we expect to have a signed agreement in the near future. The city holds all of its employees to the highest standards of professional conduct. Complaints of unlawful activities by any city employee are thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, discipline is imposed. Specific personnel matters, however, cannot be disclosed.”

Sgt. Bugh is out on medical leave. All other officers remain on active duty.

May 18, 2017

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