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Police chief mulls defamation suit Jon Campbell | Fri, May 21 2010 09:18 AM

Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano called business partner Art Moreno's charges of fraud "malicious and false," and said he'll pursue a defamation lawsuit against him in response to the accusations.

"This is simply a civil suit between two business partners, for whatever reason he's bitter and disgruntled," said Bejarano.

The two men and their respective wives, Esperanza and Colleen, own a private security company called Presidential Security Services.

Moreno has accused the chief of fraudulently writing checks on the firm's bank accounts and claims he is violating city policy by holding ownership stake in a private security firm.

A letter to Moreno dated April 16 and signed by Bejarano's attorney Joseph Casas demands that Moreno withdraw formal complaints submitted to the Police Department and that he cease his allegedly "defamatory and harassing actions." The letter also says Bejarano "is aware that you (Moreno) are making similar (defamatory) statements to members of the local media," according to documents provided by Moreno.

Moreno said he was not worried about the prospect of a defamation suit.

"I've got proof, what does he have?" Moreno said.

At the heart of Moreno's complaint is an accustaion that Bejarano signed company checks without authorization to do so.

Moreno contends that when Bejarano was removed as president of the firm in August 2009, just before he was hired as the city's new chief of police, the bank removed him as an authorized signer on the company's accounts.

Bejarano claims that as member of the company's board of directors, he still had the legal right to use the company checkbook.

Email exchanges provided by Moreno show that Bejarano knew he had been removed from the accounts as early as September 2009, but continued writing checks through January, according to bank records.

Bejarano said while he may have been removed as an authorized signatory for the accounts, Moreno had no right to take such action.

"He had no authority, that's the issue, to remove me from the account... He had no authority and there was no official correspondence from the bank," Bejarano said.

The shareholder's agreement signed by the four board members makes no specific reference to who is authorized to sign checks, and the amendment that removed Bejarano as acting president also makes no mention of revoking his financial privileges.

Moreno reported what he considered to be improper activity to the bank's fraud department, and ultimately $2,273.58 was returned to the company following an investigation, according to bank correspondence provide by Moreno.

Bejarano also addressed Moreno's other charge, that by maintaining ownership in Presidential Security, Bejarano was violating city policy prohibiting police officers from having ownership in a private security firm.

"Before I was appointed I sat down with the city manager and the city attorney and disclosed my financial interest in the company," he said.

Bejarano also currently holds a license for a second company called Chief Private Security, according to documents from the California secretary of state, who regulates the industry.

Moreno said he believed Bejarano was trying to dissolve Presidential in order to take contracts for Chief's Private Security.

Bejarano, who has held the license since August of 2008, said he doesn't intend to actually start a business with that license and that he would let it expire this summer.

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