Santa Barbara- S County

Former SMPD Officer Says Whistleblower Got Him Fired

Former SMPD Lt. Dan Ast is seeking re-instatement through arbitration.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A former Santa Maria Police officer says the Police Chief who fired him last  year is a law breaker.

The claim was made in the ongoing arbitration hearing of former SMPD Lt. Dan Ast who's fighting to get his job back.

Ast says his firing was more about retaliation for being a whistle-blower inside the Santa Maria Police Department than for his handling of the internal investigation of former Officer Albert Covarrubias Junior and his alleged sexual relationship with a then 17 year old Police Explorer Scout.

"Does this have anything to do with money sir?", asked the attorney for Dan Ast at his arbitration hearing Thursday inside the Santa Maria City Hall Council Chambers.

"No", Dan Ast replied.

"You just want your job back?", Ast' attorney asked.

"Yes", Ast replied.

In his testimony at his arbitration hearing in Santa Maria, former Santa Maria Police Lt. Dan Ast was asked by his attorney if he felt his firing last year was in retaliation for Ast being a whistle-blower in the department about concerns he had before and after the officer-involved shooting of on-duty officer Albert Covarrubias in January 2012.

"There were several officers who were suspected of having a reasonable suspicion there was an unlawful relationship going on between Covarrubias and Jane Doe", Ast responded.

"That was before the shooting?" asked Ast attorney Jonathan Miller.

"Yes", Ast replied.

Ast claims current Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin, who fired Ast last year,  is concealing information about Santa Maria Police Officers who Ast claims knew about Covarrubias's underage sexual relationship but never reported it as required by the state mandatory reporting law.

"Does he have a legal obligation under the Penal Code to tell the District Attorney about that?", asked Ast attorney Jonathan Miller.

"Yes he does", Ast said about current SMPD Chief Ralph Martin.

"And from this day, as far as you know and from his testimony, he (Martin) hasn't done so?", asked Ast attroney Jonathan MIller.

"Chief Martin has broken the law?", Miller asked

"It appears so", Ast responded.

"As well as the officers that still work for the city?", MIller asked.

"Yes." Ast responded

Under cross-examination by the attorney for the City of Sanrta Maria, Ast acknowledged he too never told the D.A. about his concerns involving Covarrubias.

It was also revealed that Ast took a stress leave and was under medication for suicidal tendencies in the aftermath of the Covarrubias shooting and the subsequent internal investigations that ultimately led to his termination.

The arbitration hearings for Dan Ast are expected to conclude on Friday.

It could be several weeks before the Arbitration Heariing Officer makes a final recommendation to the Santa Maria City Manager who will have the final say on whether Ast gets his job back.

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