Santa Clara has asked a federal court to postpone a final settlement meeting in a police department discrimination and retaliation lawsuit until mid-November. Even though the parties agreed on terms in May, a mid-November settlement means the details of what may be a million-dollar award won’t be released until after the election.
In 2020, Jacob Malae, a 22-year veteran of the department who is Samoan, was passed over for a promotion to Lieutenant despite being at the top of the promotion list. Police Chief Pat Nikolai told Malae that there had been a complaint that he was “threatening.”
Yet Malae had not been informed of any complaint. Nor had any investigation been done. Nor was there any formal documentation of this complaint — as required by state law.
Malae further alleged that police management retaliated against him for speaking about racism in the department by denying him overtime pay and alleged that the department also fired a good friend of Malae’s for, in essence, being Malae’s friend. In 2008, Malae also testified against an officer, who was subsequently fired, in a police brutality case.
The Santa Clara police union took no action to support Malae or his friend.
In 2021, Malae filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging systematic and pervasive discrimination against non-White employees for promotions.
The suit names elected Police Chief Patrick Nikolai and Police Captain Todd Cummins and asked for “not less than” $3 million in damages. On May 18, the parties announced that they had reached a settlement agreement and the judge set Oct.14 for a final settlement meeting.
The settlement is likely to be sizable. Just in the last two years, there have been multi-million-dollar awards in police department discrimination cases in Virginia and Maryland. Earlier this month a female pilot in the New Mexico State Police received a $750,000 settlement in a workplace discrimination lawsuit.
When asked why the City asked to postpone the hearing until November, the City Attorney’s Office replied that it cannot comment on pending litigation.
There’s a curious point of contact between this case and the 2020 eBay harassment case, where members of eBay’s security team — including two retired Santa Clara police officers, Brian Gilbert and Phil Cooke — conducted a harassment and cyberstalking campaign against Massachusetts publishers of an online business publication that criticized eBay.
Part of the plan was to create a fake “person of interest” to mislead law enforcement. This phony “person of interest” was a Samoan online troll, and was to be linked to gift cards purchased in Santa Clara that financed the harassment campaign. Part of the cover-up plan was lining up a “friendly” in SCPD they could “control.”
Gilbert and Cooke began discussing the cover-up scheme and the fake Samoan “person of interest” in mid-August 2019. The complaint about being “threatening” was made against Malae in September 2019.
In 2020, former City Manager Deanna Santana promised an investigation of whether the police department had been compromised. However, no investigation was ever pursued to anyone’s knowledge.