Suspended Upland Police Chief Darren Goodman is being punished for resisting the political interference of the mayor and a city consultant, Goodman’s attorney alleged in a letter to the City Council.
The city announced Monday that Goodman had been placed on administrative leave. Attorney Stephen G. Larson wrote the letter to the council members and Mayor Debbie Stone on Wednesday, June 24.
“We feel compelled to bring to the City Council’s attention the discriminatory, unscrupulous, unethical, and illegal conduct that has interfered with the Chief’s ability to do his job, and to expose the petty and meritless allegations being leveled against him,” Larson wrote.
The move is has been “driven by Martin Thouvenell and Mayor Stone’s anger for Chief Goodman’s refusal to play their political games; indeed, he has steadfastly resisted their efforts to make him a mere figurehead responsive to their personal directions and catering to their instructions,” Larson said.
Thouvenell is a former Upland police chief and later became a consultant to the city.
The City Council called a special meeting for Thursday at 2:30 p.m. to discuss “pending litigation” in closed session. The agenda does not mention Goodman by name. A rally in support of Goodman was scheduled for 2 p.m. outside City Hall.
An email was sent to Stone seeking comment for this story. A working telephone number could not be located for Thouvenell.
Goodman’s suspension came shortly after his secretary filed a claim against the city, alleging among other things that he created a hostile work environment. Luz Barrett went out on leave a day before Goodman had planned to demote her for poor performance, Larson wrote. Barrett is closely aligned with Thouvenell, Larson wrote.
Goodman, a resident of Riverside, served 27 years in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department before coming to Upland in July 2018 — and had to deal with city politics “from the moment he took office,” Larson wrote.
Thouvenell made it clear to Goodman that to remain chief, he had to agree to political and improper expectations dictated by Thouvenell, Stone and Jeannette Vagnozzi, the city manager at the time, Larson wrote.
Steve Bierbaum, a member of the watchdog group Upland Coalition of Concerned Citizens, said in an interview Thursday that he believes Goodman lost the support of Thouvenell and Stone when the chief restricted Thouvenell’s access to the department headquarters and the officers.
Larson addressed the allegation in his letter.
Thouvenell would enter the building using a key card that he was not authorized to possess and ask employees about department activities. Thouvenell would also request or direct them to send patrol officers to various locations, Larson wrote.
“Upon learning about this interference with the Police Department’s operations, Chief Goodman requested that Thouvenell refrain from acting as if he was still the Chief of Police. Chief Goodman then took possession of Thouvenell’s keycard,” the letter says.
Bierbaum said Thursday that he supports Goodman, who he credits with retaining officers who had planned to leave and effectively addressing the homeless issue.
“He reinvigorated the department,” Bierbaum said. “He’s the best thing that has ever happened to the city of Upland.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.