Wrongful Termination Suit Filed Against Woodlake Officials

On February 15 of this year Daniel Garibay was fired from the Woodlake Police Department after almost three years of commendable service. He was fired based on 12 counts of misconduct, the principal counts being insubordination and “committing acts that brought discredit to the Department.”

According to Garibay’s lawyers, Sarsfield and Melo, the counts of misconduct stem from an order given by the Woodlake Chief of Police Mike Marquez. Marquez ordered Garibay to stop seeing another Woodlake resident referred to in the case as Jane Doe. Garibay was also told to notify Marquez anytime he had contact with her.

Telling a subordinate with whom you can socialize “is a violation of the First Amendment,” said John Sarsfield.

Maggie Melo says there were numerous violations of Garibay’s rights and that he was unlawfully dismissed from his job. A suit for wrongful termination was filed with superior court on October 29. The hearing date is set for March 3, 2016.

Melo and Sarsfield allege that Garibay was actually fired in retaliation for his relationship with the wife of a friend of the Woodlake City Manager, Ramon Lara. Lara and Woodlake’s Mayor, Rudy Mendoza, responded to the accusations by saying they cannot comment on current litigation.

Named in the suit are Police Chief Mike Marquez, City Manager Ramon Lara, Police Lieutenant Jose Aguayo and Officer Jesus Mendez.

Garibay was hired by the Woodlake Police Department in May, 2012. During his tenure Garibay racked up many honors. He was named Officer of the Year three times, by the Knights of Columbus in 2013, by the Police Officers Association in 2012, and also by the Woodlake City Council in 2013. He received the Mothers Against Drunk Driving award twice for making the most arrests for driving under the influence.

“I was on a roll,” Garibay said. “I didn’t know I was going to go through this.”

Who Sent The Instagram?

It all started in September of 2014 when Jane Doe, an employee of the Woodlake Union School District, received an Instagram on her cell phone saying,

“Shut the **** up u whore go **** Simoni (pseudonym).

And suck up Hanson (pseudonym).

But really did u **** Garybae (sic.)

The message was sent to Jane Doe from a student’s phone that had been stolen earlier that day.

As a result of the Instagram message, the Woodlake Police Department began an inquiry into Officer Garibay’s personal life, but no investigation was done on Simoni or Hanson, who are teachers at the school. Nor was there an investigation into who sent the profane message to Jane Doe that set the events in motion to Garibay’s dismissal. No police report was taken regarding the stolen phone.

A few days later Chief Marquez and Woodlake Lieutenant Aguayo conducted what they referred to as an “Internal Inquiry.” For the inquiry they interviewed Garibay about his relationship with Jane Doe. Garibay told his superiors that they are close, but just friends. Garibay later told his lawyers that it was made clear to him during the inquiry that he was in trouble because Jane Doe’s husband is a good friend of Woodlake City Manager Ramon Lara, and not because he did anything against department policy.

“If you know what is good for you, you will knock it off,” Marquez told Garibay.

Garibay was disciplined as a result of the inquiry and was suspended for three days without pay. He was also ordered verbally by Marquez to cease all contact with Jane Doe.

According to Melo and Sarsfield, it is against the Police Officer Bill of Rights to discipline an officer without an official Internal Affairs investigation, and that the so called “internal inquiry” does not exist in standard police procedure. They also say chiefs of police do not have the right to tell their subordinates with whom they can socialize.

Garibay was told to remove his uniform and leave all of his gear.

After his three day suspension without pay in October, Garibay was hoping that the issue was over. But on November 12 he was called into Chief Marquez’ office again and told that a formal Internal Affairs investigation had been initiated. On December 10 Garibay was put on paid administrative leave.

Aguayo was assigned as the Internal Affairs investigator for the case and proceeded to interview the Woodlake police force and numerous members of the Woodlake community. Community members such as Jane Doe’s pastor, coworkers and husband were asked if they knew if Garibay was having an affair with Jane Doe, or if they knew there was a sexual/romantic relationship between them, according to the investigative report.

The investigation revolved around Garibay deliberately disobeying a written directive from Marquez ordering Garibay not to see Jane Doe and to immediately report any contact with her. The investigation discovered that, since the so called directive, Garibay had been in phone contact with Jane Doe twice. It also was revealed that Jane Doe had left two bags of grapes for Garibay outside of her house on November 24 at 1am, a fact that was repeated a dozen times in Aguayo’s report.

Garibay says he was never given a written directive by Marquez, and Melo and Sarsfield explained that such a directive would have been unenforceable and is highly inappropriate.

Officer Mendez Testifies that Garibay Lied

One of the subjects interviewed in Aguayo’s investigation was Officer Jesus Mendez. Mendez reported that Garibay had lied to Chief Marquez during the initial inquiry back in September about the nature of his relationship with Jane Doe. It is based on this testimony from Mendez that a charge of dishonesty was included in the 12 counts against Garibay.

Mendez, who is married, failed to reveal to Aguayo material information that he had made a pass at Jane Doe during a police ride-along but was spurned. It is considered material information because his being rejected by Jane Doe could bias his testimony, according to law suit documentation.

Officer Mendez was transferred to Farmersville three months ago in a deal allegedly worked out with Woodlake Police Chief Marquez. Recently, while at a bar in Woodlake, commenting on the case to a group of women, Mendez said how Marquez either initiated, or they worked it out together, that he would leave the Woodlake Police Department to distance himself from the case, one member of the group told the Valley Voice. The woman said, Mendez’ alleged goal was to put himself in the clear. Mendez said that Garibay deserved what he got and that he never liked Garibay, she added. She also said that Mendez was nitpicking on Garibay saying that there is no way he could ever handle the position of detective.

The woman knew Mendez personally and felt Mendez was threatened by Garibay because he was good looking, young, talented and had the potential to quickly move up in the Woodlake Police Department, possibly promoted over Mendez.

Ironically, Mendez was engaging in one of the counts Garibay was fired for, which is speaking about the case to those not involved.

Chief Marquez was a former Lieutenant in the Farmersville Police Department before he was appointed as Woodlake Police Chief in 2012.

Is This Why He Fought for Our Country?

The Internal Affairs Investigation concluded that Officer Daniel Garibay was guilty of insubordination and misconduct.

What shocked Garibay the most was the charge of insubordination. After eight years in the military and taking orders from a wide variety of superiors, Garibay was never accused of insubordination. After going above and beyond the call of duty in serving his country he was dismayed that a United States Veteran could be treated so badly.

Garibay served two tours of duty, four years in Iraq and four in Afghanistan. During his service he received 11 medals, of which the combat infantry badge he is most proud.

“Not many people have those,” said Melo.

Garibay was part of the US army forces that retook Bagdad in 2005 and was also part of President Obama’s surge in 2009. He was honorably discharged with many letters of recommendation.

After leaving the military, Garibay decided to go into law enforcement because he wanted a job that made a difference. He enrolled in the College of the Sequoias Police Academy and graduated in the top five of his class. When he was hired by the Woodlake Police Department he soon decided that was where he wanted to retire. During his few years at the department he had other opportunities to leave but never made the jump. The Woodlake Police Department was close to home, the pay was good and he saw that he had the opportunity to move up.

But things didn’t work out that way. Since being fired Garibay has gone back to school and is currently enrolled in Reedley College getting his AA in Criminology. After Reedley he plans on finishing his education at Fresno State.

“I just want to clear my name and move on” said Garibay.

5 thoughts on “Wrongful Termination Suit Filed Against Woodlake Officials

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  1. Many of these officers who have higher ranks or higher city positions have took advantage of there positions and have disrespected the American law and should also be accounted for there actions. I am long time resident from woodlake and so are my parents , I have never seeing such immaturity in these men who hold these positions. And for officer Mendez to judge he to has had many affairs isn’t that why his wife left him.what someone does in his or her personal life is no one’s business unless he has not done anything wrong he should not throw the first stone. This officer should be put back on the force and his pay retro back with a settlement and these officers and Ramon Lara should be fine for running a town above the law they are a embarrassment to our town of Woodlake let’s get these type of people out before they ruin this town.

  2. Another corrupt police department just like Exeter PD. Who uses there power to set up officers to cover up there corruption and use them as scapegoats.

  3. Its not just woodlake, its all of tulare county. What a public person does during their off time is everyones business. All officers know they are supposed to live a life unsullied. A peace officer is a peace officer 24/7. It seems that every single person involved should be fired. They are all guilty of misconduct according to the article. There should be no law suit. There is a written code of conduct, a code of ethics, and different types of oaths each had taken. This whole investigation should be in the hands of a govt. Agency that conducts investigations on corrupt local government. They were not wrong for firing him, they just forgot to fire themselves.

    • I wonder what you must do for a living since you are all high and mighty. An officer is an officer 24/7 to a certain degree unless it’s time for a raise then he/she should be happy to have a job right?

  4. Hi,My Name Is Annette Castro The Mother of 2 Adult Special Needs Kids I As Mother Went Through The Same Thing Those Same Officers Went To My Neighfews House On 101 N Kern St In farmersville While In 2013-2014 He spend the night there to people who were there were my nephew lil Ricky and his girlfriend Hannah and there friend Makayla they had a little ping pong party young kids having fun in the courtesy of my nephews my son was drunk well passed out faded as they say these same cops busted in to the room my son was in asleep shout the door and beat the living crap out of him and gave my neighfews girlfriend hanana a ride back home cause she ran away from her fathers residence and told her if she ever speaks of this to anyone he take her to jail and banana was already crying for what they done to my son David Paul Castro Jr D.O.B 11/22/1993 And I believe he’s still getting reveng on my son David and jasmine castro they are still victims of police bruiltility he is in Atascadero for throwing a rock on the sidewalk he has been in there for 8 months he was also framed attracted by several inmates while incustudy and out of coustudy so is my daughter jasmine castro I cannot find her the last time I heard of her was when these criminal inmates robbed my daughters shoes then I came home called the 911 dispatcher 98 percentage they claimed my residence was either a abandent building or there were to busy to arrive which lead to a 2-3 hour delay so my son had to start defending himself and his sister jasmine castro becuase the law enforcement was not going to I came home called 911and ambulance that officer told the ambulance to leave and my kids do not need medical assistance I told that officer to get out of my way and stop telling the ambulance to leave becuase I am just going to call them right back until they take my daughter jasmine castro to the hospital and have the doctors and muses question here and final arrest the dangerous fugitive Miguel Lomeli and those gangbangers thiefs and drug addicts not only were there clothes,shoes and several vhs and dvd movies being stolen from us also these inmates attacked my kids and stalked me and a couple even attacked me there 1 lie for what they have done is to claim I stoled from them I am not a low life thief the reason I have there evidence in my possession is becuase as they would break into my home at 222 NW 1st Ave In Visalia Ca they would leave or drop there belongings behind trying to rush out of my home before I got back or my husband got home from work this police officer made it his point to go to the hospital with my daughter after he told my son and daughter they don’t need medical assistance right buddy your ok he also stayed by her bedsight for 2-3 hours making sure she does not say anything about she finally told and the got my son David and razzed him with sever high voyage in the chest he has moved several times from pre-trial to bob Wiley’s having inmates to continue to abuse him he is supported to be at acatesadero my daughter is straight kidnapped by this women here in goshen ca rv campgrounds called the wooden shoe 6504 Betty dr her name is Angela horseley two rv trailers ahead of me in a nice rv than

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