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.)


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Citizen

Congratulations to Jon Tatro. You were right and you wouldn’t back down. Jim App then folded like a cheap lawn chair to avoid having his own incriminating emails to Solomon exposed to the public.


Jim App and Lisa Solomon attempted to destroy the careers of a number of Paso police officers with their antics, sidestepped the law, and used Paso residents as their extra money machine.


What are you going to do about this, Paso City Council? How about a demotion for City Manager Jim App or a call for him to resign/retire? How about a pay cut?


Or will you sit there like a bunch of silly hand puppets and do nothing?


kayaknut

The simple answer seems “Yes” the council will sit there and do nothing, it is then up to the voters to replace all council members ASAP, either thru elections or recall if needed.

It the voters don’t speak up then they likely approve of how things are run.


slojustice

I am glad to see the city can afford the settlement with sales tax to repair the roads. We have been duped again.


slowtime

Worst part is; now the City and it’s cronies have more of an idea how to CYA. There are some dark secrets that they (PRPD) did not want exposed. Too bad. This just goes to show money buys inequity and corruption.


jarhead

BAM there you go , great JON , can you guess what dept is next on the list ,just to bad that the admin of the dept did not get spanked for there practices , this goes on in every city but some officers have more morals than there supervisors and will not go along with the program , It those few that refuse to follow the sheep.


jstover

last year I was stopped by an officer who told me that he was going to write 10 tickets that day and I was one of them. I know that Tatro is telling the truth. Boot App.


JB Bronson

What Jim App will do to prevent the outside from learning about his power and control tactics. It’s not his money.


Now all the City emloyees can go back to work and continue to be afraid of him.


justchuck

Interesting and sad how cavalier the government can be with TAXPAYERS’ money!!!!


MikeB

The community of Paso Robles owes Jon Tatro gratitude in that he wouldnt acquiesce to participating in something that is unethical as well as unlawful. He abided by the code of ethics and for adhereing to his principles he was villified by Paso’s management.


This matter has now been exposed for what it is and the Paso management should be ashamed.


Don’t think for one second that similiar behavior is not condoned in certain other central coast police agencies. Hopefully they will pay heed.


Thank you for standing on principle Jon … your a good man.


slowtime

Do you remember those “fireside chats” when your ticket counts were down; yet your dope/burglary intelligence and arrests were over the top compared to any other patrolman? I do. Ticket Quotas do exist. It is an easy way by numbers for dumb supervisors to measure “performance” of subordinates.


Pelican1

Deja Vu All Over Again! Yogi would be embarassed by this one. Shameful, absouletly shameful.