LOS ANGELES (CN) — It started as a feud between neighbors and erupted into an arrest on a charge of misdemeanor battery, garnering enough press attention to force a Beverly Hills School District president to temporarily step down.
Now former school board president Brian Goldberg has added another layer to the intrigue, claiming in Superior Court that Beverly Hills Police arrested him on a fabricated charge of assaulting an 18-year-old woman, because he’d called attention to a former police chief’s financial ties to a private security firm hired to patrol campuses.
The dispute has its roots in a March 9, 2015, incident in which a woman at his apartment building accused him of assault, Goldberg says in a March 9 civil rights complaint against the City of Beverly Hills and its Police Department.
At the time, Goldberg was president of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. He says the woman had previously caused disturbances at their building in the 200 block of Tower Drive and that he had merely bumped into her. But police told the Los Angeles Times that officers had seen injuries, and the woman complained of pain to her head and shoulder.
The woman accused Goldberg of dangerous driving in the building’s parking garage. She followed him into an elevator. Goldberg said he felt he was being held “hostage” when she held the elevator to stop it from moving, so he bumped past her to get out, according to the Times.
The woman, however, claimed Goldberg had shoved her once in the elevator, hurting her head, and pushed her to the ground as he left. But when officers arrested him, according to his complaint, they “should have known that the complaining parties … had a history of fabricating and asserting bogus claims of domestic-related conduct, and that video footage of plaintiff’s encounter with the purported victim existed corroborating plaintiff’s account while casting serious if not conclusive doubt on the purported victim’s veracity.”
Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli referred Courthouse News Service to police Lt. Lincoln Hoshino, who said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Goldberg told the Times that he had complained to law enforcement several times before the incident after hearing screaming and crying coming from the woman’s apartment.
“We have had bad blood with these neighbors for some time,” Goldberg told the Times for its March 10, 2015 story.
In his complaint for constitutional violations, Goldberg says the officers knew he was president of the school board and arrested him because he had “had called attention to and exposed the appearance of corruption and collusion involving the BHPD and Evidenced Based, Inc. (‘EBI’), a private security company. Among the acts plaintiff exposed were payoffs by EBI to the then-BHPD police chief, and the refusal of the BHPD to provide on-campus security services to the School District, a refusal that appeared calculated to force the School District to hire EBI for security services.”
Goldberg’s attorney Donald Cook said there were emails and canceled checks to support the claims that then-Police Chief David Snowden had received payments, including checks for consulting work.
“There’s quite a bit of circumstantial evidence,” Cook said. He added that Goldberg had “some major employment opportunities that got scuttled because of this.”
Snowden retired in 2015, but not before catching some heat for his ties to Evidence Based Inc. The Beverly Hills Courier reported in May that year that public records requests revealed thousands of pages of documents establishing that Snowden had worked as a consultant for the firm. The security firm’s CEO John McLaughlin said that Snowden consulted for the company from October 2012 until October 2014. A copy of his contract stated that he would be paid $2,500 a month for his work, the Courier said.
Goldberg says in his complaint that he had no prior criminal record and was well known in the community. Police officers charged him with misdemeanor battery. Typically that should lead to a quick release, he says, but police kept in jail overnight and released him the next morning at 8 a.m. with a citation.
The police “kept plaintiff in custody overnight to exploit the reputational harm and injury plaintiff would suffer as a result of this bogus arrest, an arrest defendants probably knew would (and did in fact) generate substantial publicity given plaintiff’s status,” the complaint states.
In a government claim for damages filed on Sept. 8, 2015, Goldberg says police notified the media that he was guilty and had struck the tenant. He says he lost a position as an executive director at the Keck School of Medicine, depriving his children of the opportunity for full scholarships at the school. Goldberg stepped down as president of the school district shortly after his arrest.
The police department later dropped assault and battery charges, he says.
In an email, Goldberg told Courthouse News that he had initially stepped down but was reinstated as board president after he showed surveillance footage from his building to other board members. He said he had completed his second 4-year term in December 2015.
Evidence Based is an Irvine-based firm founded by McLaughlin, a retired Irvine police officer. It won a $1.4 million, 18-month contract to patrol the schools’ campuses. The armed private cops were part of the firm’s Campus Safety program, created after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Orange County Register reported in late 2013. The Courier said the patrols included retired Beverly Hills officers.
Goldberg seeks general, special and statutory damages for violations of the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments, the California Constitution, and government misconduct under the California Civil Code.