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City Officials Approved a $700K Payout to Demoted LAPD Whistleblower

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Raymond Garvin, the former head of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Bomb Detection Canine Section, is set to receive a $700,000 payout after lawyers for the city determined he was wrongly demoted for no apparent reason — except perhaps that he blew the whistle on alleged wrongdoing in his department. Settling his case now likely saves the city money in the long run, according to a legal analysis by Deputy City Attorney Marianne Fratianne.

A summary of the case notes that Garvin had been with the LAPD since 1988 and was promoted to lieutenant of the Bomb Detection Canine Section in 2012, which is within the Emergency Services Division. When Garvin found out that Capt. Kathryn Meek might come to lead the division, he worried that a rumored romantic relationship between Meek and one of his subordinates would result in her playing favorites. So he reported it. In 2016, Meek became captain of the Emergency Services Division and removed three canine teams from Garvin’s supervision — including the one headed by the officer she was reportedly involved with.

Communications show that Meek and LAPD Assistant Chief Horace Frank, who oversees special operations and detective bureaus, discussed removing Garvin from his position but admitted there was no documentation that would justify it. According to the summary, “Captain Meek immediately upon her arrival began creating an ad hoc ‘paper trail’ with the goal of substantiating [Garvin’s] removal.”

In the following months, Meek met with Garvin, the latter saying that Meek told him everyone hated him. Some had complained about Garvin, saying he often made offensive remarks and stayed in his LAX office versus providing guidance to his team. Yet two officers who supposedly complained about Garvin later testified that not only did they not complain about him, but Meek had come to them to fish for feedback about Garvin.

Complaints about Garvin did roll in, but only after he reported allegations that a dog handler, Officer Mark Sauvao, had confused another handler’s dog during a bomb-sniffing certification test, thus sabotaging the officer. Following Garvin’s report, other officers filed complaints against him, accusing him of making racist remarks and creating a hostile work environment.

Garvin was demoted and sent to World Police and Fire Games, where he claimed he was “literally tasked with making sandwiches.” Meek later discovered that the complaints against Garvin were fabricated and retaliatory in nature, but never reinstated him, as he’d already been replaced. Garvin was never awarded any backpay.

In her analysis, Fratianne pointed to communications between Meek and Frank that showed they wanted him out of the Bomb Detection Canine Section and took steps to get rid of him. “Since neither management-level employee can articulate a reason to remove [Garvin] that had anything to do with his ability or job performance, the City will likely be held liable for either (or both) of their wrongdoing,” Fratianne wrote.

Fratianne advised the city to settle the case for $700,000. If the lawsuit went to court, Fratianne warned it could cost the city between $1.5 million and $3 million. She also said the jury would likely favor Garvin as a witness over Meek, who had previously been “snippy, defensive, and aloof” during deposition. The Los Angeles City Council ultimately approved the much cheaper settlement.

Garvin has since retired from the department, though his lawyer, Kevin Salute, said he was a model employee during his entire career, telling the Los Angeles Times that he thinks the city “got off damn cheap.”

Meanwhile, Sauvao, the officer Garvin accused of confusing another officer’s dog, and Alberto Franco, a dog handler who stood up for Sauvao, have filed their own lawsuits claiming unfair treatment.

Los Angeleno