Another Arroyo Grande sex harassment claim
December 28, 2011
By KAREN VELIE
Another Arroyo Grande police officer says she was sexually harassed and discriminated against, and that department and city officials ignored reports of illegal acts.
Michelle Cota is suing the city, the police department, Chief Steven Annibali and former Commander John Hough for lost wages and damages.
Cota’s ability to advance in the department ended in 2007, under the leadership of Annibali, according to a lawsuit filed Dec. 22. In the suit penned by Santa Barbara based attorney Christine Adams, Cota accuses Annibali and Hough of retaliating against her and two other women who complained that former Sergeant Barry Bridge sexually harassed them.
“Ms. Cota has been subjected to severe discrimination and harassment at the Arroyo Grande police department under the command and direction of Chief Annibali,” Adams said in an email to CalCoastNews. “Chief Annibali’s statements make clear that he is not at all happy that women stand shoulder to shoulder with men on the police force.”
For example, the lawsuit says Annibali ordered a male officer to enter the lady’s locker-room and remove all personal items and pictures the women had posted on their lockers. The women said Annibali enacted a new policy that prohibited the posting of items on the outside of lockers belonging to women while allowing male officers to post photos on their lockers.
In addition, Cota’s suit says Annibali overloaded her with calls, refused to allow female officers overtime, gave men the more desirable shifts and promoted men over more qualified female officers.
“Annibali and Commander Hough have withheld mentoring, training and promotional opportunities to female police officers who have dedicated their careers to protecting Arroyo Grande and its citizens,” Adams said in the email.
Annibali did not return requests for comment.
A case management conference is set for April 25 with San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall.