The FBI is widening an investigation into the District Attorney’s Office to now include the city of Desert Hot Springs.
The FBI scrutiny revolves around a DA investigator and a Desert Hot Springs police officer who say they were wrongfully terminated.
Now, that investigation could put the city’s financial future in jeopardy.
Former Desert Hot Springs Sergeant David Gallardo was fired along with three officers because of a 2003 vehicle accident.
The accident that sparked the controversy started at the intersection of San Ardo and Verbena.
Off-duty Officer Norman Lindstrom’s motorcycle crashed into a woman’s car, but at the center of the controversy was the accident report.
Officer Jacques Million alleged that Gallardo and others filed a false report and conspired to make Lindstrom not at fault for the accident.
But court testimony obtained by NewsChannel 3 shows that Million was under investigation for allegedly molesting a 14-year-old girl.
Police Chief Roy Hill, instead, decided to give Million an immunity letter if he resigned and testified against the other four Desert Hot Springs officers concerning one minor traffic collision.
“To give that type of immunity letter is illegal,” says Gallardo. “He should have never been granted that letter and there should have been a through investigation conducted on him. In my opinion, if I was the handling investigator, from day one, I would have taken him into custody.”
DA investigator David McGowan began questioning Gallardo and others.
His report found the officers guilty, but McGowan’s former partner said he was forced to change his report after being pressured by his chief.
McGowan’s report left out key evidence of cell phone records, spray painted marks on the road, and crash scene pictures that could have helped Gallardo’s case.
Now, Gallardo is suing in an attempt to clear his name.
“Bottom line, no matter how you slice this up, they took an individual like Jacques Million who in my opinion is nothing more than a pedophile and they worked out a deal here and what they did is sacrifice four officers,” Gallardo says.
The city council already had to pay Gallardo and the other three back pay for violating some of their rights.
But if an ongoing FBI investigation uncovers a wider conspiracy, the city council may have to pay huge punitive damages if found liable.
Desert Hot Springs city manager Ann Marie Gallant says that the officers are free to exhaust any legal option they have.