KERN COUNTY, Calif. — A former Kern County Sheriff's candidate has filed a claim against the county saying he was retaliated against after he ran against and lost to the current Sheriff Donny Youngblood in June 2018.
According to documents filed in February, Chief Deputy Justin Fleeman claims there were several incidents that ultimately lead to an internal investigation and him being placed on paid administrative leave.
In the claim Fleeman says it all started when he notified Sheriff Youngblood in January 2018 that he was going to run against him. He says Sheriff Youngblood expressed at that time that he felt "betrayed."
Following several other incidents during the course of the campaign, Fleeman says on June 29, 2018 the Sheriff issued a letter notifying him that there was a pending internal investigation looking into allegations that he disclosed confidential personnel information during his campaign for sheriff. Fleeman says it was also alleged that he was dishonest during the political campaign.
In the documents, Fleeman says he spoke "in general about poor management, favoritism, sexual misconduct, misuse of public funds, and use of excessive force [at the department]." He says that he "never disclosed any names of officers nor did he expose anything that was not true." Fleeman states that the Sheriff knew the "accusations were false at the time he made them, but [the Sheriff] issued a letter anyways on account of his retaliatory animus toward Chief Fleeman running against him."
According to the documents, on September 20, Fleeman was placed on administrative leave. The claim states it was due to an "unspecified allegation and related [internal affairs] investigation."
As of March 12 Kern County Council says Fleeman remains on paid administrative leave.
The Kern County Sheriff's Office, when contacted for comment, told 23ABC that following policy they do not comment on pending litigation.
23ABC has reached out to Fleeman and his attorney for comment and have not yet heard back.