City council is expected Wednesday to discuss a confidential settlement in the 2013 killing of Jorge Ramirez, Jr. Since the start, his death has been surrounded in secrecy.
In a 2016 interview, former Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson addressed the inconsistency. Williamson said, “There’s much more to come that you don’t know about, and I think when we go to court on that issue that the truth will come out.”
But 17 News uncovered an out of court settlement specifically ordering the truth doesn’t come out.
Former County Counsel Theresa Goldner said, “The furthest that the public entity can go is to say we’ll agree in writing that is a public document that the settlement will be confidential except as otherwise prohibited by law.”
That law is the Public Records Act. meaning it will be kept secret, unless someone asks.
17 News requested the Ramirez settlement. City Attorney Ginny Gennaro wouldn’t confirm any action on the case, but says if and when there is a settlement, disclosure isn’t required until the city council approves it.
Goldner explains a possible reason for the secrecy. Goldner said, “There are some cases where the plaintiff’s attorney, the attorney that represents the person that is suing the entity, wants to keep the settlement secret. They don’t want people to know how much their client was paid and how much was paid in attorney’s fees,” said Goldner.
Another recent secret settlement, the officer-involved shooting death of James Villegas. That case was handled by the same attorney as the Ramirez case.17 News also requested that agreement from the city. It has a specific clause blocking public reporting of the settlement.
Goldner said, “It’s taxpayer money and taxpayers have the right to know how their money is spent.”
The Ramirez case is on the city council agenda Wednesday. The session is closed. We will continue to follow this settlement.
Below you’ll find details of settlements over $35,000 involving the Bakersfield Police Department dating back to 2010.