Paso Robles locker room play? Or lock her away?
February 14, 2012
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
Was it just naughty fun? A little good-natured grope here and there? Or were crimes committed?
Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon is being accused of sexual misconduct by a growing group of former and current Paso Robles police officers and department employees. She also ordered unlawful traffic ticket quotas, say some. But what, exactly, do these allegations really mean?
Solomon’s employer, City Manager James App, has made no public comment about the situation other than to refer reporters to a city policy describing “sexual harassment.”
Solomon’s reported actions, if proven true as described in detail by officers who have agreed to be identified by name, might go well beyond established, definitive limits of harassing activities. California criminal law specifically addresses at least some of the allegations.
In addition, several of the officers no longer with the department ascribe their departures to retaliatory actions by Solomon.
A handful of officers have provided details of a “mandatory meeting” called by Solomon for her supervisory staff during a Super Bowl “team-building workshop” at the Carmel Valley Lodge. The meeting was held in a hot tub at Solomon’s directive, officers said.
Solomon, after baring her breasts to the seven men, slipped her hand under former Sgt. Brennen Lux’s swim suit and touched his penis, officers said. Another officer was similarly touched after Lux quickly exited, according to witnesses.
Officer T.J. McCall reported to a city-hired private investigator that on another occasion, Solomon grabbed his penis as he rode in her official vehicle.
California’s Penal Code 243.4 (e)(1) reads: “Any person who touches an intimate part of another person, if the touching is against the will of the person touched, and is for the specific purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of misdemeanor sexual battery.” Penalties for conviction are more severe for public officials.
The alleged Carmel Valley incident was witnessed by police commanders, lieutenants and sergeants who are duty bound to report such an alleged assault. However, none of the officers reported the incident as a crime or reported it to city officials as harassment.
Such a crime is described by prosecutors as a “wobbler” — depending on circumstances, it can be charged as a misdemeanor, or as a felony, if, for example, a victim’s bare skin is touched without consent. Conviction of either carries jail or prison time.
Conviction under this provision of either a misdemeanor or felony also requires registering as a sex offender.
App provided the city’s policy regarding sexual harassment after being asked by CalCoastNews: “If several employees said a manager in the city sexually touched them, what is the city policy?”
App responded: “As to your questions regarding city policy, the city has an adopted harassment policy (copy attached) which defines harassment and sets forth the process to investigate.”
That policy dates back to 1992 and was prepared by former City Manager Richard Ramirez. It reads in part: “Harassment can take a variety of forms ranging from subtle, off-color remarks, to physical assault.”
This is the city policy’s definition of harassment: “Unwelcome advances, improper requests for favors and/or other verbal or physical conduct of an offensive nature (when) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a person’s work performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
And those traffic citation quotas? Such allegations, if proven, put the chief in jeopardy of criminal charges, and the city at risk for expensive civil action.