Published : Thursday, May 18, 2017 | 5:50 AM
The City of Pasadena has agreed to settle a lawsuit which claimed a Pasadena Police officer improperly used his position of authority to have his sister falsely arrested and to wage a campaign against her and her longtime best friend to deprive them of their civil rights.
Attorney William Paparian, former Mayor of Pasadena, who along with nationally recognized police misconduct litigator John Burton represented plaintiffs Michelle Rodgers and Selah Chavet, said the City agreed in a signed document to pay $300,000.
Pasadena’s Public Information Officer William Boyer, however, told Pasadena Now that the “the City is pursuing a settlement in this lawsuit and we expect to have a signed agreement in the near future.”
The Pasadena City Council reportedly authorized the settlement during Monday night’s closed session meeting at City Hall.
The lawsuit claimed that Pasadena Police Sergeant Michael Bugh directed the false arrests of the two women.
“What happened here was really outrageous,” Paparian said. “The City Council ultimately did the right thing by settling this civil rights claim after mediation. These women are innocent victims of a department that has continually rewarded problem police officers instead of disciplining them.”
In March, 2015 police officers handcuffed and jailed Rodgers and Chavet after Pasadena Sgt. Bugh allegedly made a false report about a disturbance at the home of Rodgers’ and Bugh’s mother.
The arrests came just 10 days after Rodgers filed a personnel claim with the Pasadena Police Department against Bugh. In the claim, Rodgers said Bugh abused his position as a police officer in an attempt to gain control of their family trust, according to Paparian.
City spokesman Boyer said Wednesday that a Pasadena Police Department internal affairs investigation into the accusations is underway.
Boyer said that “Sgt. Bugh is out on medical leave” and that other officers named in the lawsuit as having falsely arrested Rodgers on information supplied by Bugh remain on active duty.
“The City holds all of its employees to the highest standards of professional conduct,” Boyer said. “Complaints of unlawful activities by any City employee are thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, discipline is imposed. Specific personnel matters, however, cannot be disclosed.”
Paparian said that the dispute between Bugh and Rodgers erupted on Feb. 27, 2015 when Rodgers was falsely arrested on information supplied by Bugh, who alleged elder financial abuse.
At the time of the arrest, Bugh headed the Pasadena Police Department’s financial crimes unit and supervised the police officers investigating his sister, Paparian said.
In a personnel claim filed with the Pasadena Police Department against Bugh, Rodgers called the arrest a “preemptive strike by my brother Sgt. Michael Bugh to attempt to silence me.” She noted that Bugh hoped to prevent Rodgers from protecting the assets of the family trust, a statement said.
Rodgers also said her brother “abused his position as a police officer for personal gain.” The March arrest of Rodgers and Chavet followed the filing of the personnel claim.
Ultimately the Los Angeles District Attorney rejected the elder abuse case and the Pasadena City Prosecutor rejected the trespassing case.
“The actions of the officers are part of a larger malady within the City and PPD wherein Chief Sanchez and his predecessor have allowed officers to treat the PPD as a personal fiefdom,” Paparian said.
The case was filed in United States District Court, Central District of California.