BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Former chief deputy and sheriff’s candidate Justin Fleeman has filed a federal lawsuit alleging violation of his First Amendment rights and political and whistleblower retaliation in his firing from the department last year.
The suit, filed against the county, sheriff’s office and multiple individuals including Sheriff Donny Youngblood, claims the county’s stated reason of firing him for disclosing confidential personnel information during the election is nothing but a pretext.
“Mr. Fleeman was, in fact, fired because he ran against Mr. Youngblood and spoke on matters of public concern, including sexual misconduct within the sheriff’s department and Mr. Youngblood’s failure to adequately address such conduct,” the suit says.
The suit seeks damages in an amount to be determined at trial.
Youngblood won re-election in 2018 by a large margin after the contentious race.
Following the election, the sheriff told KGET he thought Fleeman ran a dirty campaign aimed at ruining Youngblood’s name and the department’s reputation. Fleeman during the campaign accused Youngblood of allowing deputies to get away with inappropriate sexual conduct.
Fleeman has denied disclosing confidential information.
The suit says Fleeman engaged in protected political speech when he said that if he were elected sheriff he wouldn’t tolerate employees having affairs with the spouses of other employees. He never identified which employees were having affairs, according to the suit.