Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta public safety director seeks court diversion for criminal charges

Trustees approve decision to reclassify his position

Update 9/21/2023: The pretrial hearing has been rescheduled. On Sep. 20, The Superior Court of Alameda County informed The Citizen that the “there is a Pretrial Hearing on 10/03/2023 at 9:00 am for this defendant for Diversion withdrawn.”

Tim Thomas, the Executive Director of Public Safety for the Peralta Community College District, is requesting a court diversion in an attempt to avoid criminal charges and his case being heard in court. Thomas, formerly classified as the Director of Public Safety, received a position reclassification in July, which added “Executive” to his title and increased his pay.

Thomas faces misdemeanor charges of battery, elder abuse, and grand theft that stem from a May 6, 2022 altercation with RV resident Tom Jensen, who was parked near district offices. 

A photo of the entrance to Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse
Entrance to Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse, where Tim Thomas’ diversion will be heard on Wednesday | Photo by Lylah Schmedel

In the Diversion Petition filed in Alameda Superior Court on Aug. 3, Thomas’ legal representatives, the Prather Law Group, argue that the court should grant the diversion as “an adverse finding or judgment could result in a suspension or other adverse employment action against him.” 

“This result would not just harm Mr. Thomas and his ability to earn a living, but the members of the District who rely upon him to keep them and the District safe,” the petition states.

Thomas also disputes the facts of the case and maintains his innocence, according to the petition.

Instead of going to trial, the petition requests that the court grant Thomas a six-month diversion in which he must obey all laws, comply with a stay-away order from Jensen, and complete eight hours of community service. In exchange, the charges against him would be dropped. 

During the original court hearing date for diversion on Aug. 16 that was ultimately rescheduled, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney, Mas Morimoto, stated to the judge that he suggests the court deny the diversion. 

The Citizen reached out to the DA’s office for comment as to why they were opposed to the diversion for Thomas, but did not receive a response in time for inclusion in this article.

The Citizen also reached out to Peralta spokesperson Mark Johnson via email to ask whether the district would take adverse employment action against Thomas, such as suspension or termination, or if they plan to maintain his employment if his case proceeds in criminal court. 

Johnson did not answer these questions, instead writing that Thomas’ position had recently been reclassified, from Director of Public Safety to Executive Director of Public Safety. The reclassification was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees during a closed session meeting on July 11, granting Thomas a pay raise to $176,690 annually.

“Leading Peralta’s Campus Public Safety department is a Herculean task and Mr. Timothy Thomas has been tireless in his efforts to keep students and employees safe on our campuses,” Johnson wrote in his email. He stated that he cannot comment on specific litigation.

Laney College’s Faculty Senate voted to censure Thomas in November of last year, raising concerns about adequate communication and the effectiveness of new safety procedures.

Thomas’ diversion petition states that he was a former peace officer and that “he served honorably and with distinction in that capacity for approximately 10 years.”

According to state employment records, Thomas served as a peace officer at Contra Costa Community College District (4CD) from 2009 to 2017.

The Citizen submitted a request to 4CD last year under the California Public Records Act for access to all legally disclosable records pertaining to reports, investigations, findings, and any administrative discipline made against Thomas.

Initially, 4CD determined that some of Thomas’ records were legally disclosable under Penal Code Section 832.7(b)(1)(C).

“There are records concerning allegations of the type of ‘dishonesty’ defined by the statute that resulted in sustained findings of misconduct and/or were pending at the time of Mr. Thomas’ resignation before the conclusion of the District’s investigation/appeals’ process into allegations of ‘dishonesty,’” Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, the Interim Chancellor for 4CD, wrote in an initial response

However, in a later response, 4CD reversed their determination, after further analyzing their records and seeking legal advice on the matter.

“None of the records from Mr. Thomas’ personnel file are subject to disclosure, as they do not fit the category of records required to be disclosed under Penal Code Section 832.7(b),” Mehdizadeh wrote.

When asked for further explanation, Mehdizadeh stated that “there was not any ‘sustained finding’ of the specified conduct outlined in Section 832.7(b)(1)(C), nor was there any of the types of dishonesty specifically described in the statute at the time of Mr. Thomas’ separation from the District.”

Thomas and his attorneys did not respond to any requests for comment in time for publication. 

Thomas’ request for diversion will be heard at a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Sep. 6 in Department 106 of the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. The judge will decide whether the diversion process is an appropriate remedy for this case or if Thomas’ fate is better determined by a jury.

About the Contributor
Lylah Schmedel, Managing Editor
Lylah Schmedel-Permanna is a Bay Area native and graduate from the University of California-Davis where she received her bachelor’s degree in Socio-Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on political structures. She is returning back to the community college system after having attended Las Positas College, where she was student body president in 2019. Lylah also has a strong background working in employment law and police misconduct law. She is passionate about uplifting voices in the Bay Area which has sparked her interest in becoming a journalist.
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