A sheriff's lieutenant filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona, alleging Carona retaliated against him for supporting a rival in last year's race to be the county's top lawman.
In his 22 years in the department, Jeff Bardzik rose steadily, the lawsuit says, until he announced his support for sheriff's Lt. Bill Hunt's effort to unseat Carona.
As a result, the lawsuit alleges, Bardzik, 53, was transferred to an undesirable post far from his Mission Viejo home at the Fullerton courthouse — a treatment known among deputies as "freeway therapy."
Additionally, Bardzik alleges that Carona reneged on a promise to promote him to captain and later refused to consider him for jobs leading the sheriff's operations in San Clemente or Dana Point.
There's also an allegation of Carona loyalists strong-arming subordinates for campaign cash, which adds a little touch of variety to the lawsuit.
Bardzik says that in May 2005 a superior pressured him to donate $100 to Carona's reelection campaign. He said he reported to Assistant Sheriff Pete Gannon that the pressure was "unseemly."
Shorty afterward, Bardzik alleges, he announced his support for Hunt, and Carona sent a message through an intermediary that Bardzik should resign. In August 2005, Bardzik said, he met with Carona, who told him "the Bill Hunt thing didn't help" and again requested his resignation. "Remember, Lieutenant, you brought this on," Bardzik said Carona told him.
The sheriff's office had no comment on lawsuit.
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Bill Hunt, however, did have a comment for the Times. He called Bardzik "a guy of honor and integrity." Hunt added, "He's going to have a tough fight in front of him." Of course, a tough fight is something all too familiar to Hunt.