Firefighter at Center of Garden Grove Nepotism Scandal Filed Claim Against City

Garden Grove Firefighter Jeremy Broadwater, the son of former Mayor Bruce Broadwater, has filed a claim against the city of Garden Grove that seeks $1 million in damages for retaliation, harassment, defamation and invasion of privacy after the public controversy over his hiring in 2013.

The claim states Jeremy Broadwater suffered lost wages and benefits, lost career opportunities, and emotional and physical distress because of discrimination and harassment “based on political association, religion, and his complaints of wrongful conduct” by employees and city officials.

Read the full complaint here.

In his complaint, which was received by the city on Feb. 29, Broadwater claims that after six years of employment with the city as a park ranger and graduating second in his class from fire academy, “the city, through its employee agents, disseminated false information to the media and general public, falsely stating that Mr. Broadwater was unqualified, that he had a criminal record, and that he was only hired because of his father’s role in the City.”

The complaint claims Jeremy Broadwater was discriminated against even before he was hired in October 2013, pointing to concerns raised by the city firefighter’s union before that date to then-fire chief David Barlag about inappropriate hiring practices.

Once hired, Jeremy Broadwater claims that he endured even more harassment from fellow fighters and was retaliated against in the form of a demotion to a desk job.

A 2014 report by an independent firm Management Partners, which did not delve into issues related to Jeremy Broadwater’s hiring process, stated that some inside the fire department suggested that Jeremy Broadwater had been “subject to hazing and more detailed performance reviews than other probationary firefighters.”

Despite that report, “the City continued to issue Mr. Broadwater harassing reprimands and conference memos, falsely accusing him of making professional mistakes, insubordinate conduct, and/or unnecessarily criticizing him on items where others were not treated so harshly,” the claim states.

Amidst the controversy over his son’s hiring, then-mayor Bruce Broadwater repeatedly stated that his son was being mistreated and harassed. He also painted the controversy as politically motivated by a firefighters’ union that has itself been rife with nepotism.

Batallion Chief Paul Whitaker’s wife Lucia is a fiscal analyst for the fire department. Two fire captains — Alberto Acosta and Justin Truhill — are brothers-in-law, while firefighters Travis and Shane Mellem are blood brothers.

Jeremy Broadwater, who has been on a worker’s compensation stress leave since July 21, 2015, has so far only filed an informal claim for damages through the city, although he could ultimately file a lawsuit depending on how the city decides to act.

His attorney Katrina Foley, who is also a Costa Mesa councilwoman, did not return a call for comment.

Broadwater is requesting that all harassment and retaliation cease; the sealing of his personnel file except for key employees; a neutral letter of recommendation, and a severance package “so that he may move on and start his career over,” according to the claim.

The City Council discussed the claim in closed session on April 12.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.