DA Asks Garden Grove to Cooperate With Probe into Nepotism, Fire Chief’s Deal

This is an update to a previous story, DA Moves On Nepotism, Fire Chief’s Deal in Garden Grove.

The Orange County District Attorney’s office is asking the Garden Grove City Council to waive its potential attorney-client privileges in an ongoing investigation into “allegations of Brown Act violations and other possible criminal misconduct” in the hiring of former Mayor Bruce Broadwater’s son as a fireman and a secret employment contract for the former fire chief, according to a letter to Interim City Manager Allan Roeder.

The city has been dogged by criticism for alleged nepotism in the hiring of Jeremy Broadwater and the deal with former Fire Chief David Barlag, who resigned publicly but continues to work for the city in a new position that pays a six-figure salary.

If city officials agree to waive their attorney-client privileges, investigators would be able to delve into closed session discussions and conversations between council members and their attorneys.

“In order for us to fairly, thoroughly and reasonably conduct this investigation, we are respectfully requesting that the Garden Grove City Council waives any potential attorney-client privilege…to include any discussions…in any closed session meetings,” reads the letter written by Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh, of the Special Prosecutions Unit.

The waiver would only apply to Broadwater’s hiring and Barlag’s employment contract.

“The [District Attorney] would like the city council to consider their request by February 16,” Roeder said.

The city has agendized the item at a special closed session prior to its regular meeting Tuesday. The meeting will also include a council member comment portion.

Barlag publicly resigned in Sept. 2014 after facing pressure from the city fire union, which protested Broadwater’s hiring and Barlag’s management of the department. But privately, Barlag never left the city.

Two weeks before he resigned, Barlag and former city manager Matthew Fertal negotiated a secret settlement giving him two years of additional employment with a $214,614 annual salary, in exchange for dropping any litigation against the city, an agreement that only came to light when Voice of OC reported it.

Barlag never filed a lawsuit and the city was not served with any written notice.

Former Mayor Bruce Broadwater said Barlag was pushed out of the fire department by union politics, and that the settlement would allow the department to move forward.

At a council meeting late last month, council members asked the city manager to review the city’s nepotism policy, review Barlag’s settlement agreement, and to contact the Attorney General and District Attorney about what role their agencies would play in an investigation.

Two weeks after that council discussion, Roeder was informed that the District Attorney is already conducting an investigation. He received the letter by email on Friday and was hand-delivered a copy on Monday.

This is an update to a previous story, “DA Moves On Nepotism, Fire Chief’s Deal in Garden Grove.”

Contact Thy Vo at thyanhvo@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter, @thyanhvo.

  • Paul Lucas

    Hmmmm the plot thickens.