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Jury awards Newport officer $1.2 million in discrimination case [UPDATED]

March 17, 2009 |  1:50 pm

An Orange County jury voted today to award $1.2 million in damages to a Newport Beach police sergeant who sued the department, alleging that he was turned down for promotions because of his long history of reporting misconduct by fellow officers and because of false rumors that he is gay.

Neil Harvey, who has been with the department for 27 years, alleged that he was passed over for lieutenant despite having more experience and formal education than other candidates, and that former police Chief Bob McDonell never promoted anyone perceived to be gay.

Harvey’s attorney, Jack Girardi, said he and his client were pleased that the jury believed Harvey was mistreated. Girardi said Harvey was looking forward to returning to his job Wednesday.

“The one thing he’s always wanted to do is be a police officer,” Girardi said. “There’s a certain sense that this jury validated the reasonableness of the complaints he made. I guess that might make going back to work a little bit easier.”

McDonell’s successor, Chief John Klein, issued a statement saying he was glad to have the trial behind him so the department could return its full attention on protecting Newport Beach citizens.

“The Newport Beach Police Department is a strong, professional department that is appreciated by our citizens and highly respected by other law enforcement agencies,” he said. “That reputation has been earned by the many talented people in the department who are dedicated to this community.”

— Christine Hanley