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Producers of ‘On Patrol with Santa Barbara PD’ File $1.25 Million Damage Claim Against City

Ira and Linda Distenfield allege breach of contract after the city halted filming over a compensation dispute

The production company that films On Patrol with Santa Barbara PD episodes has sued the City of Santa Barbara and filed a $1,251,000 damage claim alleging breach of contract after the city halted filming in December, partly through the show’s fifth season.

Ira and Linda Distenfield, owners of On Patrol with Santa Barbara PD Inc., allege the city extended their one-year agreement made in May 2010 to this year but halted filming without giving a 90-day notice.

On Patrol, the local Cops-esque show that follows police personnel on their calls for service, pays the city $1,000 per episode aired and $500 for each broadcast and, according to emails forwarded to Noozhawk by the Distenfields, the two parties disagreed over how much money was owed to the city and when, which led to the decision to stop filming.

In the lawsuit, filed by the Santa Ana firm Cone & Kassel, the Distenfields want to continue filming through May and recoup the costs of their legal action.

City officials had no comment. Police Lt. Paul McCaffrey said the Police Department would not comment on the advice of the city attorney.

“This is a complicated manner,” he said, “and when someone sues the Police Department and City of Santa Barbara, there’s the possibility of a judgment having to come from the taxpayers, so we want to be good stewards of the money entrusted to us.”

In the claim made with the city’s Risk Management Division, the production company claims $151,000 in damages and $1.1 million in future damages from advertising and syndication revenue losses both locally and internationally. That number is calculated assuming they lost 14 episodes at an estimated $4,000 per episode of revenue with perhaps 20 countries running them, documents show.

The Distenfields name Police Chief Cam Sanchez, Deputy Chief Frank Mannix, former business office manager Karen Flores — who has since been charged with embezzling from the Police Department’s parking ticket revenues — City Administrator Jim Armstrong and City Attorney Steve Wiley in their claim.

The couple also produce On Duty with Santa Barbara Firefighters and run Marketing Express, a local public relations firm.

According to the May 2010 agreement approved by the City Council, On Patrol crews ride along with police personnel to get footage for the show, which airs locally on KEYT. Either party could terminate the agreement with a 90-day notice, and the city had the power to review episodes before they aired and could veto “objectionable” footage.

“Each episode payment is nonrefundable and shall be due to the city within a reasonable time after the initiation of filming, but in no event later than 30 calendar days subsequent to completion of filming for each episode of the series or the broadcast of a replayed episode, as the case may be,” the agreement states.

No court date has been set for the case, which was filed Friday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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