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Corruption 101: Former police chief sues city after being forced out for exposing shady deals by Santa Ana officials

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The former Santa Ana police chief says he was forced out after blowing the whistle on city employees over possible corruption and illegal activity, including alleged shady deals with pot dispensaries.

In a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court against the city last week, Carlos Rojas says he faced retaliation and ultimately was forced to resign in May after disclosing suspicious activity by city officials.

Many of the allegations involve Mayor Miguel Pulido, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Santa Ana spokeswoman Alma Flores said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

Among the allegations, Rojas, who served for 27 years with the Santa Ana Police Department and became chief in 2014, says he received information that Pulido was taking money from medical-marijuana dispensaries so they could continue to do business illegally in the city. Rojas is now police chief for the Bay Area Rapid Transit System in San Francisco.

The allegations were never investigated, he says.

“Rojas continued to disclose this information to (the) city – which (the) city continued to ignore,” the lawsuit says.

While chief, Rojas says he “engendered the wrath” of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association after he tried to steer the department “away from corruption” and cracked down on poor officer behavior, including on some who were “improperly accounting for their time.”

He says the association’s president, Gerry Serrano, had harbored a grudge against him since 2001 when Rojas replaced him as a public information officer. Serrano launched an aggressive campaign to have Rojas ousted, including sending an email to business owners claiming crime has reached “unprecedented” levels because of lack of leadership, the lawsuit says.

Serrano could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Rojas also alleges that he overheard a conversation in 2011 between two councilmen in which they “expressed amazement that Pulido had taken plans from the State of California regarding some type of power/electrical generating plant, deleted the State of California’s name and sold the plans to the Mexican government.”

The ex-chief says Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has declined to take any action against Pulido and other “high-profile,” elected officials.

But a representative of Rackauckas’ office sees it much differently.

“The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has always taken seriously any allegations of public corruption and has never ignored any such complaint, certainly not from a police chief,”  Susan Kang Schroeder, the district attorney’s chief of staff, said in an email to City News Service. “As a police chief he, of course, has the full authority to conduct such an investigation. …

”As it is in any case, the OCDA is unable to confirm the existence of any investigation,” she said. “It is unfortunate that a law enforcement officer would state his speculation in this manner without any supporting facts.”

Rojas alleges violation of labor code, breach of contract and constructive termination.

His lawyers couldn’t be reached for comment.

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©2017 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com

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