Onetime Paso Robles cop sues, cites former chief as sexual groper
May 29, 2012
By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN
Bringing new meaning to the phrase “cop a feel,” a former Paso Robles police officer filed a lawsuit against the city Tuesday, alleging former Police Chief Lisa Solomon-Chitty made repeated sexual advances toward him, and terminated him when she was rebuffed.
In the action lodged by Brennan Lux, Solomon-Chitty and Paso Robles city staff and officials are additionally accused of creating a hostile work environment and ignoring allegations of retaliation.
Following a two-year investigation, CalCoastNews reported January 12 on Solomon-Chitty’s alleged sexual conduct with, and in the presence of, department subordinates, including Lux and numerous others. Previously, CalCoastNews published reports of Solomon-Chitty’s public behavior in local saloons, where she sometimes danced on bars, and described herself as “an entertainer.”
Since January, additional officers and police department employees have been interviewed by CalCoastNews regarding Solomon-Chitty’s reported behavior. These individuals have alleged their former boss threatened them with trumped-up criminal charges if they rebuffed her advances or questioned her management practices. She has become the subject of intense public scrutiny. But she has yet to publicly comment on, or deny, the mounting allegations.
And this week, several sources interviewed regarding these allegations have told CalCoastNews they are being physically threatened by police officers close to Solomon-Chitty — and at least one of those threatened plans to leave town.
Following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and poor management practices, Solomon-Chitty and Paso Robles officials reached a confidential agreement March 20 calling for payment of severance and back pay of more than $250,000. The agreement cited adverse “online reports” as having caused “irreparable harm” to her reputation and adversely affecting her ability to perform her job duties.
City Manager Jim App and members of the city council praised Solomon-Chitty following council’s approval of her parting package. App called her “a great asset” to the city and “a dedicated public servant,” adding that he was personally distressed by Solomon-Chitty’s departure.
In his lawsuit, Lux notes that he was hired as an officer in 2000 by then-Lt. Solomon-Chitty. Then, at a 2006 after-party for a charity event, Solomon-Chitty reportedly made her first move on Lux by caressing his leg and asking him for a ride home.
Lux refused, suggesting they should remain just friends, according to the lawsuit.
A short time later, after being named chief in early 2007, Solomon-Chitty called Lux and asked if she could stop by his home to talk. While there, she allegedly initiated oral sex on her subordinate after sharing a few beers.
Following the encounter, Lux claims he began limiting his contact with the chief.
According to the lawsuit, Solomon-Chitty became angry, and accused Lux of being distant. Lux responded by telling his boss that “he believed that a professional relationship between the two of them was best for both of them,” the lawsuit says.
In 2008, Solomon-Chitty required all members of her command staff to attend a team-building workshop at the Carmel Valley Lodge during Super Bowl weekend.
After the first day of workshop events, Solomon-Chitty ordered the seven attending officers to join her in the hot tub. Solomon-Chitty, who was becoming increasingly intoxicated, according to the lawsuit, stood and flashed her breasts.
She then allegedly sat down next to Lux, slid her hand into his shorts and grabbed his penis. Lux objected, quickly got out of the hot tub, and jumped into the unheated pool.
However, because of the temperature of the pool on that cold and rainy day, Lux needed to warm up and stepped back in the hot tub.
According to the lawsuit, Solomon-Chitty then repeated her groping, while Lux continued to object to the allegedly unwanted sexual contact. Lux then left the hot tub.
The following day, Solomon-Chitty reportedly warned Lux that information about the sexual assault was not to be repeated.
Up until that time, Lux had received exemplary performance reviews. But after he rebuffed her advances in the hot tub, Solomon-Chitty began retaliating against him by directing department supervisors to scrutinize Lux’s activities, according to the lawsuit.
In Nov. 2011, Solomon-Chitty terminated Lux for allegedly committing battery, use of excessive force and unlawful detention during the arrest of a combative suspect.
Officer Dave Hernandez, the watch commander at the time, said he saw the video of the arrest and contends that Solomon-Chitty trumped up the charges in a failed attempt to have the officer charged with a crime. And while Solomon-Chitty sent reports of the alleged assault to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office, no charges were ever filed.
Additional allegations include those made by Officer T.J. McCall, who told a city investigator that Solomon-Chitty grabbed his penis while he sat in her car.
Hernandez also says Solomon-Chitty touched him inappropriately. In 2007, Hernandez and another officer in full uniform entered a saloon then called the Crooked Kilt, to do a bar check.
Solomon, who had been out on the dance floor, approached Hernandez in a room full of people and allegedly pushed the officer’s face into her breasts.
After Hernandez complained to the Paso Robles City Council about Solomon-Chitty’s management practices, she allegedly attempted to have him charged with negligent operation of a vehicle, and of being discourteous to a member of the public. Hernandez resigned Jan. 11 and is contemplating filing a civil lawsuit suit against the city.
In his lawsuit, Lux seeks a judgment against the city of Paso Robles and up to 50 currently unnamed defendants for unspecified monetary general damages, economic damages, prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees.
As a result of the unlawful acts of the defendants, the lawsuit alleges that Lux “suffered and will suffer physical, mental, and emotional injuries, pain, distress, suffering, anguish, fright, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shame, mortification, injured feelings, shock, humiliation, indignity, damage to reputation, aggravation, inconvenience, and other non-economic damages in a sum to be ascertained according to proof.”
A current officer, Jon Tatro, has also filed a lawsuit against Solomon-Chitty and city officials, claiming the former chief initiated an illegal ticket quota scheme and punished officers who didn’t make their quotas.
And more recently, CalCoastNews reported that Solomon-Chitty has for years been tweaking crime statistic data supplied to state and federal justice departments, which were used to facilitate grant applications.