Former sheriff’s candidate Justin Fleeman files wrongful termination claim against county

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Justin Fleeman, a former chief deputy with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and once-candidate for sheriff, has filed a wrongful termination claim against Kern County.

In the documents obtained by KGET, Fleeman claims he was fired based on political retaliation.

“Chief Fleeman is, in fact, being fired because he ran against Sheriff Youngblood and lost.”

Justin Fleeman wrongful termination claim against county

“Chief Fleeman is, in fact, being fired because he ran against Sheriff Youngblood and lost,” read the document’s concluding paragraph, alluding to the 2018 election in which Fleeman challenged incumbent Sheriff Donny Youngblood. Fleeman lost his bid for the seat.

Roughly three weeks after the election, according to the documents, Fleeman said Sheriff Youngblood issued him a letter saying Fleeman was under investigation because of allegations he “disclosed confidential personnel information during the election.”

Fleeman has denied those allegations.

A few months later, Fleeman was placed on leave from KCSO, and was officially fired last May.

The claim goes into detail about the timeline from when Fleeman first filed for candidacy until present day. When Fleeman notified Sheriff Youngblood about Fleeman’s intention to run for sheriff, Youngblood replied that he felt “betrayed,” according to the documents. Furthermore, the claim goes into detail about Fleeman’s campaign, noting he accused Youngblood of letting deputies get away with inappropriate sexual conduct.

Following the election, Youngblood told KGET he thought Fleeman ran a dirty campaign aimed at ruining Youngblood’s name and the department’s reputation. KGET reached out to Sheriff Youngblood following Fleeman’s termination last May, but he directed us to county counsel Margo Raison.

“The matter involving Mr. Fleeman remains a confidential personnel matter; However, I am confident any action taken is fully supported by a thorough, comprehensive, and accurate investigation.”

Margo Raison, County Counsel

In a statement, Raison said, “The matter involving Mr. Fleeman remains a confidential personnel matter; However, I am confident any action taken is fully supported by a thorough, comprehensive, and accurate investigation.”

As this is not a lawsuit, the county can determine how it wishes to respond to the claim. Supervisors are set to review the claim Tuesday.

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