The City of Hollywood Police Department has agreed not to pursue a claim for legal fees against former cop, Mikey Verdugo. Verdugo had been fired by the City for allegedly concealing on his employment application that he had done a porn shoot prior to his hiring. Even though he served on the force for eight years afterwards, earning accolades and honors, the department terminated his services.An arbitrator then upheld the firing.
Attorney George Castrataro appealed the ruling, but Circuit Court Judge John Bowman affirmed the decision last month. The City of Hollywood then sought legal fees and court costs against Verdugo, arguing his case “was without merit.”
In fact, Castrataro’s forceful argument in court dramatized how gays still face judicial bias against their actions and beliefs that straight employees would not face. But he acknowledged the “threshold test in overturning an arbitrator’s ruling is very difficult.”
Hollywood City Attorney Joel Cantor and their police chief, Chad Wagner, had argued the importance of maintaining discipline and rigidity in their hiring practices. In the past few years, a number of their personnel had been arrested and convicted of falsifying records and being involved with drug deals.
In an editorial last week applauding Castrataro’s pro bono undertaking, SFGN stated that Hollywood was unjustly seeking a “pound of flesh,” and should stand down, promising a strong chorus of protest if they failed to.
“The accord reached by the City and Verdugo puts an end to their legal battles,” Castrataro stated. He noted that Verdugo prevailed earlier this year, in July, when the police training and standards board allowed him to retain his statewide certification, permitting Verdugo to still become a law enforcement officer anywhere in Florida.
Stated Norm Kent, who acted as Castrataro’s co-counsel on his court appeal,“We should applaud the city for coming to its senses. Mikey’s cause had merit. Gays still face subliminal and invidious discrimination in the workplace and people who champion fights against it should be saluted, not censured.”