Judge rules KHSD cannot release personnel records of former lieutenant who investigated district’s use of police database

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Superior Court judge has ruled the Kern High School District cannot release the personnel records of a former lieutenant in the district’s police department as there was no “sustained finding” against him and he had no opportunity to file an administrative appeal.

The ruling marks a victory for Jerald Wyatt as the judge has found the former lieutenant’s personnel records are not subject be released to the media, which had requested records on district police officers that fell under a police transparency law that passed a year ago.

Wyatt emailed the following statement: “I was not surprised by the judge’s ruling, as he held true to his initial ruling, which followed the rule of law. I feel confident, along with my co-plaintiffs, that the remaining truths of our case will be unveiled in our upcoming civil trial, and those district administrators and police personnel involved will be held accountable for their actions.”

KHSD spokeswoman Erin Briscoe said the district does not comment on pending litigation.

Wyatt’s lawsuit against the district is part of a bigger issue — and another lawsuit involving multiple parties — in which Wyatt alleges administrators and others created a hostile work environment after an investigation conducted by him and other KHSD officers revealed thousands of illegal searches of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) database.

CLETS provides access to rap sheets, warrants, arrests and vehicle information. During the investigation, it was determined the district was running inquiries on employees, job applicants, students, parents and athletic competitors.

The investigation began in 2015 and, once complete, was handed off to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

Wyatt and Gilbert Valdez, the two officers assigned by former KHSD Police Chief Joseph Lopeteguy to investigate the alleged misuse of CLETS, have said the district retaliated against them through making secret records, threats of physical violence and denial of employment opportunities.

David Edmiston, the former acting police chief for KHSD, pleaded no contest to an eavesdropping charge in 2016 in connection with the case for secretly recording a conversation with one of his officers. He had faced four counts of eavesdropping, and the one charge he pleaded to was ultimately dismissed after he stayed out of trouble for a year.

The suit filed by Lopeteguy, Wyatt and Valdez against the district is scheduled for its next hearing on March 16.

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