Council member Don Peterson Cleared of Wrongdoing
12/30/13 – As widely reported earlier this year, Police Chief Leonard Purvis had accused Council member Don Peterson
of misconduct, citing Peterson’s actions as the sole cause of him suffering from “severe anxiety” and “stress”. Purvis demanded $ 250,000 from the City in compensation (view claim).
Attorneys for Banning’s insurance carrier, ERMA (Employer Risk Management Authority – website ) have reviewed Purvis’ allegations. In an email of December 30, 2013, ERMA lead attorney Melanie M. Poturica issued a memorandum stating that there have been ” no findings of wrongdoing” against Don Peterson in connection with the claim by Ex-Police Chief Leonard Purvis (view memorandum).
Peterson says Purvis’ accusations were “completely fabricated and false”. He had maintained all along that Purvis had falsely accused him of misconduct because he “asked too many questions”.
.PURVIS CASHES IN, THEN IMMEDIATELY LANDS JOB WITH SHERIFF
After initially making a $ 250,000 claim against the City of Banning for “severe anxiety” and “stress”, Banning’s controversial Ex-Police Chief Leonard Purvis has since withdrawn his claim in exchange for receiving $ 300,000 to leave his position in Banning, (view settlement agreement).
However, the ink was barely dry on his settlement agreement, when Purvis’ previously cited medical condition seemed to have disappeared without a trace: within just one month of leaving Banning, Purvis was able to land a job with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, at the rank of Sergeant.
As a matter of policy, in order to limit liability exposure, the Sheriff Department will not hire mentally unstable personnel. Purvis, however, was hired regardless of his prior claim of suffering from mental problems – and in record time.
Furthermore it is noteworthy, that as Police Chief of Banning, Leonard Purvis gave contracts worth 10s of thousands of dollars to private investigator Wayne Walker. Walkers wife is Undersheriff Colleen Walker. Could it be that these contracts aided Purvis in being hired by the Sheriff Department ?
The re-hiring of Leonard Purvis raises serious questions about the truthfulness and therewith the honesty and integrity of Leonard Purvis, as well as the hiring practices and accountability of Sheriff Stan Sniff. The Sheriff stated that he was unable to provide information due to this being a personnel matter.
How could Purvis have a (past?) mental condition, yet still pass the Sheriff’s background check in record time? Purvis already being sworn in at his new job on December 11, seems to suggest that no adverse conditions (mental or otherwise) were found to exist, that would have precluded him from being hired.
What does this tell us about the truthfulness of Purvis’ claim against the City of Banning ? Did receiving a settlement amount of $ 300,000 instantly and permanently cure Leonard Purvis of all mental suffering ? Did Purvis lie to the Sheriff about not having a mental condition, or did he lie to Banning about having one ? No matter which way you slice it, you cannot have it both ways.
$ 300,000 SETTLEMENT
As outlined in the settlement agreement between Leonard Purvis and the City of Banning (view), Purvis was paid a total of $ 300,000. $166,000 of this amount was paid by the City of Banning, with the remaining $ 134,000 paid by Banning’s insurance carrier, ERMA.
The City Council had no control over the portion of the settlement that related to the “stress” and “anxiety” claim by Purvis. Banning’s insurance carrier, ERMA is solely responsible for this portion of the settlement, as it constitutes a liability issue.
In light of the lack of wrongdoing by Council member Peterson, did ERMA overpay the claim ? – probably so. On the other hand, there is always what is commonly referred to as a “nuisance value”, even for the most bogus claims. After all, it is very expensive to defend against any claim, even if it proves to be completely unfounded. In light of this reality, ERMA’s attorneys felt that $ 134,000 was an appropriate amount for settlement. The City Council was not involved in this decision.
The Banning City Council did, however, decide to give Purvis the remaining $ 166,000, as evidenced by the Settlement Agreement. This amount is made up of accrued vacation time as well as a contractually agreed upon “severance pay” for each year Purvis was employed in Banning (7 years). The generous terms of his employment agreement (view) were courtesy of the notoriously unaccountable, freely spending 2007 City Council (Brenda Salas, Bob Botts, Barbara Hanna, Debbie Franklin), a council with a well documented history of having little regard for the taxpayer (view).
OTHER OPTIONS CONSIDERED
The only way of avoiding paying Purvis $ 166,000 would have been to terminate him for “cause”. Such cause, for example, could have resulted from Purvis’ insubordination. Early on, Council member Peterson had submitted a long catalog of questions to Purvis.
Now that a settlement agreement has been reached, Peterson’s questions to Purvis are being made public for the first time. Please click here to see what Peterson wanted to know.Peterson says that Purvis never answered any of these questions. Did those questions challenge Purvis’ competence ?
Another cause for his termination could have resulted from the inappropriate way Purvis acquired the infamous Military MRAP vehicle, in particular from him recklessly jeopardizing public safety when he ordered 2 officers to pick up the vehicle, while neither was trained or licensed to drive it, resulting in a severe accident (story).
As evidenced by the settlement agreement, the Council decided not to pursue these issues. They paid Purvis what he was owed under his contract – rather than fighting an expensive legal battle that could have easily cost more just in legal fees alone – while providing no guarantee for victory. Given the labor laws in the State of California, this was probably a wise decision from a financial point of view.
The newly released attorney memorandum indicates that Don Peterson never engaged in any wrongdoing in regards to former Chief Purvis. None of his allegations were proven to be true. Don Peterson has now officially been cleared of any wrongdoing.
If you would like to comment or discuss this – or any other – article, please visit us on FACEBOOK