Atascadero male police officers claim discrimination

November 9, 2008

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By KAREN VELIE

A contentious reverse discrimination claim that has embroiled the Atascadero Police Department in controversy heads for mediation Tuesday.

Earlier this year, city officials launched an internal probe into complaints of reverse discrimination made by male officers against female officers in the city’s police department. The complaints allege preferential treatment for an alleged lesbian officer, provided by an upper level officer with whom she was romantically involved, sources said.

A half dozen sources have confirmed the allegations. City officials and attorneys involved in the case have declined comment.

Following the investigation, Police Chief Jim Mulhall ordered one of the alleged lesbian officers to resign from the force. Neither officer agreed to step down. Approximately 90 days ago, officials placed Lt. Carole Robinson and Sgt. Tiffany Ayles on paid administrative leave.

“I can’t discuss personnel issues,” Mulhall said, adding that the officers involved also would not be discussing the issue.

Robinson’s attorney, Jeff Stulberg, declined comment, as did Clayton Hall, an attorney hired by the Joint Powers Agency to defend the city.

Supporters of Robinson and Ayles have accused the officers who filed the complaint of spinning the truth and disseminating false information in retaliation against the women.

Robinson, with nearly 20 years on the department and its longest-serving employee, is second in command under Police Chief Jim Mulhall. A recipient of the chief’s medal of honor, Robinson had maintained an unblemished record. Until now.

Approximately 10 years ago, Robinson and Ayles began dating. Shortly afterward, the pair moved in together and co-purchased a home.

Complainants allege that Ayles, a patrol officer, was promoted to sergeant ahead of officers equally qualified and with more time on the force because of her relationship with Robinson.

According to one supporter of the pair, Robinson refused to influence the promotion decision because of her relationship with Ayles. In addition, Robinson, primarily an investigator, generally had no supervisory control over Ayles.

But because of a personnel shortage in the department, Robinson was placed in a supervisory position over Ayles for four to five months.

A few years ago, the pair was said to have entered into a civil union while on vacation in Hawaii. That would have violated city personnel regulations. Robinson and Ayles are not registered as domestic partners, and deny entering into a civil union.

“There would be outrage if I tried to promote my wife ahead of others,” one man said. “They’re the same as any married couple.”

Nepotism and cronyism can be the basis for a successful Title VII lawsuit if the practice includes unlawful discrimination. Though the courts generally support regulations that prohibit married, heterosexual spouses from working in the same department, there are cases where couples have prevailed.

Former Atascadero Police Chief John Couch investigated the allegations and put the matter to rest, temporarily, in 2005.

“He asked her [Robinson] if she was in a marriage-like relationship, and she said, ‘No,'” a source noted. Couch did not inquire further into the pair’s relationship.

Critics of the couple claim Robinson and Ayles were not truthful about their relationship which could damage the women’s credibility in the courtroom.

“Morale is at an all time low,” a source said. “People want to leave. It’s gone over the edge.”

Questions remain on the eventual financial toll this conflict will cost city taxpayers for paid administrative leave, overtime pay for officers, legal fees for city attorneys Clayton Hall and Kelly Trainer, and Ayles’ counsel, Louis Silver.


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11 Comments

  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: SensitiveGuy on 11/18/08
    Bottom line is.If you found your dog Bruce jackhammering Spike from behind,WHAT would you do?
    By: SensitiveGuy on 11/18/08
    You all seem to forget the song….GIrls Just Want To Have Fun."
    By: Joe on 11/15/08
    I read the article, then I started at the bottom and read the comments up.

    Amazing.

    Can't anyone stay…. near… the topic?

    I'm going to be keeping my eyes open at night from now on, I don't want to miss any cross burnings.
    By: Cindy on 11/14/08
    Cindy
    Has anyone got any information on how this is all turning out? I thought they were going to mediation on Tuesday?
    By: Countdown on 11/13/08
    I don't think that it is absolutely clear yet what direction the facts will take. I'll grant that it doesn't look good for the two female LE based on what little I know but time will tell.
    By: Cacahuate on 11/13/08
    Marriage isn't the issue here. Honesty is. These two women were dishonest. That destroys any credibility they may have. Without credibilty, they can't be employed as cops. That's what it all comes down to.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: whitefeather on 11/13/08
    By: Countdown on 11/13/08
    So the word "marriage has been used for thousands of years to denote heterosexual marriage, really? How about marriage to many women as the Bible states?
    While we are at it slavery has been around probably as long as marriage, coincidentally also supported by the Bible.
    Marriage is a legal term. It will happen sooner or later so get used to it. You have nothing to fear from Gays becoming married and it won't by itself impinge on "your marriage."

    So this is now about gay marriage? What a joke. Anyway the topic is now lost so here it goes. The roughly 6% of the population that is gay will not be seen as normal just because they can "MARRY". As a side note my father was the head of hemotology for almost 30 years so I have met and been around gay people all my life. And I have learned that as of about 4 years ago a very small % of that 6% is pushing very hard for this. Weird don't you think? Talk about special treatment not about a supposed injustice of something that is a state granted right like a drivers license!
    By: Countdown on 11/13/08
    Good point. For Christians, Mormons and other religious types I think that divorce should be illegal. Then by pure attrition from couples killing each other because they cannot escape a loveless or abusive marriage, eventually religion will die out.
    As for my wife and I, we never married before God or uttered till death do we part and we are still happily married after 30 yrs. Who knew?
    By: slofreefall on 11/13/08
    We should make divorce illegal in an effort to protect the sanctity of marriage.

    "…before God and these witnesses…till death do us part…"
    By: Countdown on 11/13/08
    So the word "marriage has been used for thousands of years to denote heterosexual marriage, really? How about marriage to many women as the Bible states?
    While we are at it slavery has been around probably as long as marriage, coincidentally also supported by the Bible.
    Marriage is a legal term. It will happen sooner or later so get used to it. You have nothing to fear from Gays becoming married and it won't by itself impinge on "your marriage."
    By: xlswede on 11/13/08
    Right on Cindy!! This is what I have been saying all along. Homosexuals living together in a life-promise type union are not "Married". I'm sorry, the word Marrige to the vast majority means between a man and a woman. Frankly, it's a DIFFERENT lifestyle and should be given it's OWN word or title.
    By: Cindy on 11/13/08
    The word "marriage" has existed as the meaning of a heterosexual couple joining to each other for thousands of years. It is about heterosexual union's. The gays have every right to do their own thing. They just need their own word for it and their own meaning (such as if they are woman and one of them has a child is the married partner equally a legal parent and responsible etc). Marriage means a man and a woman. I don't appreciate the gays insisting that they can say they are married too. As if they are no different than what a heterosexual union is. They are different. They want to call themselves a husband and a husband? No such thing exists in the idea of marriage as it was created by heterosexuals. Have some respect.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down

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