Monday, August 19, 2013
Exclusionary Rule Erroneously Applied to State Personnel Dispute—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has upheld the termination of a California Science Center security officer, saying an administrative law judge and the State Personnel Board erred in excluding incriminating evidence during the administrative appeals process.
Div. One, in an opinion issued July 25 and certified Friday for publication, agreed with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant that the ALJ and SPB should have considered a prior Court of Appeal opinion explaining the reasons why Rudy Arellanes was fired as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in 1990.
The panel also agreed with Chalfant that the evidence in the case, including the earlier opinion, conclusively establishes that Arrellanes was properly terminated from the science center position for lying on his employment application.
Justice Jeffrey Johnson, writing for the Court of Appeal, explained that Arellanes was hired by the museum in April 2007 as a security officer, and promoted to supervisor in September of that year, pursuant to state civil service rules.
When he applied for the entry-level position, he acknowledged that he had been terminated by the Sheriff’s Department, but said it was “for failing to report contacts with my informant of non-workable information,” information he repeated when he applied for the promotion.
In fact, the justice explained, the misconduct had been far more serious. Arellanes, he said, was actually fired for associating with known criminal suspects, failing to report law enforcement-related information to his superiors, acting in a discrediting manner, and incompetence.
The museum did not learn the truth until 2009, when it became aware of the published 1995 Court of Appeal opinion in which Arellanes’ firing was upheld, the justice said. Arellanes was then fired for fraud and dishonesty in the application process, following an investigation that was requested by the museum and completed by the California Highway Patrol.
The administrative law judge ruled that records obtained by the CHP during its investigation, which revealed the scope of the earlier misconduct, and all evidence flowing from the review of those records should be suppressed because they were confidential and were obtained without a waiver by the employee or a discovery request under the Pitchess process.
The personnel board agreed, and held that without the excluded evidence, it could not conclude that Arellanes had lied on his application.
Johnson, however, said the exclusionary rule generally does not apply to administrative procedures as a matter of constitutional law, and that even if it did, the ALJ was wrong because there was no “search” or “seizure” in the Fourth Amendment sense. The CHP, he noted, did not obtain the evidence from the Sheriff’s Department, but rather from publicly available databases.
The justice acknowledged that the exclusionary rule does apply to illegally obtained police personnel records, as a matter of statute. But the records in this case were court documents, not police personnel records, so the ALJ was wrong as a matter of statutory law as well, Johnson said.
The case is California Science Center v. State Personnel Board (Arellanes), 13 S.O.S. 4282.
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