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Ventura College Police Sergeant’s Termination is Overturned

Posted on Monday, December 01, 2003 at 12:00PM

Sergeant Armando Castillo of the Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) has won his termination appeal and is to be immediately reinstated to his position as sergeant of police with the district.

The findings came after four days of hearing and presentation of more than 16 witnesses before Arbitrator Philip Tamoush.

Sergeant Castillo, an 18-year veteran of the VCCD police, was terminated by the district for alleged acts of sexual harassment and dishonesty. The alleged misconduct stems from Castillo’s special assignment to the Oxnard College Campus to investigate and gather information about a gang problem that was developing on campus. Castillo had years of experience in gang investigations and was formerly assigned to the Field Enforcement Unit at Oxnard Police Department. Around the time of Castillo’s assignment to the Oxnard College campus, there was a rash of gang violence and murders in the area of the campus.

On December 7, 2000, while Castillo visited the student business office (SBO) at Oxnard College, his attention was drawn to a new female employee of the SBO who, based on her clothing and demeanor, gave indications that she might have gang affiliation. Castillo asked this new employee where she was from. The employee was reluctant in her response and a co-employee finally answered for her. Castillo was alleged to have returned to the SBO at least one other time, and asked the employee personal information. Over a month later, he referred to the employee in a telephone call with another employee as “the chunky Hispanic female,” not knowing her name, when he inquired about her status. The employee’s supervisor initiated a “sexual harassment” complaint based on this.

This district investigation developed into a departmental internal investigation, which sustained charges of sexual harassment over the incidents, and dishonesty during the investigation. These charges were sustained and Castillo was terminated.

On appeal from the termination, a full-blown evidentiary hearing disclosed that Castillo was acting appropriately by inquiring into the female’s status and position, together with her possible gang connection, and that he was not dishonest in his responses during the investigation. He was, however, according to Arbitrator Tamoush, subject to discipline for the “chunky Hispanic female” remark, for which the arbitrator ordered a suspension. The termination was set aside and the district personnel commission unanimously adopted the award.

Castillo, represented by Muna Busailah of Michael P. Stone, P.C., lawyers of Pasadena, has been reinstated with back pay, and has settled a collateral wrongful termination and employment discrimination lawsuit against the district for an undisclosed amount.

Castillo appreciates the support of the VCCCD Police Officers’ Association and the PORAC Legal Defense Fund in correcting the injustice that resulted from his wrongful and discriminatory termination.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.