Will Paso Robles police chief be canned tonight?
March 20, 2012
By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN
Lisa Solomon told her officers she plans to remain the Paso Robles chief of police, a claim that appears to be up to city leaders who are slated to discuss disciplining or dismissing her at tonight’s city council meeting.
Listed as a closed session item to discuss disciplining or releasing a public employee, department insiders say the investigative report into allegations of sexual improprieties will be discussed at tonight’s meeting along with whether or not to take action on the information in the report.
Current and former officers alike say that the 43-year-old officer, who has served as chief of police since 2007, has sexually assaulted at least four of her men and retaliated against many others. Following several years of complaints by officers, City Manager Jim App agreed to hire an investigator to look into the allegations.
Solomon has been on a leave since March 12 and told officers in emails that she plans to return to work on March 22.
Investigation into allegations of sexual assaults
During his exit interview in October, Sgt. Brennen Lux told the head of Human Resources, Marlaine Sanders, that Solomon had grabbed his penis during a mandatory team building workshop after ordering officers to put swimsuits on and finish discussing department issues in a hot tub at the resort they were staying in. He also gave the names of other officers who claim to have been sexually assaulted by the chief.
In November, Debra Estrin, a private investigator from the Bay Area hired by city officials, interviewed officer T.J. McCall. He said Solomon grabbed his penis while he sat in her car with her husband, San Luis Obispo police officer Chris Chitty.
In December, former officer Dave Hernandez disclosed an alleged incident when Hernandez said he 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.
“She grabbed my head and pushed it between her breasts,” Hernandez said. “I was shocked.”
The investigator, Estrin, has a history of looking into allegations of sexual harassment. In a 2008 investigation into allegations a San Leandro sergeant sexually harassed female department employees, Estrin reported most of the complaints stemmed from personality conflicts.
Estrin said in her report that she could not determine if calling subordinates names such as “baby” or “mama” was welcomed by the employees.
Allegations of illegal ticket quotas and falsified crime statistics
In addition to allegations of sexual assaults and harassment, officers contend Solomon implemented illegal ticket quotas, falsified crime statistics and illegally manipulated union proceedings.
Officer Jon Tatro recently filed a lawsuit against the department that says the chief implemented illegal ticket quotas. Ticket quotas are illegal under state law because they can pressure police to write bogus tickets to meet the department’s goals.
According to emails between Solomon and city manager App, the two allegedly used spies during negotiations last year with the police officers’ union and also had human resources director Sanders keep a list of officers attending meetings.
Amidst the flurry of complaints of alleging sexual misconduct, illegal management practices and retaliation, a handful of officers have retained attorneys who are working on filing lawsuits against the city.
During tonight’s city council meeting, following the closed session, city officials are required to inform the public of any action they take regarding disciplining and or dismissing Solomon.