Verdugo Files Suit to Get His Job Back

The Law Offices of George Castrataro, P.A.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Written By Cliff Dunn

Mike Verdugo, a Hollywood police officer who claims he lost his job over a gay porn video, filed suit in Broward Circuit Court against the City of Hollywood to get his job back on Wednesday, March 17.

In a story first reported in  SFGN on January 25, and later picked up nationally by mainstream and LGBT media, Verdugo had been challenging an arbitrator's ruling that his firing was justified because he had failed to disclose he had made the film.

City officials claim he was discharged for knowingly and intentionally withholding information about prior 'employment' when he originally applied for a job as a police officer with the city. That alleged lack of disclosure was a porn shoot which had occurred fifteen years earlier.

According to court documents filed by his local gay attorneys, George Castrataro and Norm Kent, Verdugo argued his firing was unjustified and illegal, based solely on the fact he was a gay man whose prior conduct was lawful, private, personal and not employment subject to police department review.

In court papers filed yesterday, his attorneys asserted that Verdugo's conduct was constitutionally protected intimate human behavior; personal and 'individually expressive acts' outside the scope of review for the Hollywood police department.

The legal argument made by his lawyers was that his failure to disclose the porn video to Hollywood when he was hired was inconsequential, and "that if he had failed to disclose he spent one day appearing in a Shakespearean play no one would have cared less. It was a bias against homosexuality that drove Hollywood up a wall." Kent additionally pointed out that Hollywood officials were retaliating against Verdugo for successfully filing sexual harassment claims against the department.

Since an arbitration hearing between Verdugo and the City of Hollywood found in the city's favor, Verdugo had to file suit to overturn the ruling, which, he contended was biased and unfairly reasoned by the arbitrator, James L. Reynolds.

Verdugo took the position that since his conduct in doing the video was not unlawful, the failure to list it in his employment application submitted five years later to the department was inadvertent and meaningless. The arbitrator, however, ruled otherwise; that it was "deliberate."

Verdugo's original attorney, Alberto Milian, commented that "the Hollywood police department appears to operate on a parallel universe that's oblivious to social evolution."

Verdugo's suit is seeking to vacate the original arbitration award, as well as to allow him to seek damages against the city and officials who brought the action against him. They have said they will vigorously defend the case.

Castrataro acknowledged that "overturning the ruling of a duly appointed arbitrator after a hearing where both parties have previously submitted to final binding arbitration is a very difficult legal threshold but we hope to meet it and find justice for Mike."

Cliff Dunn has over 20 years of broadcasting and journalistic experience. He lives in Wilton Manors.