City of Atwater Prevails in Court Against Former Police Chief Joseph

On Wednesday, December 4th, Judge Brian McCabe of the California Superior Court County of Merced, found in favor of the City of Atwater and denied all claims made by Former Police Chief Samuel Joseph in his Write of Mandate he had filed against the City, including denying his request for an administrative hearing, $25,000 in Damages and request for Attorney’s fees.

Former Chief Joseph was relieved of his duties with the City of Atwater after the City found, during a thorough independent investigation, that, among other allegations, Joseph had:

A) Issued a Firearm with a High Capacity Magazine to a non-sworn City Employee.

B) Refused to address safety and security issues with the evidence room and locker.

C) Issued an inappropriate order to a Subordinate Officer.

D) Displayed intentionally harassing and intimidating behavior.

E) Disseminated privileged and confidential information to persons outside of the City.

Joseph and his attorney, Michael Rains of Pleasant Hill, California refused to participate in the hearing planned for Joseph to prove that the charges were untrue or that the City should not terminate him. In its ruling, the Court pointed out that, despite claims to the contrary, Joseph declined to agree to dates that the City had proposed for a hearing on his dismissal and had failed to provide any evidence that he was unable to proceed on any date set for a hearing.

Joseph demanded a certain process that the City was not obligated to provide under the law or per the terms of the contract that Joseph had signed when he took the position as police chief. The Court agreed that the City was not legally obligated to give in to Joseph’s demands, and that they had observed the rights that he had as an at-will employee. The Court also found that Joseph failed to show any evidence that the City-designated Hearing Officer was not impartial.

“We are grateful that the Court found in our favor” said Atwater City Manager Lori Waterman. “We have always been confident that we rigorously followed State Law and precedent in both our dismissal of Samuel Joseph as well as the handling of any hearing he could have agreed to appealing his dismissal. It is unfortunate that Mr. Joseph did not want to go through with an administrative hearing and instead went directly to the Courts, as well as attempting to try this case through the media. We never stooped to that level and were confident that we would ultimately prevail. It is our hope now that we can put this episode behind us and continue with the positive progress we have been making on behalf of the residents of our City.”

Attorneys with the Sacramento-based firm Churchwell White, LLP represented the City during the investigation as well as in court opposing Joseph’s legal challenges. They were instrumental in ensuring the City followed all administrative processes required and they presented a good case to the Courts.

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