21 Aug 2014
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College Settles Federal Suit With Union Organizer

Campus officer sought money, claiming he was retaliated against after forming a police union. Santa Monica College denied the allegations.

College Settles Federal Suit With Union Organizer

has settled a suit with the organizer of its campus police officers union who claimed the school and higher-ranking officers violated his first amendment rights to free speech and association.

Russell Ruetz alleged he was retaliated against—including being "berated and  embarrassed" by a sergeant, receiving numerous "arbitrary" write-ups and being denied access to a computer—after forming the Police Officers Association in 2008, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. 

He sued in May 2011, seeking unspecified damages for "mental anguish, humiliation and emotional distress," and for front and back pay and attorney fees. The college, through its attornies, denied all of the allegations and filed a motion to dismiss the case.

It was settled May 30, 2012 but the terms were not disclosed.

In 2010, Ruetz said he was placed under a gag order and put on administrative leave, which kept him from communicating with fellow union board members and friends in the department. 

In a motion to dismiss, the college's attorney said Ruetz never proved the gag order was issued because of his union activity, and argued that the alleged statements between Ruetz and one of the sergeants "were little more than personal disputes."

A college spokesman declined to comment and messages to Ruetz's, attorney Michael A. McGill, were not returned.

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