Mike Verdugo Fired for Gay Porn Role? Or for Complaining About Harassment by Hollywood PD?

The Mike Verdugo case isn't quite as simple as the Sun-Sentinel makes it sound. Nor is it as simple as the Miami Herald made it sound last January.

Verdugo does not believe he was fired purely based on his having appeared in a gay erotic film prior to becoming a Hollywood cop. Rather, he suspects he was fired for having accused other Hollywood cops of harassing him in the months after they learned he was gay, a case that I described in a 2007 New Times article.

Confused? We'll let Verdugo clarify this after the jump.

Verdugo filed his complaint for discrimination based on sexual orientation in February 2007 and says, "It was downhill from there. I was the first openly gay Hollywood police officer, and suddenly everything changed."

Shortly after filing that complaint, Verdugo was demoted from his post on an undercover drug trafficking operation.

Although his law enforcement career was suffering, Verdugo's interior design career was booming. In 2008, he earned a berth on an HGTV reality show, Design Star. A viewer of that show apparently recognized Verdugo from an appearance Verdugo made in a gay bondage film roughly a decade earlier -- before he'd become a Hollywood cop.

When that story hit the blogs, Verdugo was removed from the show. And in January 2009, he was fired from his job as a Hollywood cop -- based on what the department claims was his failure to list the 15-minute role on his police application under "previous employment."

To clarify, then: Verdugo says he suffered discrimination by his supervisor while working as a Hollywood cop. But he believes that the recent actions by Hollywood police administration are retaliation not for his role in gay porn but for his role as a whistleblower.

All the same, Hollywood police officials find themselves in the awkward, seemingly indefensible position of trying to justify a decision to fire Verdugo on moral grounds. "They're doing and saying whatever they can," says Verdugo, who says that during hearings, Hollywood police attorneys have argued that Verdugo "has no morals."

But if morality were truly the issue, says Verdugo, then Hollywood 
police attorneys would not be offering to drop a claim against his police officer's certification. Verdugo says the department has offered to do so if he will drop his civil suit against it.

It's clearly a bizarre and petty case for Hollywood police to pursue -- and they're doing so at a high price. The administration, which will not comment publicly about the case, took the rare step of challenging the settlement by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which ruled in May that Verdugo should keep his certification as a cop. That means that tomorrow, Hollywood police officials and their attorneys will fly to Tampa to make their case before the FDLE -- all at taxpayer expense.


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