Bay Area/ Oakland/ Politics & Govt
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Published on February 08, 2024
Former Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong Files Wrongful Termination Suit Against City, Mayor ThaoSource: City of Oakland

Ousted Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong is taking his battle to court, slapping the city and Mayor Sheng Thao with a wrongful termination suit. Armstrong, who was axed in February 2023, claims the mayor canned him in retaliation for his spoken criticisms of Robert Warshaw, the federal monitor overseeing the department. NBC Bay Area reports that the lawsuit alleges Thao's actions violate California law and Armstrong’s First Amendment rights.

The case, which materialized Monday night, levels serious accusations at Warshaw and underscores a rift between Armstrong and Oakland's leadership. According to SFist, Armstrong's legal team points the finger at the federal monitor, accusing him of profiteering from a prolonged, chaotic stint in the police department — with allegations of creating an environment that allegedly necessitated his ongoing oversight and paycheck.

"Despite good intentions of monitoring, generally, the practical financial realities of a monitorship incentivize the monitor to continue to find ‘systemic problems’ and ‘leadership failures,’” the lawsuit states, painting a picture of a monitor purportedly manipulating events to maintain a lucrative position under his "well-compensated gaze". Armstrong also hinted that Thao, against her will, was strong-armed into making the controversial call. Witnesses reportedly recalled Thao, in an exacerbated tone, saying: "F— the monitor for making me do this, I really didn’t want to do this."

As the former lawman turned high school basketball coach seeks monetary reparation, it's clear that his days of gunning for his old job back are in the rearview. After an arbitrator found Armstrong not at fault for an alleged failure to discipline a subordinate, the Police Commission, pushed Armstrong as a top pick for the still-open chief position, only to face rejection by Thao in December. The spokesperson for Armstrong, Sam Singer told SFist that the former chief has now pivoted to seek damages after recently snagging an assistant coaching spot at Bishop O'Dowd High School.

In response to the emerging legal strife, Oakland's City Attorney's Office has stayed relatively mum. "Former Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong filed a government claim on July 17, 2023, challenging this termination. This claim is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against the city. The City denied the claim on August 29, 2023, triggering a deadline for him to file a lawsuit. We have not yet been served with the complaint," the office said in a statement obtained by NBC Bay Area