Former Paso Robles officer claims retaliation
July 16, 2012
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
A former Paso Robles police department veteran has filed a claim with the city alleging he was retaliated against by former chief Lisa Solomon-Chitty for his union activities.
Such a claim, routinely dismissed by city officials, is a precursor to filing of a lawsuit.
This is the third action filed in recent months by present and former police officers against the city and scandal-plagued Solomon-Chitty, who left her post March 20 packing a $250,000 payout from taxpayers.
David Hernandez was president of the Paso Robles Police Officers Association (POA) when, according to the claim, Solomon began a series of actions which ultimately led to Hernandez’ resignation from the department.
Hernandez was the POA’s principal negotiator during 2011 contract talks, at a time when city representatives were asking officers to give up a 6 percent pay hike they already had deferred. The department was shorthanded at the time, but Solomon was adding a new sergeant in lieu of an additional patrol officer.
Hernandez, “in his capacity as POA president,” raised the issue to Paso Robles City Manager Jim App during a public meeting: “How could the city justify another sergeant hire when the police officers desperately needed help in the patrol ranks… where the sergeant would not work,” according to the claim.
Following that incident, Hernandez said he was told by two police administrators that Solomon-Chitty “was very upset with him for making… the remarks (to App.)”
Then, in June 2011, Hernandez said in his claim that he wanted to verify city officials’ claims that they, too, had forgone pay raises. He obtained through a public information request copies of employment contracts for App, Solomon-Chitty and other high-ranking officers in the police department.
With those documents, Hernandez discovered that each of the individuals for whom he had obtained contract information had been receiving an average payment of $6,500 into a deferred compensation account. With this information, Hernandez noted in his claim, he was “able to negotiate a better contract for the POA.”
Again, he said, he was warned by higher-ups that his activities “had drawn the ire” of Solomon-Chitty and others.
In late September 2011, Hernandez was “served with an internal affairs investigation for (allegedly) cursing” at a drunken man he was transporting to jail, and “driving at a high rate of speed.” The following day, Hernandez was called to back up a foot chase between fellow officers and a fleeing suspect. After department brass studied the officer’s vehicle videotaping system, he was placed on administrative leave for three months. Then, when he was informed that, following an unpaid suspension, he would be required to take a battery of psychological tests, Hernandez resigned.
“It was clear that (the city) was doing everything it could to try to force him from his job,” according to the claim. “Solomon-Chitty retaliated against Hernandez for exercising his First Amendment rights.”
No specific monetary demands were made in the claim.
Solomon-Chitty’s final days at the police department helm were tumultuous as complaints against her for a variety of alleged offenses, many of a sexual nature, began to surface.
In May, Brennan Lux, another former Paso Robles police officer, filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging Solomon-Chitty made repeated sexual advances toward him, and terminated him when she was rebuffed.
After 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.”
Additional allegations made publicly 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, too, has said 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.
A current officer, Jon Tatro, filed a pending 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.