A former Lakewood police officer has filed a lawsuit against the Police Department, claiming he was wrongfully terminated.
The suit names Chief Bret Farrar and Assistant Chief Mike Zaro in addition to the department and the city. Police spokesman Chris Lawler declined to comment today on the litigation.
Victor Celis, 44, was a member of the force for six years before resigning in November 2010 after being investigated for an alcohol-related incident at an Oktoberfest celebration in Leavenworth.
He was placed on administrative leave after the incident and resigned to avoid being fired.
Celis’ lawsuit claims the chiefs retaliated against him after he complained to them that he lost a promotion due to his ethnicity.
“After having this discussion with Asst. Chief Zaro, the demeanor of each of the chiefs changed toward the plaintiff,” the suit says. “The terms and conditions of (Celis’) employment became increasingly hostile.”
The former officer contends white officers charged with crimes were treated more favorably than Latino officers.
Celis argues that his job evaluations listed him as superior and points out he was never charged with a crime.
An internal investigation was launched in October 2010 after Celis got into a heated argument with his wife at Oktoberfest. When Chelan County sheriff’s deputies checked in on the situation, Celis was allegedly uncooperative and at one point pulled out his badge to defuse the situation.
Deputies called Lakewood police to verify he worked for the department, and Celis reported the incident to his superiors the following Monday, which is department policy.The Internal Affairs investigation found that Celis exhibited conduct unbecoming an officer, Farrar has said.
The suit says Farrar gave Celis the option to resign or be fired.
Celis is asking for back pay and money for “other economic damages.”