Former Yakima police chief's legacy still felt through pending lawsuits

Former Yakima police chief's legacy still felt through pending lawsuits
YAKIMA, Wash. -- It's a legacy the City of Yakima hasn't quite shaken yet; lawsuits involving former police chief Sam Granato.

A Yakima County judge heard yet another case Tuesday from an officer claiming mistreatment and retaliation on the job under the former chief.

It's a reminder of the Yakima Police Department's controversial past.

"This case is based upon union representation and violation of city policies," said attorney Jim Davis.

Davis said his client, Yakima Police Officer Rich Fowler, was the target of retaliation when Sam Granato ran the department.

"He came after me," said Yakima police officer Rey Garza, in an interview with KIMA last year.

Garza made claims we've heard several times and eventually settled an earlier retaliation case with the city after years of litigation. Yakima's insurance company paid him thousands.

Fowler claims he suffered emotionally, physically and was denied promotions on the force.

"We thought on these specific theories, the law was very clear," said Mark Watson, who's representing Yakima in court.

An attorney representing Yakima argues that Fowler's claims are not justified. A judge will ultimately decide.

Officer Fowler's case is one of nearly a dozen highly publicized lawsuits involving the former Yakima Police chief.

Suits that have resulted in, one way or another, costs to taxpayers.

Nine of ten were filed by officers and one came from a volunteer.

Of those, the city settled five out of court. Three, including Fowler's, are pending.

So far, Yakima has won one case.

"Factually, this case is not complicated," Davis said.

But it can be costly. Yakima hasn't admitted fault in any of the cases settled but has paid $100,000 in insurance deductibles and more in attorney fees.

As for Fowler, his case is far from over.

"You're prepared to take this to trial?" KIMA asked.

"Oh, yeah," said Davis.

More time and more taxpayer dollars; it's a chapter of Yakima's past that current city leaders hope will never be repeated.

The attorney representing Yakima said Fowler is seeking a million dollars in damages.

KIMA tried to reach out to city leaders for an interview. Several council members and the city manager are in Washington D.C.

The judge is deciding which claims can move forward in Fowler's suit.