A third Kern High School District police officer has filed a government claim against the district, alleging that after he helped uncover misuse of a sensitive police information database, administrators created a hostile work environment in retaliation against him.

Gilbert Valdez, a sergeant with the district police department currently on medical leave, was the first to discover school district administrators were ordering the alleged misuse of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) within the district, according to the government claim filed late Friday.

Valdez’s claim, a precursor to a civil suit, comes one week after his colleague, Lt. Jerald Wyatt, filed a similar claim alleging whistleblower retaliation, and two weeks after Chief Joseph Lopeteguy filed a civil suit against the district. His lawyers say damages could be worth more than $100 million.

Arnold Anchordoquy, the district’s defense attorney, said he received the claim Friday, but could not comment because he has not had enough time to review it.

“It’s the first part of the process of eventually bringing a lawsuit against the high school district, so they’ll take a look at it and take appropriate action,” Anchordoquy said.

When Lopeteguy became chief in 2015, he asked Valdez to sort through the “a backlog of uncompleted work” in the department’s records management system. Eventually, Valdez came across two reports that were incomplete and assigned to Mike Collier, the previous police chief, who had left to become a line officer within the department that year. Both reports included criminal arrest records, one for a juvenile and the other for an employee, the claim states.

So Valdez emailed Collier to clear up the reports.

“Collier responded with an email which indicated that Collier thought the raps (arrest records) had been pulled at the request of the District Office Human Resources Department,” the claim states. “Based on Collier’s email response, Valdez realized he had uncovered illegal activity which impacted people’s civil rights.”

After that, Valdez claims his civilian bosses created a hostile work environment, and that there was “an overwhelming amount of tension and stress” placed on him. School district administrators “made palpable their displeasure with the existence and purpose of the investigation that Lt. Wyatt and Sgt. Valdez were conducting as instructed by Chief Lopeteguy,” the claim states.

That led to extreme stress, trouble sleeping and issues with high blood pressure, the claim states.

The claim names the KHSD board of trustees, Superintendent Bryon Schaefer, assistant superintendents Brenda Lewis and Mike Zulfa, former acting Police Chief David Edmiston and Director of Pupil Personnel Otis Jennings as those responsible for creating the alleged hostile work environment.

(16) comments

Itzme

Jpb1055 these officers are highly educated. They have served the public and served their country. Who are you to insinuate they do not deserve compensation for what the Kern High School District has done to them? They have worked their entire adult lives doing serving with honest and integrity. Law enforcement these days hold a thankless job. Crime is out of control. But, the KHSD employees broke the law repeatedly and now trying to destroy these officers reputations rather than admit to what they have done!!! I stand by in support of these officers. I have personally known one one of them over twenty years and I know the selfless service he has provided Kern County. He's a man of the utmost integrity. Tax payers need to take a stand and replace the staff who broke the law. They knew exactly what they were doing. They cannot hide behind ignorance.

Concerncitizen

I feel that this point needs to be stressed to all citizens in our City. There are many that are out there protesting and demanding all the local police departments to be transparent. Personally I believe they are with the exception of the KHSD Administration. We have police officers that risked it all, their reputations, careers, livelihood to DO THE RIGHT THING! They did exactly what the community wants and expects them to do. What is the message we are giving as citizens to not take a stand and support them for doing what they should do? These are officers that were working to protect the communities children. Suppprt them because if you do not there will be a real and dangerous slippery slope that other police officers when they face others in their prospective departments or even again with the KHSD Police Department, they may just say it's not worth losing everything over because the community and other law enforcement agencies will not support them doing the right thing. Think about this and the potential future ramifications.

Idolmind

All of the names of those who were illegally looked up via CLETS should be published somewhere. These clowns need to be held accountable. These underlying issues regarding sports is meaningless. The only issue that needs to be answered is was CLETS used illegally and by whom? Publish the names of those who were illegally spied on.

Jpb1055

This is another case of government officials who have risen to positions way above their competency. Bad teachers become bad administrators. Either they knew about the illegal nature of what they were doing and chose to use the database anyway or they were just plain ignorant of what they were doing. Then chose to intimidate those who were investigating the misuse. Regardless of what the truth is, these clowns have put taxpayer dollars at risk because of their stupidity. You’re fired! It’s obvious that the attorney who wants a $100 million judgment is posturing to get an easy settlement. Yeah, why not make these regular Joes, who probably only have High School educations, millionaires. Frankly, I’m appalled at the whole situation.

Concerncitizen

As having been following this from the beginning since Harold Pierce has been reporting on this I think you might be assuming incorrectly on the end comment of your post. These are veteran highly experienced officers that have accumulated years of expertise and training which requires continuing education and training throughout their careers. One of the commenters on a prior article commented specific that one officer happens to have a masters degree along with being a military officer. In my opinion if the KHSD administration would have simply did what they were supposed to do following Stare and federal law this situation would not even be an issue. Very sad for our kids and for the taxpayer. But lives and careers have been attacked and destroyed sadly. That is just not okay on any level no matter who the person is.

cloud9

Same as myself having been following the ENTIRE thing and your last comment is wrong on many levels. Then being retired deputies with law enforcement and might I add highly respected officers, have to go thru a lot of intense training and one has been in the military as well as being a law enforcement officer. What the KHSD did to them was wrong and they should be held accountable for their actions.

Old and Wise

According to the KHSD Board's 4/3/17 meeting agenda, all top administrators were up for a pay raise. The posted meeting minutes does not have any "new" proposed salary schedule attached for administrators, how convenient ! They did however list CSEA workers new salary schedule.

Does this administration really deserve a raise pay raise? Harold, can you let us know how much of a raise us taxpayers are on the hook for? The time to hold this Board accountable is long overdue.

Concerncitizen

I am quite curious the board would even have this topic up on their agenda until they deal with this mess. The current board members up for re-election I would suggest to vote no on all incumbents.

Holding the bag

Well it is a cycle KHSD caught doing unprofessional things, questions asked, told to cover up, lawsuit filed, high price attorney hired by KHSD to delay,deflect, blame the plaintiffs for unprofessional conduct and not being team players to protect the KSHD. Same old story, powerful districts not afraid of a lawsuit because it's not THEIR MONEY! If the truth EVER comes out, we will all be to old to care. SAD situation that will not have justice served, Just pay the officers off, when it quiets down... business as usual for KHSD!

Nevermind

Talk about draining swamps, this one is more like quicksand. How much are taxpayers going to lose? The whole idea of illegally using CLETS to stem had gh school athletes from jumping from school to school is not only criminal, its ineffective. There are illegal athletes everywhere. I know of two girls playing softball at East who were at Mira Monte last year, went to Highland, daddy didnt like his kids getting cut from volleyball, so now they're at East. What a joke.

David N

Actually that's not where the use stemmed from. Yes it was part of it but it's not what started the problem. There are multiple reasons why this was happening. It's funny how you discuss a situation that you know little to nothing about as well. I'm curious why you would bring up the Mira Monte Softball program? A team that according to Max Preps is not having the best of seasons. Why not talk about BHS or Ridgeview and the rumors and stories about their recruiting? This has been an ongoing issue for years concerning these schools but yet let's talk about the under achieving softball program from Mira Monte?? I would also suggest that maybe next time you back up accusations like this with known facts as this could very well cause problems because I can tell you that you have many things wrong here.

gutkitty

Too keep it clear, those two athletes don't need be mentioned unless their a threat of actually winning something or anyone business. So not clear who`s the joke on. The person complaining about the two athletes or person whom made the comment about the two athletes. Look at as the two open positions for opportunity for other athletes. Since you know the dad speak to dad. The topic at hand doesn't mention certain students just the system as a whole. Let's mention all the schools who have won championship in sports, each sport have athlete's that don't belong in their districts. In fact many athletes jump schools every each year. Failed to mention that fact. The criminal fact this article about whistle blower, many many issues khsd other than athletics.

whatever

I have worked for a school for over 30 years.There are kids who move school and District from Elementary to High School. So heads up get (USE TO IT). You question 2 girls is it jealousy because you lost 2 great player. The problem is that everyone has and will be doing it. Everyone knows it is happening. Please don't be upset and jealous. If you know it happening everywhere, why mention East High. Deal with it (Nevermind) and like it or not that is life. It has been happening for over years and will keep happening. So, either attend the High School meetings or what / Nevermind

CampusSupervisor

OMG. Schaeffer's shop has gone nuts. Replace him.

Chin

It's obvious Schaefer is a narcissistic authoritarian who's running the board as well as the superintendency. In a previous article Mike Williams indicated that Schaeffer had "earned their trust," they should either re-examine that philosophy or have their heads examined. I can't see three separate, veteran cops, who make their livings building cases, approaching this half cocked. I can't wait to see what they have on these clowns!

Chin

The KHSD is a freaking clown show, when are the Board of Trustees going to gain the intestinal fortitude to handle business and shock this corrupt organization to the core . If they can't handle the job then maybe they should step down and let some Citizens with the integrity and fortitude to handle this step in , this whole story just keeps getting worse . When is someone going to take responsibility for the issues at hand , or do we get to see another Mitch Carter scenario , where they pay their crony lawyers 100s of thousands of dollars to run a case to trial and then settle to avoid the negative public backlash , what a bunch of freaking buffoons running this place !!!!

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