Claim Rejected, APD Officer Preparing Lawsuit Against City

Thursday, January 31, 2013
Stonebarger3

APD Officer Kevin Stonebarger. Photo by Terrence McNally | Arcata Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

CITY HALL – The City of Arcata may face a lawsuit from an Arcata Police officer who claims the department has it in for him.

At its last meeting, the City Council rejected a claim for damages from Officer Kevin Stonebarger, asserting that actions of Chief Tom Chapman and Lt. Bart Silvers caused him lost earnings, wages, benefits, embarrassment, annoyance, emotional distress and more.

The claim has to do with Stonebarger’s termination as a firearms instructor at College of the Redwoods’ Law Enforcement Academy last fall, which Stonebarger, through his attorney, Peter Martin of Eureka, claims was due to improper communication by APD Chief Tom Chapman and Lt. Bart Silvers.

The council’s claim rejection lays the groundwork for a civil lawsuit against the City which Stonebarger said will “look a lot different than the claim.”

Within the rejected claim are internal personnel documents, the like of which are rarely seen publicly due to their confidential nature.

The troubles began last Feb.  22, when Stonebarger, then serving as the Arcata Police Department’s member of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force (DTF), went to lunch with other agents at the Pho Thien Long restaurant in Eureka.

Chapman assigned Silvers to conduct an internal investigation over the matter. Statements from multiple participants depict a heated confrontation, with variations.

About 20 minutes into their meal, Stonebarger noticed a tow truck backed up behind a truck which had been driven there and parked in a numbered space at Seventh and F streets by another DTF member, Agent Blake Massaro.

According to statements from participants, Stonebarger, Massaro and another agent then rushed out of the restaurant to confront the tow truck driver, Leroy Hoffman, and the individual who had rented the parking space, Kevin Sweet. Sweet is the owner of nearby Partrick’s Candy.

Statements made by Hoffman and Sweet depict Stonebarger’s behavior during the confrontation as inappropriate.

An argument ensued over the pending tow. Several witnesses state that Stonebarger flashed his badge and loudly claimed that the vehicle was there on police business. Massaro displayed his badge as well, but Stonebarger apparently took the lead in taking Hoffman and Sweet to task.

Stonebarger, according to accounts, expressed concern about guns and other police gear in the truck and demanded that it not be towed. Hoffman said he tried to defuse the escalating tensions by extending his hand to Stonebarger, but that he refused to shake it and told him he was in “a lot of trouble.”

Hoffman said he told Stonebarger he didn’t have to yell, and Stonebarger told him not to make fun of his “disability.” Others said Stonebarger was talking loudly because of the noise the tow truck was making.

Possibly exacerbating the confrontation was Sweet, who, fed up with people using his parking space, demanded that Stonebarger identify himself and used his phone to record the clash. He stated that Stonebarger said he would “throw [him] in jail” for recording the incident.

Sweet called 911 and two Eureka Police officers were dispatched. Sweet also had heated words with Massaro.

Stonebarger’s version of events casts his involvement in a more conciliatory light. He states that he was trying to resolve the situation quickly lest it spiral out of control. He says that he was concerned for the security of the vehicle to be towed as “tow companies do not employ the most honest or law-abiding citizens.”

He said he took control of the situation because he was the senior officer on the scene, had been admonished for “failure to act” during his service with APD.

Hoffman said that as the officers returned to the restaurant following the confrontation, someone in the group “said something about there being a lot of windows in that candy store.” He said he thought Stonebarger said it, but he wasn’t sure.

Hoffman later called Chapman to advise him to talk with the officers and counsel them about the bad impression they were making.

Silvers’ investigation, dated March 28, 2012, found multiple violations by Stonebarger, including use of his status as an APD officer to gain influence, discourteous treatment of the public, unauthorized use of a badge and exceeding peace officer powers.

On June 25, Chapman endorsed the findings and removed Stonebarger from DTF duty, saying that “the evidence clearly shows that Officer Stonebarger was rude and antagonistic. Further, Officer Stonebarger exceeded his lawful peace officer authority when he threatened to arrest Leroy Hoffman and Kevin Sweet.”

An Aug. 28 “Skelly Response” – a review of pending disciplinary action  on behalf of Stonebarger from San Francisco attorneys Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick, Miller & Johnsen – states that “it is clear that Officer Stonebarger acted appropriately by ensuring that the people on scene knew that they were law enforcement officers and that the truck is a law enforcement vehicle and needs to be secured immediately. Officer Stonebarger acted professionally in a stressful situation.”

The document deconstructs the statements of Sweet and Hoffman as “unsupported fantasy.” It states that Sweet’s credibility is “beyond repair” and that his testimony should be ignored. It says that Hoffman’s statements are “unbelievable and conflict with all other witnesses on the scene. The response cites Sheriff Mike Downey as saying that Stonebarger “did a great job (referring to the parking incident).”

Concludes the response, “Officer Stonebarger should not be disciplined in any way.”

But on Sept. 7, Chapman issued a “Notice of Disciplinary Action, detailing contradictions in Stonebarger’s testimony, stating that Stonebarger has no documented hearing impairment justifying his loud voice and  “admittedly abrasive” behavior.

“I continue to have concerns of your ability to perform within departmental expectations and represent the department in the manner necessary in this assignment,” Chapman states, removing Stonebarger from his DTF assignment.

Chapman goes on to praise Stonebarger for “many talents and contributions you have made to the department.” It also notes that Chapman had previously counseled Stonebarger over concerns about “your interpersonal communications and judgment.”

The Notice states that Chapman had made Stonebarger’s service on the DTF conditional on more-frequent-than-usual 90-day performance reviews and on resolving standing disputes he had with two DTF agents.

“To my dismay, the incident above occurred within only six weeks of you assuming the DTF assignment,” Chapman wrote.

Stonebarger, who has been on medical leave since August when he sustained an on-duty injury, is still a member of the Arcata Police Department.

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22 Responses to “Claim Rejected, APD Officer Preparing Lawsuit Against City”

  1. Great job Chief Tom Chapman, As we ALL know or should know by now, taking pictures of the police is 100% legal and as of mid November 2012, SCOTUS declined to hear a case from Illinois effectively making the video and AUDIO recording of the police also 100% legal. I know for a FACT that Chief Chapman, knows this and expects his officers to follow the law as it applies to filming the police.

    Stonebarger is a bad apple and is spoiling the entire bunch. It is time to let him go.

    http://www.examiner.com/article/supreme-court-silent-on-legality-of-videotaping-police-illinois

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Cook County state's attorney Anita Alvarez that allows the enforcement of an Illinois law criminalizing the recording of police officers while on duty.

    "On May 8, 2012, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago sided with the ACLU, ruling that audio or audiovisual recording of police is indeed constitutionally protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. The majority reasoned:

    "the State’s Attorney relies on the government’s interest in protecting conversational privacy, but that interest is not implicated when police officers are performing their duties in public places and engaging in public communications audible to persons who witness the events. Even under the more lenient intermediate standard of scrutiny applicable to content-neutral burdens on speech, this application of the statute very likely flunks. The Illinois eavesdropping statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests; as applied to the facts alleged here, it likely violates the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-press guarantees."".
    "

    #64974
  2. Great job Chief Tom Chapman, As we ALL know or should know by now, taking pictures of the police is 100% legal and as of mid November 2012, SCOTUS declined to hear a case from Illinois effectively making the video and AUDIO recording of the police also 100% legal. I know for a FACT that Chief Chapman, knows this and expects his officers to follow the law as it applies to filming the police.

    Stonebarger is a bad apple and is spoiling the entire bunch. It is time to let him go.

    http://www.examiner.com/article/supreme-court-silent-on-legality-of-videotaping-police-illinois

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Cook County state's attorney Anita Alvarez that allows the enforcement of an Illinois law criminalizing the recording of police officers while on duty.

    "On May 8, 2012, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago sided with the ACLU, ruling that audio or audiovisual recording of police is indeed constitutionally protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. The majority reasoned:

    "the State’s Attorney relies on the government’s interest in protecting conversational privacy, but that interest is not implicated when police officers are performing their duties in public places and engaging in public communications audible to persons who witness the events. Even under the more lenient intermediate standard of scrutiny applicable to content-neutral burdens on speech, this application of the statute very likely flunks. The Illinois eavesdropping statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests; as applied to the facts alleged here, it likely violates the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-press guarantees."".
    "

    #66149
  3. Great job Chief Tom Chapman, As we ALL know or should know by now, taking pictures of the police is 100% legal and as of mid November 2012, SCOTUS declined to hear a case from Illinois effectively making the video and AUDIO recording of the police also 100% legal. I know for a FACT that Chief Chapman, knows this and expects his officers to follow the law as it applies to filming the police.

    Stonebarger is a bad apple and is spoiling the entire bunch. It is time to let him go.

    http://www.examiner.com/article/supreme-court-silent-on-legality-of-videotaping-police-illinois

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Cook County state's attorney Anita Alvarez that allows the enforcement of an Illinois law criminalizing the recording of police officers while on duty.

    "On May 8, 2012, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago sided with the ACLU, ruling that audio or audiovisual recording of police is indeed constitutionally protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. The majority reasoned:

    "the State’s Attorney relies on the government’s interest in protecting conversational privacy, but that interest is not implicated when police officers are performing their duties in public places and engaging in public communications audible to persons who witness the events. Even under the more lenient intermediate standard of scrutiny applicable to content-neutral burdens on speech, this application of the statute very likely flunks. The Illinois eavesdropping statute restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests; as applied to the facts alleged here, it likely violates the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-press guarantees."".
    "

    #66992
  4. Kyle Jensen

    Wow… what a jerk.. If this situation created by Stonebarger is considered acceptable then we have a serious problem in Humboldt! Since he is a police officer he can park wherever he would like with no consequences? Threatening hard working members of the community with arrest and jail because they are doing their jobs? Very ironic that they claim that the tow people are dishonest when they call them every time they tow an individuals car… If a police officer flashes his badge to avoid a fee, fine or tow then they should have their badge taken away! Completely unacceptable behavior for a police officer.

    #64976
  5. Kevin Hoover

    Think about passing judgment on someone based on a newspaper story. It's probably not advisable.

    #64978
  6. Kevin Hoover

    Think about passing judgment on someone based on a newspaper story. It's probably not advisable.

    #66150
  7. Kevin Hoover

    Think about passing judgment on someone based on a newspaper story. It's probably not advisable.

    #66993
  8. Kyle Jensen

    I've personally seen him dealing with individuals on the plaza. He has an abrasive personality and comes off as rude when handling situations. This article just confirms my personal opinion. Do you want police officers flashing their badge at you for a parking spot Mr. Hoover? Using ones position as a police officer to get preferential treatment? Is that acceptable in your eyes? These cops came into Eureka to EAT LUNCH at the Pho restaurant. How is this official police business? Then they threaten a business owner of a town in which they are not even active police officers!!! Then he is rightfully punished but then decides to sue the city of Arcata for damages? This article which appears to have been edited by you screams that this guy is a jerk. If you think that this article is inaccurate though (As most news stories are), please elaborate.

    #64979
  9. Kevin Hoover

    If you believe that "most new stories" are inaccurate, then it would probably be wise not to form judgments around them. Someday I might write an inaccurate story about you, and you will expect the same courtesy.

    #64980
  10. Kevin Hoover

    If you believe that "most new stories" are inaccurate, then it would probably be wise not to form judgments around them. Someday I might write an inaccurate story about you, and you will expect the same courtesy.

    #66153
  11. Kevin Hoover

    If you believe that "most new stories" are inaccurate, then it would probably be wise not to form judgments around them. Someday I might write an inaccurate story about you, and you will expect the same courtesy.

    #66996
  12. Bill Harmon

    Get rid of the thug and restore some respectability back in the APD.
    He apparently thinks he has legal power regardless where he goes.
    That right there shows both stupidity and a lack of common sense.

    #64995
  13. Bill Harmon

    Get rid of the thug and restore some respectability back in the APD.
    He apparently thinks he has legal power regardless where he goes.
    That right there shows both stupidity and a lack of common sense.

    #66151
  14. Bill Harmon

    Get rid of the thug and restore some respectability back in the APD.
    He apparently thinks he has legal power regardless where he goes.
    That right there shows both stupidity and a lack of common sense.

    #66994
  15. Kevin Hoover You make a fair point but don't expect a great deal of respect for thug "above the law" cops.

    #66154
  16. Kevin Hoover You make a fair point but don't expect a great deal of respect for thug "above the law" cops.

    #66997
  17. If you got rid of every thug, there'd be almost no police left at all.

    #66155
  18. If you got rid of every thug, there'd be almost no police left at all.

    #66998
  19. Nor Cal

    As long as the rich HSU students are around this will be a bigger and bigger problem they don’t care there from the filthy rich,, there are far better communities in other state’s without 28 billion in debt.. I just got thrown into the street into traffic 4 Mondays ago spit on by Lisa Simmons, s! here boy friend Dillon is a Coward,, so he called her.. this after Lisa harassed a mentally ill person I care for… named Theresa.. The police did nothing but, tell me get walking,, mind you I have lived there over 10 years,,,,, were as Lisa was a homeless bum…. I think most the bars should be closed Toby and jack draws trouble transients drunks,, not classy a drunk drug hole…. I.am in the process of suing the officers and the city,,,,, for allowing this felony to happen to a good to a citizen me….. I could have been killed. your wrong Arcata dangerous, unless you like brutal stupid police.. and I called the sargent of Arcata police back and still nothing.. I will get this done sick of Arcata your dead wrong here so my name is Russell,, are you going to do something? agian Lisa Simmons almost killed me I have doctor reports to back it up Dillon drive a white older Toyota picture with idaho plate endangering you all because all he dose is drink and work drinks at Toby and Jacks even before he was twenty.. lisa posted all this on face book she has a kindle fire smart phone and last I new a lap top. he had told me Sal’s he owns 4 bar.s Dillon and Lisa said the owner Sal was ok with that drinking under 21 they were tight Dillon said of course he is now 21. her 26. screwing with me a 55 year’s wanting drunks of the road since my son died by one like him a wannabe hippie pushing me into traffic,, spiting on me, I now have and eye infection and and opthamologist doctor to prove it yet the Arcata police let this happen spit from here filthy mouth,, let.s see if the cops arrest her..IF NOT I WILL MAKE A CITIZENS ARREST AND HAND CUFF HER WHAT AND INSULT!

    #65422
  20. Nor Cal

    As long as the rich HSU students are around this will be a bigger and bigger problem they don’t care there from the filthy rich,, there are far better communities in other state’s without 28 billion in debt.. I just got thrown into the street into traffic 4 Mondays ago spit on by Lisa Simmons, s! here boy friend Dillon is a Coward,, so he called her.. this after Lisa harassed a mentally ill person I care for… named Theresa.. The police did nothing but, tell me get walking,, mind you I have lived there over 10 years,,,,, were as Lisa was a homeless bum…. I think most the bars should be closed Toby and jack draws trouble transients drunks,, not classy a drunk drug hole…. I.am in the process of suing the officers and the city,,,,, for allowing this felony to happen to a good to a citizen me….. I could have been killed. your wrong Arcata dangerous, unless you like brutal stupid police.. and I called the sargent of Arcata police back and still nothing.. I will get this done sick of Arcata your dead wrong here so my name is Russell,, are you going to do something? agian Lisa Simmons almost killed me I have doctor reports to back it up Dillon drive a white older Toyota picture with idaho plate endangering you all because all he dose is drink and work drinks at Toby and Jacks even before he was twenty.. lisa posted all this on face book she has a kindle fire smart phone and last I new a lap top. he had told me Sal’s he owns 4 bar.s Dillon and Lisa said the owner Sal was ok with that drinking under 21 they were tight Dillon said of course he is now 21. her 26. screwing with me a 55 year’s wanting drunks of the road since my son died by one like him a wannabe hippie pushing me into traffic,, spiting on me, I now have and eye infection and and opthamologist doctor to prove it yet the Arcata police let this happen spit from here filthy mouth,, let.s see if the cops arrest her..IF NOT I WILL MAKE A CITIZENS ARREST AND HAND CUFF HER WHAT AND INSULT!

    #66152
  21. Nor Cal

    As long as the rich HSU students are around this will be a bigger and bigger problem they don’t care there from the filthy rich,, there are far better communities in other state’s without 28 billion in debt.. I just got thrown into the street into traffic 4 Mondays ago spit on by Lisa Simmons, s! here boy friend Dillon is a Coward,, so he called her.. this after Lisa harassed a mentally ill person I care for… named Theresa.. The police did nothing but, tell me get walking,, mind you I have lived there over 10 years,,,,, were as Lisa was a homeless bum…. I think most the bars should be closed Toby and jack draws trouble transients drunks,, not classy a drunk drug hole…. I.am in the process of suing the officers and the city,,,,, for allowing this felony to happen to a good to a citizen me….. I could have been killed. your wrong Arcata dangerous, unless you like brutal stupid police.. and I called the sargent of Arcata police back and still nothing.. I will get this done sick of Arcata your dead wrong here so my name is Russell,, are you going to do something? agian Lisa Simmons almost killed me I have doctor reports to back it up Dillon drive a white older Toyota picture with idaho plate endangering you all because all he dose is drink and work drinks at Toby and Jacks even before he was twenty.. lisa posted all this on face book she has a kindle fire smart phone and last I new a lap top. he had told me Sal’s he owns 4 bar.s Dillon and Lisa said the owner Sal was ok with that drinking under 21 they were tight Dillon said of course he is now 21. her 26. screwing with me a 55 year’s wanting drunks of the road since my son died by one like him a wannabe hippie pushing me into traffic,, spiting on me, I now have and eye infection and and opthamologist doctor to prove it yet the Arcata police let this happen spit from here filthy mouth,, let.s see if the cops arrest her..IF NOT I WILL MAKE A CITIZENS ARREST AND HAND CUFF HER WHAT AND INSULT!

    #66995
  22. Knew stonebarger personally and I think like most people that he is arrogant and unprofessional.

    #70644

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