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March 20, 2023

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Former Woodland police detective suing the city

Wrongful firing alleged after boss was reported

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter

A former Woodland police officer is suing the city, arguing that he was wrongfully fired for reporting his boss to the mayor for possible misconduct.

The Woodland Police Department fired former Detective David Plaza last month, capping off more than a year of internal acrimony between Plaza and his superiors. On Tuesday, Plaza filed a lawsuit against the city in Clark County Superior Court, asking for unspecified monetary damages.

The long-running dispute became public last spring when Plaza filed a tort claim against the city announcing plans to sue for no less than $2 million. At the time, he was on paid administrative leave, facing allegations that he had stolen a camera from the department. A Washington State Patrol investigation later cleared Plaza of those allegations, and he returned to work.

Plaza argued that he had actually been taken off the job in retaliation for reporting the then-interim chief, Sgt. Brad Gillaspie, to Mayor Grover Laseke for a number of possible misconduct allegations.

The suit filed Tuesday accuses Gillaspie of sexually harassing underage women and illegally searching cellphones. Plaza also alleges Gillaspie used racial slurs against him.

In August, Plaza filed a public records lawsuit against the city, seeking misconduct records and complaints against Gillaspie. In December, Plaza accused Laseke and former Chief Rob Stephenson of trying to cover up or destroy those records. Plaza’s attorney, Greg Ferguson, said a Woodland police sergeant held onto copies of the records after Stephenson allegedly ordered them destroyed. The sergeant, whom Ferguson did not name, held the documents for his own protection, he said.

Last year, the department kept Gillaspie on staff, moving him back to sergeant. When Plaza returned to the department, he worked directly under Gillaspie’s supervision, Ferguson said.

According to Plaza’s latest complaint, the department fired the detective after he ignored Gillaspie’s order to stop talking to a combative, intoxicated arrestee in a holding area.

A surveillance video shows Gillaspie talking to Plaza, Ferguson said. The footage was referenced to show a cause for firing Plaza, according to the suit. But Ferguson contends the city can’t prove what Gillaspie said to Plaza, because the video contains no audio.

Columbian Small Cities Reporter