Investigation into romantic relationships results in demotion of Yakima police captain

YAKIMA, Wash. - A Yakima police captain who is suing Chief Sam Granato and the city has been demoted in rank to sergeant following an internal investigation.

Capt. Rod Light, one of the top commanders in the Yakima Police Department, was informed of the decision Friday, his attorney said. The demotion includes an unspecified reduction in pay and benefits.

Light, a 24-year Yakima police veteran, was placed on paid leave in March after the city hired a third-party investigator, Bellevue-based Prothman Co., to look into Light's past romantic relationships with two female sergeants.

The investigation also focused on allegations that Light improperly removed a draft of his performance evaluation from the desk of Deputy Chief Kelly Rosenow and made a copy of it.

The city put Light on paid leave about nine months after he sued the city, alleging he was the victim of retaliation for reporting misconduct at the Yakima Police Athletic League in 2005.

City officials have not discussed the investigation of Light publicly, and did not return a call for comment Friday. City Manager Dick Zais also has refused to turn over a report on the investigation submitted to City Hall two months ago by the Prothman Co., despite four formal public records requests made by the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Sources familiar with the case said the decision to demote Light came after negotiations to get him to dismiss his lawsuit and retire broke down.

Light's attorney, Bill Pickett, said the investigation concluded the captain's admitted relationships with female subordinates didn't violate police department or city policies.

However, Pickett said the investigation did conclude that Light should be disciplined for taking his own draft evaluation from Rosenow's desk, and perhaps be prosecuted for theft.

Pickett scoffed at the notion of a theft charge and complained that city officials had previously counseled Light for his romantic relationships with the sergeants.

"None of this ever became an issue until Capt. Light sued them for retaliation," he said, vowing to amend the lawsuit to include new allegations of retaliation.

The demotion is the latest in a string of developments involving the police department and Granato's administration in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by fired officer Jeff Brownfield against the city and Granato.

A separate but related lawsuit by Brownfield is pending in Yakima County Superior Court, as are five other lawsuits brought by police officers against Granato alleging various retaliatory claims.

Most of the lawsuits stem from a supervisory problem at the Police Athletic League center in 2005 that led to a lawsuit against the city by a civilian employee who was mistreated by a now-retired officer. The city settled that suit for $200,000.

Meanwhile, Rosenow was recently forced into early retirement by Zais after a two-year tenure as the city's first deputy police chief that was marked by clashes with union officials and command staff.