Former Santa Ana Police Chief Alleges Wrongdoing by Top City Officials and Officers’ Union Leader

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Former Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas, in a public safety announcement video.

Santa Ana’s former police chief has taken a step toward suing the city for alleged wrongdoing he says involved the officers’ union president, Mayor Miguel Pulido, and two other City Council members the union helped win election last year.

In a legal claim he filed against the city, Carlos Rojas said he “was forced to involuntarily resign his civil service position as a result of potential illegal activity and/or noncompliance [with rules and/or regulations] among city officials.”

After last year’s election shifted the balance of power on the council in favor of the police union, Rojas resigned in April and took a job as police chief of the BART transit system in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“He has been forced to obtain employment at an unfamiliar department where he will earn less salary, expend considerably more in living expenses and will live apart from his family,” Rojas’ claim states.

The former chief listed five people who he said caused his damages: the police union’s president, Gerry Serrano; former Acting City Manager Gerardo Mouet; and the three council members whose elections were largely funded by the police union last year: Mayor Pulido, Jose Solorio and Juan Villegas.

(Click here to read the claim.)

Rojas did not detail the alleged wrongdoing in his claim, beyond saying it involved potentially illegal actions that led him to resign as chief against his will. He also said he reported the alleged wrongdoing to officials who had the power to investigate it, but failed to.

The five officials Rojas claims caused the damages either declined to comment, referred comment to City Hall, or didn’t return phone calls.

City spokeswoman Alma Flores declined to comment on the claim, saying the city doesn’t speak about potential litigation.

Rojas’ allegations come amid an ongoing battle for control of the Santa Ana Police Department, which has pitted Rojas and members of the prior council majority against the officers’ union, Mayor Pulido, and other council members the union helped get elected last year.

The former chief was appointed in March 2012 and had the support of most of the City Council for the following few years.

But many of the officers came to oppose Rojas, with their union saying he was failing to fully staff the department, hurting morale among the rank-and-file, and failing to address growing violence. Officers also viewed him as unfair in his discipline, including his firing of three officers who were charged with crimes in an infamous 2015 pot shop raid.

Rojas’ leadership came under fire in last year’s election by the police union, which spent over $400,000 backing Pulido, Villegas, Solorio and a fourth candidate who didn’t succeed, and opposing councilmen Vicente Sarmiento and Roman Reyna. Sarmiento won re-election, while Villegas succeeded in replacing Reyna on the council.

And Solorio replaced a member of the prior majority, Angie Amezcua, who supported Rojas and didn’t run for re-election. The police union was by far the largest spender in last year’s election.

Rojas’ claim, which the city says it received on June 19, is a precursor to Rojas being able to file a lawsuit. Under state law, Rojas can file suit if the city hasn’t settled the claim within 45 days, which in this case would be early August.

The legal claim’s existence was first reported Friday by City News Service.

Rojas names 29 witnesses to the alleged wrongdoing, including all seven Santa Ana council members, City Attorney Sonia Carvalho, Acting Police Chief David Valentin, several other current and past city officials, and Congressman Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana).

Voice of OC intern Jose Ochoa contributed to this article.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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  • Concerned Citizen

    Well, this was how crooked Vinnie Sarmiento got his dirty AMCAl deal through. Pulido bought his vote for the Police so that Sarmiento received Pulido’s vote for AMCAL. Michelle Martinez is right, the Council is corrupt and the city sinks further into the abyss. Crime is back, downtown is sputtering and now the City will be adding hundreds of low income units to increase concentration of poverty and reduce the City to Section8ville. Santa Ana is now even more OC’s laughingstock.

    • LFOldTimer

      I’m beginning to build a pittance of respect for Michelle Martinez even though on some issues she’s still way out in left field. But she seems to understand the damage that government corruption is doing to her town. Hopefully she has the courage to stand up to the swamp dwellers and build some citizen support. She came awfully close to picking off Andy Do in the Supervisor race. If she plays her cards right she might have a future in county politics,

      • Manuel Delgadillo

        A self admitted ex-drug dealer as it was previously posted in the paper. Come on!

        • LFOldTimer

          If she voluntarily fessed up to it she can’t be all that bad.

          Again, I’m sure I disagree more than I agree with Martinez on her positions. But if she’s willing to stand up to the powerful police union that runs the city she’s not all that bad in my book and has earned my partial respect.

          • Manuel Delgadillo

            Cool! We have our preferences. Politics is a very difficult subject. Everyone preceives situations, policies, practices differently and the truth is sometimes hard to come by..

  • Paul Lucas

    Whs got the bets on the wrong doing was in the realm of the cannabis shops?

  • Paul Lucas

    Santa Ana pays more than BART? Am I the only one who sees something wrong with that?

  • Steve Downing

    There is no better example for a change in law to prohibit politicians and/or political candidates from accepting money from any entity – especially the police union – for which they will provide their vote to support future financial and working conditions at the bargaining table. Police officers, and all other city, county and state workers are free to exercise their right to contribute and right to vote as individuals. It is time to end the corruption. The chief demonstrated his integrity by firing the rogue officers at the dispensary. The city politicians and their appointed puppets demonstrated the corrupting influences of POA money. It’s time to drain the swamp – across California.

  • Ed Romero

    I former Chief Rojas doesn’t end up like me. You see I told the TRUTH about what was happening at the Orange County Probation Department under the leadership of those Drug Dealing, Marijuana Smoking, Cocaine Snorting Racist Lesbians that ran our Department. There was that Asst. Chief Probation Officer that use to Smoke so much Marijuana while on duty that the Hallways in our Main Office Building looked like a FOGGY day in Fresno. There was that Deputy Probation Officer who was caught Selling Marijuana 5 times and that other Deputy Probation Officer arrested 5 times for Drunk Driving, they kept their jobs, all they had to do was make a Drug Delivery in a Brown Paper Lunch Bag and ALL WAS FORGIVEN. The Chief Probation Officer wasn’t any better, she use to smoke so much Marijuana at her residence in the City of Anaheim that her neighbors would call our Probation Records Unit complaining about all the Marijuana fumes floating over to their houses. So you see if you are in POWER you can get away with anything you want here in Orange County, just ask most of the former Members of the Board of Supervisor’s.

  • LFOldTimer

    Now the chickens are coming home to roost for the umpteenth time. Scandals in Santa Ana government are like fleas on a dog’s back. As much as you try to get rid of them they always return in spades.

    I actually liked Chief Rojas, as I have opined before on this blogsite. He did his best to fight a corrupt system but one man cannot do it alone. Sort of like the position that Trump finds himself in. Swamp dwellers are bullies. And they’ll go to any length to defend the status quo, regardless of how corrupt and indecent it might be. But at least now the Chief can tell his story to us and reveal what really goes on inside the belly of the beast. My guess is that the city swamp dwellers will settle with him out of court to avoid exposure of the evil truth. Probably to the tune of millions of dollars. And then they will bury the evidence from the public. That’s the common drill in government. And Santa Ana is the bottom feeder of municipal governments.

    Oh, and do you notice that they never comment on “potential litigation” when they know the other side has them dead to rights? ha. But if they think they can gain some political expedience they’ll shoot their mouths off like Spitzer did with the DA scandal – “potential litigation” or no “potential litigation”. All of them are so low they could crawl under a snake and never touch it’s belly.

    All of us saw the dispensary raid video. There is absolutely no doubt that it caught the cops dirty. You’d have to be deaf and blind not to know it. The Chief had the guts to take action against those who defied the honor of a position of public trust and was castigated and retaliated against for it. It just goes to show how deep and entrenched corruption is within the bowels of Santa Ana government. Not a scintilla of human decency exists in that snake pit. They fired a man for trying to uphold honor, justice and traditional American values. Repugnant.

    Go head on, Chief Rojas. I sit back in the 22nd row and applaud you with such vigor that my hands are raw with blisters.

    God bless you for standing up to these bully swamp dwellers!

    • Manuel Delgadillo

      Are you writing a novel for a mini series? You must be an angel! Some of those comments are so twisted its hilarious.

      • LFOldTimer

        Go eat a donut and calm down.

  • David Resendez

    This is what happens when elected officials hand over leadership of the city to the Police Union. The police demanded & received a pay increase, handpicked the Acting Police Chief, and will continue to run this city for their own benefit. The City is the Union’s ATM.