OAKLAND — An attorney who represents Oakland police officers is working to find out who leaked medical information about a police trainee, and said Wednesday that he plans to take legal action against the city over what happened.
The statements from attorney Michael Rains came on the heels of a KGO-Channel 7 television report Tuesday night that questioned whether Scott Valladon, the son of Oakland Police Officers Association President Bob Valladon, was given preferential treatment when he landed a spot in an ongoing police academy.
Among other things, the report cited a doctor's medical opinion that Valladon, 28, could be prone to seizures.
Rains said the disclosure of such information violates state and possibly federal medical privacy laws.
"I think Scott has been maligned," Rains said. "I think information that was not the city's to share was shared publicly. I think the city needs to pay and pay dearly."
Alex Katz, a spokesman for City Attorney John Russo, declined to comment except to say that it was "very unfortunate that this information became public."
An independent investigation was under way before Tuesday's report, meantime, into whether Valladon was given special treatment in the hiring process.
He began the police academy in May and is scheduled to graduate in late November. Questions about his fitness were raised in an e-mail written by deputy city attorney Vicki Laden earlier this year.
Laden's e-mail and a letter from a city physician were apparently given to Channel 7, which, over Russo's objections, included information about Valladon's medical fitness in its report.
Rains said he intends to sue Channel 7 as well as the city. Attempts to reach a producer at Channel 7 were not successful.
Both Russo and Laden were unavailable for comment Wednesday. But Laden, in a July 24 letter, blamed the leak on Assistant City Administrator Cheryl Thompson. The letter was addressed to Thompson's attorney, Martin Horowitz.
Thompson was put on leave for unrelated reasons earlier this month. Her employment with the city will be terminated Aug. 7. She was the closest City Hall adviser to former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly, who was fired July 1 amid allegations of interfering with a police investigation on behalf of a nephew.
Laden's letter said Thompson was one of two recipients of the e-mail in question and concluded that Thompson provided both the e-mail and the medical report to Channel 7.
The letter did not say who the other recipient was and did not cover the possibility that the e-mail may have been forwarded or printed out and given to other people.
Horowitz answered Laden's letter Tuesday by flatly denying Thompson gave the information to the press. Rains said he could not say who is responsible.
"The only thing I can say for sure is that information that should not have been public was shared," Rains said, adding, "The city of Oakland is responsible for doing that and is going to get sued."
Channel 7 reported Tuesday that a city physician said Valladon had a 7 percent chance of having a seizure in the next 12 months and 14 percent chance in the next 24 months. Police Chief Wayne Tucker said Wednesday, however, that other doctors have said Valladon is not at risk for a seizure.
Tucker declined to discuss Valladon's situation further, except to say that all trainees must clear physical and mental-health examinations before entering the academy.
Tucker said he requested the outside investigation about possible unfair influence after the matter was brought to his attention the first day of the academy.
The inquiry will be conducted by the Office of Independent Review in Los Angeles County.
Bob Valladon said he had no role whatsoever in his son's hiring. He said he didn't even know his son had taken the pre-academy written exam.
"I didn't even know he had taken the test," Bob Valladon said. "When he started applying for the OPD, I didn't even know he'd applied."
Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, the vice president of the police union and commander of the department's recruiting unit, said he voluntarily recused himself from "anything having to do with Valladon's hiring."
Harry Harris contributed to this report. Reach Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.