Paso Robles residents challenge chief’s rich deal

March 26, 2012

Lisa Solomon – Photo by Daniel Blackburn

By DANIEL BLACKBURN and KAREN VELIE

When the Paso Robles City Council agreed last week to pay Police Chief Lisa Solomon $250,000 for the embattled 46-year-old’s early “retirement,” more questions were raised than answered.

Meanwhile, additional details of the city’s first female police chief’s checkered career are emerging, even as Paso Robles’ top appointed official heaps praise on the departing Solomon.

North County community members are attempting to digest the widely criticized decision, and residents and business owners have announced formation of a group called “Change Paso Robles Now” (CPRN2012).

“We need to know a lot more” about the council’s late-night unanimous endorsement of a bountiful agreement with Solomon, Paso Robles resident Sally Reynolds said.

That agreement also opened the door for Solomon to apply for disability pay, which will allow her to retire early and enjoy tax freedom for a large chunk of her lifelong income.

Reynolds emphasized the importance of citizens “keeping up the pressure” on city officials to reveal details now being hidden from public view.

Karen Daniels, a downtown business owner, said, “I have found nearly everyone in Paso is buzzing about the payout to Solomon. There is a deep-rooted mistrust of the entire city council, mayor, and city manager. This new group will voice the concerns of the citizens of Paso Robles, and demand action from our employees and representatives who make and enforce the laws for our town”.

Daniels and Reynolds will serve as interim co-chairpersons of CPRN2012 during its formative stage.

Solomon has been accused by a number of current and former police officers and other department personnel of sexually fondling them during social and official occasions, on and off-duty. She initiated an illegal ticket-quota scheme and has used firings, suspensions and other retaliatory measures against those who offended her, some officers have alleged.

Also, she and City Manager Jim App freely discussed in an exchange of emails their collaboration in arranging the planting of “moles” in police officers’ union negotiating meetings.

But despite the bevy of assertions from her own ranks of illegal and immoral behavior, Solomon was allowed to take what city officials term “early retirement” with the fat payout because of the “damage to her reputation” caused by resultant news coverage.

As long as two years ago, several department employees said Solomon had committed sexual battery on a couple of officers, but were reticent to go forward with their claims.

Then, in Oct. 2011, Sgt. Brennen Lux informed city officials that three years earlier, Solomon had stuck her hand in his swimsuit and grabbed his penis during a “team building workshop” her command staff was required to attend.

City Manager Jim App

App subsequently authorized a city-financed internal investigation by Debra Estrin, a private investigator from the Bay area.

A month after the start of that probe, during an interview with Estrin, officer T.J. McCall said that Solomon grabbed his penis while he was leaving a department holiday party and that Solomon’s husband was present when the alleged sexual assault occurred.

Former officer Dave Hernandez said he told the investigator that Solomon sexually harassed him while he was on the job in full uniform.

On an evening in 2008, Hernandez and another officer 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, Hernandez said.

None of these allegations deterred City Manager App from lauding Solomon’s “outstanding” career with the Paso Robles Police Department.

“She is a fine leader and we will miss her,” App said minutes after the council awarded her the quarter-million dollars under an agreement which prevents either party from making negative comments about the other.

App has insisted in several subsequent interviews that Solomon was forced to step down because of news reports and not because of her actions and deportment as chief of police.

“Her separation agreement makes no reference to those (sexual assault) allegations,” App said. “It is based on her 24 years of service and a clear record of accomplishments. These allegations are recent, but they allege behavior of many years ago, and they do not pertain to this separation agreement. Her accomplishments do.”

App’s dedication notwithstanding, sex scandals and allegations of unethical behavior have plagued Solomon’s law enforcement career.

She started as a dispatcher for the Pismo Beach police department 26 years ago, and shortly thereafter entered the police academy. Her time there culminated with her lodging a claim of sex harassment against a trainer at the rifle range. The trainer, she claimed, said her poor shooting skills were because her large breasts hampered her aim, officers interviewed for this report told CalCoastNews.

Several local female officers, who followed Solomon into the academy, said their instructors informed them that changes had been implemented because of multiple issues with a female cadet who preceded them — Lisa Solomon

Upon graduating from the academy, Solomon headed to Paso Robles were she served as a street cop for about three years before becoming pregnant with another officer’s child. The relationship did not last long and shortly thereafter Solomon married another officer in her first of three marriages, all to Paso Robles police officers, department sources said.

Because of the pregnancy, Solomon was taken off the street and given a DARE officer position. She spent a short time as a detective, but soon was promoted to sergeant, then lieutenant.

She served as a police commander during the day, and a bar room entertainer at night. She regularly performed in a band at the Paso Robles Inn with a former boyfriend of Wendy McIntire.

“She would end her show by strutting across the bar top at the Paso Robles Inn singing ‘Let’s give them something to talk about,’ ” McIntire said. “At that time she was a police lieutenant.”

Several Paso Robles bar owners, bartenders, and a gaggle of long-time local saloon patrons happily recall numerous incidents of Solomon dancing on bar tops during her time on the force. Police sources tell of her giving lap dances to other officers at social events.

Solomon has denied allegations she danced for her troops, or on bar tops, but in 2009, asked by CalCoastNews about her reported conduct, Solomon said “Well, I am an entertainer.”

Solomon won her chief’s post without competition. In 2007, the city council agreed not to do a search for a new chief and instead took the recommendation of App and the former police chief Dennis Cassidy, to name her to the city’s top cop position. No others were invited to apply.

Lisa Solomon and her husband Christopher Chitty on her left — photo by Richard Bastain

Solomon’s current husband, Christopher Chitty, left the Paso Robles police force shortly after they married. The husband and wife team opened a sign company and T-shirt shop in 2004.

In 2008, Solomon and her husband filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition for their promotional printing company. Chitty subsequently filed for individual protection in Santa Barbara’s U.S. District Court. In court documents, Chitty and Solomon listed debt totaling $1,039,182; assets of $512,000; and $550 in available cash.

Chapter 7 is designed for debtors in financial trouble who do not have the ability to pay their existing debts, according to the bankruptcy code. Debtors whose financial difficulties are primarily due to consumer debt are subject to a “means test” — if income is greater than the median income for the state in which they reside, the court may deny the petition.

In California, the median income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was $61,021 in 2008 for a family of four. Chitty and his wife’s combined income was approximately $220,000 per year, according to their sworn statements on the bankruptcy petitions. Chitty and Solomon have stated in court documents that their “debts are primarily business debts” and that no inventory from the business remains.

Those court documents also suggested the pair had “50 to 100” creditors including Kohl’s, Mervyns, and Gottschalk’s. And while they owed Levitz Furniture $13,119, Chitty and Solomon claimed their household goods and furnishings were worth approximately $3,000 in 2008.

Even though the couple filed bankruptcy on their business, they continued to sell T-shirts, allegedly utilizing equipment they had moved to their garage in violation of bankruptcy laws, through a company they called Trick Tape. At that time, Chitty denied Trick Tape still existed.

However, in 2008, Chitty was contacted on his cell phone by a CalCoastNews reporter posing as a customer seeking information about volume T-shirt sales. Chitty, on duty in his patrol car at the time, said, “Yes, this is Trick Tape. I can help you with those.”

Later that same evening, Chitty telephoned the reporter to discuss further details of the sale, including pricing and specific T-shirt brands.

Throughout all Solomon’s troubles including leaving an unlicensed gun in an unlocked car that was later recovered during a police action in Atascadero, App has stood by his choice for chief.

At last Tuesday’s city council meeting, App said he could not confirm or deny that he had hired Estrin to perform an investigation into allegations of sexual assaults by the chief or if a report detailing the results of the investigation had been completed.

However, according to a report in The Tribune, several council members admitted the existence of the investigation, and claimed the report was never finished. Councilman John Hamon was reported to have said that if Solomon had not agreed to step down, the council would have voted to terminate her.

Reynolds of the new group CPRN2012 said unanswered questions abound: Why wasn’t the report completed? Why didn’t council members get to see the report, even if it was unfinished, and why the verbal briefing by App and City Attorney Iris Ping Yang?

“We hope everyone will get involved for change,” she added. “For more information we want people to contact us at  CPRN2012@gmx.com or 805-400-5652.”

Daniels said the the group would maintain a “narrow focus.”

“Public safety is high on our priority list. We look to have a well staffed police department with a chief of police whose reputation is not tarnished by serious mistakes. We want to have a city manager who does not reward poor behavior by paying employees off with the citizens’ tax dollars. And we will work to replace those council members who have proven to be highly motivated only in serving themselves.”


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Crusader

I hope CCN and then the SLOPD investigates Christopher Chitty. I suspect it wouldn’t take much digging to come up with enough to can him. I don’t want sociopaths as law enforcement officers in my community.


Cindy

I see that Sally Reynolds and Karen Daniels have gotten together and regrouped complete with renaming the organization to clearly identify its purpose. This is great to see happen so fast. No doubt this group will make many changes as it evolves and I have no doubt that they will be overwhelmingly successful. I recall seeing “Bob from San Luis” posting a phone number last month attempting to organize, hopefully he is reading and will get in touch with CPRN2012. I have no doubt that he will be a key player.


I’m wondering if there are any attorneys out there familiar with the local gov game who can assist with blocking the taxpayer funds that the PRCC saw fit to allow the “criminal Lisa Solomon” to abscond with?


P.S. Where is Pasoparent5? I miss her/him, come back.


danika

PP5, we need your help too…PLEASE come back??? You are indeed missed here.


SewerHeightsRez

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

-Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi


danika

Our organization is dedicated to changing Paso Robles. We know we can do it with your help.

Please know that our organization is SERIOUS and we will not be detracted from our mission. We will be launching an interactive website in the next few days and would like to encourage everyone who cares for this issue to join us and provide your voice and any assistance you can.


This is about real change for the people of Paso.


CalCoastOutrage

Let us know if there is anything us Non-PR residents can do to help.


danika

Absolutely! We welcome EVERYONE’s assistance! Please drop us an email at CPRN2012@gmx.com and we will promptly get in contact with you. We all truly appreciate the support of citizens and noncitizens. There is power in numbers…


MaryMalone

When they say “prompt,” they mean prompt, too.


If they are as “on it” for the election as they are in their response time, the group is going to be a big success!


danika

THANK YOU for your encouraging words. We all at CPRN2012 are very dedicated to the cause and will continue to be as necessary to bring change to Paso. We welcome ALL assistance. Blessings.


Cindy

daniks, I will provide you and Sally with a CD next week that contains a current mailing data base of all the Paso Robles citizens who have voted in the last two elections. There is a local mailing house who will fold, address and attach postage to your mailings at a very reasonable cost. Its been a few years but if I recall, I used to pay approximately $400.00 for a batch of 2000-2400 folded, addressed and posted mailers. Paso Robles probably has about 5000 current registered voters who visit the polls (just a guess).


This is a great way to get your message out and also its a plus to attach copies of News Articles so that your target residents are informed of all that has transpired. Attaching news articles also serves to avoid long lengthy explanations that people don’t always care to read in there entirety but they will often read everything at their leisure when its broken up with attachments that they find interesting. I’ll also send you tips I used on how to be certain that your mailing garners the attention of those who receive it so that you can count of them OPENING IT rather than thinking its junk mail and tossing it. ;)


Good Luck – not that you’ll need it, You and Sally are going to be very competent together. I hear Sally organized the group that raised 70K for the Paso 4th of July fireworks that the city refused to pay a single dime for! This is going to be fun to watch, the self proclaimed omnipotent city officials and their crony’s will be picking themselves up off the floor.


danika

Thanks, Cindy. Your efforts are so appreciated!


viamagnolia1

Thanks Danika, we also will have a Facebook page: Change Paso Robles Now 2012


danika

High 5, Sally!


SewerHeightsRez

How is this surprising? I posted from the beginning – settlements will be paid, disability will be claimed, claims will be filed, etc. It’s a standard, well worn playbook for a self-imposed feeding frenzy at the public’s expense. Not only will nobody will be held accountable, those responsible will be richly rewarded with a massive lump sum followed by a lifetime of huge monthly payments. This is a common, well traveled path. Public sector employment is hands down the surest path to a life of little work, no accountability, and an early, leisurely retirement.


jumping in

I am not surprized or shocked at any of th1is. When you sleep in a bed of snakes you are probably going to get bit, it’s called covering their *!?s. I have siad it before police officers are paid to lie, coerce, misrepresent the facts, slander, withhold pertinent information, intimidate and use snitches in order to “do their job.” We now have a case where they have used this self-taught inappropriate behavior on each other, and they don’t like it. I sure they is enough “dirt” on both sides to go around. I am certainly glad this investigating is bringing it all into the public’s eye.


The Gimlet Eye

Ok, then the Paso folks have their battle cry laid out for them. The campaigners for the next city council election will run in order to get this stuff changed. Meanwhile, file lawsuits and injunctions to stop them from going forward. Sue them if you have to. Give them no rest.


fhill123

Gee,


Maybe you can fight city hall. Good Luck!


viamagnolia1

Yes you can!


MaryMalone

Perhaps using polarizing politicians’ campaign slogans is not the best idea in an inclusive organization? Just sayin…


BeenThereDoneThat

The one part in the article (besides the many) that continues to stand out for me, as I have talked about this with friends numerous times, is how in the HELL did this woman with only three years experience on the beat and no other training from what I see, rise through the ranks so quick? Oh I, like many, have my thoughts. Those being just look how she PERFORMED in the rest of her life. I’m sure she performed behind doors as well.


MaryMalone

BTDT, I think most of us have asked the same question: why in the world did the PR city council and App decide NOT to even do a precursory outside search for a new chief?


Sgt. Lux, in 2011, informed city officials that 3 years earlier (2007-2008?) solomon (who was then a lieutenant? which would make her his superior) sexually assaulted him. So Chief Cassidy and city officials knew what danger she was to her subordinates, and for city liability should her victim(s) decide to file charges.


I am assuming Sgt. Lux first went to Chief Cassidy with his complaint. To do otherwise would be to go outside the chain of command, something that a city employee would do at great risk. So Cassidy most likely knew before the city officials knew. Perhaps this is why Cassidy decided to retire.


So it is clear that Cassidy and the city officials probably knew about at least one accusation of sexual assault by solomon. Yet they made her chief, anyway, without even looking elsewhere. Again, WTF?


As I read the timeline, one part really caught my attention, and I think could explain why this occurred:


———————————


Upon graduating from the academy, Solomon headed to Paso Robles were she served as a street cop for about three years before becoming pregnant with another officer’s child. The relationship did not last long and shortly thereafter Solomon married another officer in her first of three marriages, all to Paso Robles police officers, department sources said.

Because of the pregnancy, Solomon was taken off the street and given a DARE officer position. She spent a short time as a detective, but soon was promoted to sergeant, then lieutenant….

Solomon won her chief’s post without competition. In 2007, the city council agreed not to do a search for a new chief and instead took the recommendation of App and the former police chief Dennis Cassidy, to name her to the city’s top cop position. No others were invited to apply….


————————————–


In my opinion, Solomon became chief of police the same way she was graduated from the police academy, and was promoted to head the DARE program, then to detective, then sergeant, then lieutenant: by either overt (as she did in the academy) or covert (by threats, as I believe she made while with the PRPD) sexual harassment charges.


1. Solomon’s charges of sexual harassment against an instructor while at the police academy. It appears the charges against an instructor at the police academy either were very coincidental to her poor performance in marksmanship (which could have resulted in her being booted from the police academy, thus ending her LE career, and providing a major blow to her apparently fragile ego), or were to detract from her poor performance and to perhaps head off being booted from the academy. At any rate, giving her the benefit of the doubt, let us assume those charges were true.

However–whether the charges were true or not–she learned the ropes of filing, and winning, a harassment claim against a LE organization, and learned that she could compensate for her poor performance and stave off being terminated from a LE position by timely filing of harassment charges.


2. Promotion to the head of the DARE program. You notice that, because she was pregnant with an illegitimate child from another PRPD officer (violating department polices), she was not put at desk duty. No, she was put IN CHARGE of the DARE program. This is a promotion–for breaking department policy? This is the first true “WTF!?!?” promotion of her career in law enforcement.

There is no history of her having any background that would qualify her for such a promotion. She would have had increased access to city resources, and less supervision–none of her supervisors appear to have led a DARE program before.

Since she had already become pregnant out of wedlock by a fellow PRPD officer, her judgment–especially moral judgment–was clearly and shockingly lacking. So they put her in a position where she was less accountable for her time, and what she did while on duty?

This promotion appears to be completely unwarranted. So why did it occur? Why didn’t they fire both solomon and the father of the pregnancy?

For her to get pregnant with an illegitimate child from another officer, and then for that relationship to be so short-lived invited humiliating suspicions and talk of her being rejected by the father of her child. This must have been a blow to her ego and reputation.

I believe she threatened–either overtly or covertly–PRPD brass with sexual harassment charges against the father of her child, and perhaps the PRPD itself for allowing it to happen. THAT is why she was promoted to lead the DARE program. The promotion also helped to repair the damage to her humiliation from carrying an illegitimate child from a fellow PRPD officer, the results of a relationship that was of very short duration.


3. Promotion to detective (where she spent a short period of time), then sergeant, then lieutenant. Do you notice a trend here? She has quickly worked her way OFF the street, doing the LEO patrolling, which requires GOOD MARKSMENSHIP (which she lacked), being able to physically detain suspects, make on-the-spot, sometimes life-endangering decisions over how to handle a situation, etc. Most LEOs spend many years on the street, especially in a small organization, before (and IF) they start moving up through the ranks.

Along the way she married three fellow PRPD LEOs. Certainly she was sexually involved with at least those three officers before she married them (perhaps also against PRPD policy). Given her apparent propensity for sexual impropriety, she may have been sexually involved with many more than four PRPD officers. She may also have started branching out into PR management (city manager) and city council.

I think these three advancements–detective, sergeant, lieutenant–were either because overt or covert threats by solomon of sexual harassment charges (especially if her PRPD sexual partners were her superiors) AND/OR PRPD’s need to get her out of patrol work because she was inept/dangerous/a liability as a patrol officer. The promotion to sergeant may also have been because she was incompetent/dangerous/a liability as detective, and the promotion to lieutenant may also have been because she was incompetent/dangerous/a liability as sergeant.


4. Promotion to chief of police. I believe that, by the time Chief Cassidy was ready to “get the hell out of Dodge,” by retiring, solomon had built up a raft of instances where she could have used sex to get other PRPD employees and, perhaps management and city council members, in compromising positions (!) where she could later threaten the city with sexual harassment charges.

In addition, Sgt. Lux had informed city officials that solomon had sexually assaulted him. Perhaps lisa solomon was, probably again, facing the threat of termination.

App and the city councils certainly seem to have established a pattern of response to lisa solomon’s being unfit for duty in LE at PRPD by giving her free passes for her indiscretions, offenses, and poor performance, and by promoting her.

I believe that, with Cassidy retiring, solomon, once again, used the threat of sexual harassment charges to rise above her qualifications and abilities, to avoid termination, and to secure a promotion: this to to the position of chief of police.


Solomon learned to use her sexuality and the legal system to not only advance in her LE career, but keep from being fired. It is ironic that her incompetence and potential for liability to the city may have also played a role in advancing her through the ranks of more qualified PRPD officers. In so doing, instead of decreasing the “solomon problem,” the city of PR actually INCREASED her potential and opportunities to harm other LE personnel, create liability for the city, bring public outrage and embarrassment to the city, and both endanger the residents of PR and degrade the safety of the public.


cowpatty56

Believe you have summarized things very well MaryMalone. Have been following this debacle since the first reporting from Brookings, OR as we prepare to return to SLO county. It is a black eye for Paso and hope the newly formed group will be able to get the DOJ involved. Corruption at its finest. Yikes.


danika

Cowpatty56, we intend to take this all the way to the mat. Rest assured we will do everything we can to bring change (and justice, if any criminal actions are evidenced) to Paso. Glad to have you here all the way from Brookings, OR !


oldbrown

Answer: the quest for “diversity” that exists in many public agencies. And this mess is the result.


msminiver

The reasons and answers are before all of us! The investigation into Solomon’s misconduct was halted because the initial probe revealed so much misconduct to continue the investigation would just fully document the City’s liability and top level managements utter incompetence at the City. The payout is also to set precedent and to guarantee that Solomon finally keeps her mouth shut, if that is possible. Now when App and others get the boot we will have to pay them out a nice $250,000.00 each, since that is now the acceptable standard. App can’t have Solomon out and about telling the community of Paso about his and other top managers’ misconduct and their blatant tolerance and acceptance of Solomon’s misconduct? In regards to her husband’s conducting a side business on duty as a San Luis Obispo police officer – simply no surprise there! Calcoast has apparently uncovered a whole sleuogh of misconduct in San Luis Obispo based upon recent articles, from the infamous employee (Ronald P. Faria) who stole a City ridding lawnmower and resold it making thousands of dollars to the con artist Nicholson who charged residents for the services he was paid by the City to do anyways. Then there was the employee who got busted in an undercover sting soliciting prostitution while on duty in a City uniform, to the idiot Nance who dumped hazardous waste at a City facility and then their buddy the City drug dealer manufacturing and growing his product at a City facility. Back to the Solomon issue, then there is the bankruptcy that everyone knows was a scam to fleece people of money for their personal gain – where is that second home that she and her current husband own?


MaryMalone

I totally agree with your assessment.Clearly, solomon was paid off because of what she knew, and what she could threaten because of what she knew, and the liability it presented to the city if they just did the goddam right thing: fired her.


I also, however, think this last act of weakness by the city is the same kind approach they took to solomon throughout her career at PRPD: when faced with her outrageously inappropriate behavior, instead of firing her, they rewarded her–with promotions.


There is no justification for her even being a PRPD LE officer; certainly not the head of the DARE program, a sergeant, a lieutenant or chief of police. Her morality issues alone would have, in most departments, disqualified her from consideration for any of these positions.


IronHub

This may be the most important information of the month: Contact Change Paso Robles Now! at CPRN2012@gmx.com, or 805-400-5652


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