A jury this week awarded $233,000 to a Golden Beach police officer who said she was fired for blowing the whistle on misconduct within the department.
Tammy Valdes had complained about harassment from a supervisor, as well as officers “double dipping” by working off-duty security jobs while on duty.
A former detective, Valdes was demoted and at one point was assigned to watch a sinkhole for an entire day, she alleged. She was fired in retaliation in November 2009, according to a lawsuit filed by attorneys Michael Feiler and Martin Leach.
An eight-person jury on Wednesday awarded her $158,000 in back pay, plus $75,000 for pain and suffering. Golden Beach must also pay her attorneys’ fees. Valdes can also return to her job.
“It’s obvious Golden Beach was being run like a lawless town out of the Old West,” Feiler said. “The jury sent the message that this type of behavior is not acceptable in the 21st century.”
The eight-day civil trial featured testimony from a host of city officials and employees, including former police chief Jim Skinner.
The allegations of double dipping resulted in the arrest last year of three Golden Beach officers, who are awaiting trial on charges of grand theft and organized scheme to defraud. The tiny town, located on a 1.3-mile stretch along A1A just south of the Broward-Dade line, had at the time 19 full-time sworn officers.
An attorney representing Golden Beach, Jeffrey Hochman, said the town will consider an appeal.
“We were disappointed with the outcome obviously, and we’re going to look at our options,” Hochman said.