Mendota police "dirty laundry" revealed in court filings

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A police department soap opera is playing out as a former officer's fight to get records is revealing a small Valley department's dirty laundry.

"It's pretty rare for officers to lodge complaints against each other," said attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt.

Action News has uncovered previously confidential complaints involving at least five current or former Mendota police officers. The department re-opened in 2009 with just nine officers. The accusations went all the way to the top and the Mendota police chief who was put on leave last year before he retired a month later.

The Mendota Police Department was just getting off the ground when Martha Rodriguez trained for field officer duty in 2009. Six years later, she's out of that job and accusing the department of discrimination. Accusations that she slept her way up the ladder could've been the beginning of the end.

A recently fired officer said Rodriguez had a sexual relationship with a corporal. He claimed that corporal influenced Chief Jerry Galvin to ignore failing grades Rodriguez received during field training. But Rodriguez filed a complaint of her own, saying the officer who trained her was defaming her by leaking information from her private personnel file.

Although an investigation revealed Rodriguez was right, legal analyst Jeff Hammerschmidt says that's all the city is going to tell her.

"At the end of that investigation what will be revealed is simply whether it was concluded that it was a valid complaint or it wasn't, but not the specifics of the findings," Hammerschmidt said.

But Rodriguez wants more information to boost her discrimination claim and authorized the city to release the details of any investigations involving her.

Hammerschmidt says her complaint about another officer is part of that officer's personnel file and the city won't give it up until a judge orders them to do it. In the process, normally private disputes have gone public.

"I think when you have a small department such as the Mendota department, there's more of a chance of that happening then in a larger department like Fresno Police Department, but normally it's not made public," said Hammerschmidt, who is now a defense attorney, but once represented the Fresno Police Department.

Rodriguez was commended by Fresno County prosecutors for her work while she was a Mendota officer. She's now moved on to the Tulare County DA's office.

Mendota's city manager chose not to comment for this story and although we tried to contact all the officers in the complaints, we weren't able to reach any of them.

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