Settlement stunner ends ticket quota trial

March 13, 2014

Pso signBy DANIEL BLACKBURN

A settlement reached during the noon hour Thursday abruptly ended a civil trial pitting a former Paso Robles police officer against his one-time employer for allegedly ordering unlawful traffic ticket quotas as part of a relentless quest for more city revenues.

Terms of the settlement, called “confidential” by San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Jac Crawford, were not immediately known, but the agreement came after opening statements by both sides’ attorneys.

Paso Robles Police Chief Robert Burton said after announcement of the settlement that city officials would release a statement later today, but had no further comment. The trial had been proceeding in the Paso Robles courthouse.

(Burton subsequently issued the following statement: “Employees of the Paso Robles Police Department have worked hard as a team to strengthen the department and keep our focus of protecting and serving the community of Paso Robles.  Now that the trial has ended we can pay our full attention to serving the community and make it a safer place for all.”)

Jon Tatro, a 25-year veteran of the Paso Robles department, said he and other patrol officers were required to write increasingly frequent traffic tickets in order to reach a non-specified financial goal. Such quotas are illegal under California law.

Tatro said he had reported the apparent violation of law to supervisors, including then-chief Lisa Solomon-Chitty, and the only result was retaliation against him. He was scheduled to be the first plaintiff’s witness.

Tatro’s attorney, Jeffrey A. Lipow of Encino, told the nine-woman, three-man jury during opening arguments earlier Thursday that “the evidence would show” that city officials conspired with Solomon-Chitty to generate additional revenues for city coffers by increasing the number of traffic citations.

In an email to CalCoastNews prior to the trial’s opening, Lipow noted, “During [the process of]  discovery, we uncovered substantial information to support Jon’s claim, not the least of which were emails and memos between former Chief Solomon and [Paso Robles City Manager] Jim App about raising revenues for the city through traffic tickets.”

David Cumberland, representing the city of Paso Robles, told the jury he would be able to demonstrate that Tatro himself violated procedures and department regulations as he attempted to call attention to the alleged quota system.

Following announcement of the settlement, Cumberland declined comment other than to say, “I think the system worked.” Asked if he was satisfied with the settlement, he said simply, “Yes.”

Lipow noted, “We came to a financial resolution of the case, and as a result of that, the lawsuit is over. The city will have to deal with it, and Mr. Tatro will be able to go on with his life.” He suggested that city officials might be forthcoming about settlement details, “but I’m not at liberty to disclose that.”

Tatro said he was “satisfied” with the settlement and added, “I’d like to thank CalCoastNews for how they have covered this story.”

When Crawford announced the settlement,  jury members exploded in apparent joy. The trial had been predicted to last more than two weeks.

(Updated Thursday at 4:38 p.m. to incorporate Chief Burton’s follow-up statement.)


42 Comments

  1. Black_Copter_Pilot says:

    Am I the only one here that knows what really happened?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  2. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    Hmm. Sounds like all along App and Co. probably figured they would convince Tatro he didn’t have a case and when it looked like it was against App and the city and all of Paso’s dirty laundry could now be aired in public, it was time to blink.

    Jim App needs to go now.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 55 Thumb down 0

  3. achillesheal says:

    Asked if he was satisfied the settlement the attorney for the city said, “Who cares. It’s not like it’s our money”.

    In unrelated news Paso Robles will be raising water and sewer rates, fees for business licenses and bumped up city sales taxes from 8% to 10%.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 0

  4. Old Salt says:

    Shhh – don’t want to let anyone find out:

    That they actually did ask the Police Officers to BREAK the LAW..! ! !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  5. mdauto says:

    Worse than a bad poker player…Bluff …Bluff …..Bluff…FOLD !!!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  6. pigsrule says:

    Shhh – don’t want to let anyone find out how badly they screwed up.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 0

  7. shelworth says:

    I don’t think a municipality should be able to write a check to make a problem go away, and keep the amount secret. Just sayin’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

  8. Robert1 says:

    They did want their dirty laundry washed in public, can you imagine how many fines would have to be re-payed to the victims of this government scam.
    How many lawsuits that could be filed against the city for auto insurance rates, traffic classes etc.
    They dodged a bullet there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  9. Mr. Holly says:

    Here we go again. Now the guilty can go back to work and get serious about finding some other avenues to support their retirement and benefit packages. Least not forget the funds needed to squash these lawsuits and payoffs. Just from this preliminary report it sure sounds like App could have some very serious questions to answer. Oh but I forgot the confidentiality clause so we will never really know. Just business as usual in Paso Robles I guess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

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