Newport Beach Police Bosses Used Island Hotel As Free Sex, Partying Pad In Quid Pro Quo Deal: Lawsuit
Orange County billionaire Don Bren's Island Hotel gave multiple command-staff officers at the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) free suites, massages, spa services, booze and food, as well as agreed to erase hotel-surveillance footage when the cops didn't want any record of who they were partying with in rooms.
The rough streets of Newport Beach cause police officials to relax for free at luxury resort?
Those allegations are contained in a new federal lawsuit filed by a former highly regarded parking-control officer, who claims he was fired in retaliation for instigating personnel investigations into high-ranking NBPD cops taking gratuities at the swank, ocean-view hotel at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
In exchange for free, discreet use of the luxury resort, police management quietly eased license processing for massage therapists operating at the hotel and ordered parking violations ignored at the property, according to the lawsuit filed Sept. 23 inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse by Zachary McEligot, who worked at NBPD for more than 12 years.
McEligot isn't guessing about the quid pro quo because, he says, he learned of the details over several years in 2008 and 2009 from a neighbor who worked as the spa director for the hotel, the lawsuit asserts.
McEligot says he earned a spotless, glowing employment record at the department, but after he alerted department officials of the alleged misuse of the hotel, high-ranking officers targeted him for retaliation including falsifying documents to suddenly characterize him as dishonest and incompetent.
Former police chiefs Bob McDonnel and John Klein, Captain James Kaminsky, Sergeant Ron Vallercamp, Deputy Chief David W. McGill, Officer Steve Burdette and City Manager Homer Bludau "were all involved in receiving and demanding free services for themselves and/or for their girlfriends and/or spouses from the Island Hotel in exchange for favors requested by the Island Hotel," the lawsuit claims.
In response to McEligot speaking out about police corruption, City Manager David Kiff, Sergeant Joe Cartwright, Lieutenant Dale Johnson, Deputy Chief McGill, Lieutenant Damon Psaros, Sergeant Jerry Lowe, Sergeant Spencer Arnold and Senior Parking Control Officer Heidi Moss targeted him for unlawful, "groundless" retaliation, according to the lawsuit written by Encino-based attorney Joseph Y. Avrahamy.
"Defendant Chief Jay Johnson approved the termination of the plaintiff despite the clear irregularities and inconsistencies in the investigation and despite that it was clear that terminating an employee was clearly excessive in light of the fact that other employees with much more egregious misconduct were not terminated," the 24-page lawsuit asserts.
Several other acclaimed ex-NBPD officers -- including Craig Frizzel, Steve Shulman, John Hougan and Robert Morton--have previously filed lawsuits inside Orange County Superior Court alleging the department's command staff is a cesspool of self-serving corruption.
In 2009, a jury awarded veteran NBPD officer Neil Harvey $1.2 million after it was proved department management conspired to cheat him out of earned promotions because they erroneously assumed the heterosexual officer was gay. Police bosses became laughably paranoid about Harvey's sexuality after discovering he produced well-written reports, treated citizens with politeness, spoke articulately and lived in artsy Laguna Beach.
According to a recent Forbes report, Bren--owner of Island Hotel and the Irvine Co.--is worth $14 billion, a figure that I believe is conservative.
Bren, a Republican with reclusive tendencies, is accustomed to getting his way with government bureaucrats and elected officials and is known to employ current police officers in his private operations.
McEligot's lawsuit does not name Bren in any alleged wrongdoing.
According to court records, the case has not yet been assigned to a federal judge, and Newport Beach lawyers haven't filed a reply to the claims.
Seven years ago, in "Dirty, Stupid or Both," I reported about organized crime associates from Chicago, Kansas City and Las Vegas huddling at a restaurant/bar near the Island Hotel with then-Sheriff Mike Carona, who was eventually arrested by the FBI and IRS, convicted of corruption, and sent to a federal prison in Colorado.