Long Beach council closes meeting in honor of late employee who sued the city over his firing

The City Council on Tuesday adjourned its Tuesday meeting in honor of a man who openly battled with the city for years in court, alleging his firing as an investigator for the commission that oversees police was in retaliation for speaking out against “pro-police bias.”

Councilman Roberto Uranga requested the meeting be closed in honor of two residents, and one of them was Tomas Gonzales, 74, who died Tuesday after a years-long battle with cancer.

Gonzales was an investigator for the city’s Citizens Police Complaint Commission. He was fired in 2006 and filed a lawsuit alleging retaliation in 2009. He settled in July 2019 for a sum of $775,000.

Over the course of a decade-long legal battle, the city said he was fired for unethical conduct, an allegation he denied.

Gonzales, meanwhile, said the commission was reluctant to bring forward and investigate complaints against police by people of color.

Toward the end of his life Gonzales remained critical of the CPCC and fought to share his story and why he felt it necessary to take a stand against the city. He railed against the use of the “no further action” designation of complaints received by the commission, which he said was understaffed and relied on information given to it by the city.

Gonzales’ accusations got renewed attention after widespread protests for racial justice last year. Commissioners on the CPCC even openly questioned its effectiveness. In June, they did away with the “no further action” category Gonzales had so fiercely criticized.

Uranga, however, said he wanted to close the meeting in honor of Gonzales for personal reasons.

He said he knew the Gonzales family for over 30 years and even served as the best man in Gonzales’ brother’s wedding. He described Gonzales as loyal and as “the partner you’d want if you got into a fight, but also the guy you wanted to celebrate with after.”

“I know that [Gonzales’ time at the CPCC] didn’t pan out as well as he would’ve liked but he was a friend to me,” Uranga said. “The bottom line is we settled and once it’s settled it’s case closed.”

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