Former Paso Robles officer claims retaliation

July 16, 2012

Paso Robles Public Safety Building

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.


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42 Comments

  1. MaryMalone says:

    Meanwhile, another scandal, involving the activities of a general manager, rears its ugly head, this time in the Templeton CSD.

    (http://tinyurl.com/brm5w9n)

    “Valerie McArthur, an office assistant at the Templeton Community Services District, stood up at a meeting of the district’s board of directors June 12 to question her boss’s management practices.
    Specifically, she asked Templeton district leaders to open an investigation into General Manager Jeff Hodge…….”

    (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
  2. rogerfreberg says:

    oh, it is amazing how problems fester and grow out of all proportion when administrations hide their problems and don’t take immediate steps to fully address emerging situations.

    Things may reflect badly on people and feelings may get hurt, but nipping this sort of thing in the bud works out the best in the long run. Failing to act on an issue is still making a decision and often it is a bad one.

    (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      I think the situation in Paso Robles goes WAY beyond just turning a blind eye to, and failing to act upon, the illegal activities of police chief Lisa Solomon (Chitty). the PR City Council and City Manager (James App) enabled, facilitated and ultimately entered into a conspiracy with Solomon (Chitty) to hide her illegal activities, especially her illegal ticket quota program.

      To date, all of the police officers who have filed claims/lawsuits were involved in protected activities, and suffered discrimination, retaliation and intimidation (at least) from Solomon (Chitty) because of it.

      Despite several officers attempting to work through the PR City system to get Solomon (Chitty) to stop, it only made it worse for the officers who stood up to Solomon (Chitty).

      Instead of the city council and the city manager using their power to stop Solomon (Chitty)’s illegal activities, it appears that they went so far as to assist in the cover-up once the scandal became public.

      When Solomon (Chitty)’s campaign of intimidation, retaliation and discrimination against her targeted police officers failed to force them to quit on their own, Solomon (Chitty) and the PR city government launched campaigns to get these police-officer victims fired.

      Lisa Solomon (Chitty), James App and the City Council have set up Paso Robles for $$$millions in compensation for these officers.

      Indeed, two Los Angeles motor officers were retaliated against when they refused to follow their supervisors’ illegal ticket quota program sued and won $2million. Since then ten more officers have filed suit.

      It will be the PR taxpayers who will have to pay for Paso Robles loser ex-police chief Solomon (Chitty), city manager and city council members illegal activities.

      Meanwhile, Lisa Solomon (Chitty) was rewarded for her illegal activities by being allowed to resign and, so far, has been paid off $330,000. The city council members are still in place, and city manager James App was not fired.

      Paso Robles may think the city won’t suffer from having to pay out $$millions in awards to the police officers they have harmed. However, we now see nearly every day another California city facing bankruptcy because inept, corrupt city councils and city managers were not removed from office or fired, enabling them to rack up more and more liabilities against the cities.

      Paso Robles’ city government is following the same path that led to bankruptcy for man of the cities who were forced to file for protection. When bankruptcy occurs, they will walk away, leaving the taxpayers holding the bag.

      (11) 15 Total Votes - 13 up - 2 down
    • blondehare says:

      A crazed woman pepper sprayed my dog’s face at park last Dec .He yelped in pain.She said ,my dog scared her dog a tiny chihuahua a year ago at another park, then I asked her what the f—k did she do ? then she sprayed me in my eyes.. I was wrong to cry out did anyone witness this. I thought I was in rather good control, as most dogs owners said if it had been their dog she would not be able to talk. I cried out for a witness.Grover Beach police charged me for battery? Would not give me the incident report until last month after I discovered all Chief Copsey had a FB and did not know how to hide his privacy settings. All his friends are the people in my housing complaint. Coincidence.?Now my old behavior I do not know what I would have done any differently as I do not hit people…But I love the say contempt prior to investigation..They were retaliating.As their friends refused to sell my mother home.Board of realtors said due to illness they feared and won. This is being investigated as I want all these agents licensees revoked.This county retaliates believe me.I filed citizens complaint.. Nothing. Avoiding me at all cost.I received a false restraining order from my ex who did not do what court ordered. Return my belongings. I asked for them back and DA office did not allow me to fight this and they had no proof.His lawyer Tami Faulks used exactly what was written in board of realtors results by Cindy Doll.Same month same year. Then this pepper spray.. Retaliation big time from San Luis Obispo as I have called DA witness program , senior abuse, and all of them send me to the police again..Now If they had just sold my mother senor condo/.. not tried to sell her another one and tell her they will not cash her good earnest check as she would not qualify for a loan due to still owning her unit as no one would sell it.The one agent refused, but listed another one and cashed the good earnest check with American title the nest day.My mother tried to sell her senior condo at 579 Camino Mercado #213, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420 with Keller and Williams, but they refused to sell it. Then Kate Carson with Bruce Blair properties tried to sell my mother unit # 501 in the same complex. My mother wrote her a surety check for $5,000, with Ms. Carson’s assurance that the check would not be cashed. It was cashed the very next day even though there was no loan. American Title Company said even though they had no loan or escrow account; they always do what the realtors ask. Then Bruce Blair tried to sell her a home at 407 Bakeman Ln when he knew she would not qualify. He sent her to lenders, and then cashed her check with Fidelity. It is my belief that these realtors have scammed my mother out of thousands of dollars. My mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and cannot fend for herself in these matters. Unless there is a stop to these practices, she will continue to be taken by unscrupulous business practices.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. Paso_citizen says:

    I may be misreading Cindy’s and Danika’s comments, but I hope they are not advocating that Officer Hernandez accept a ‘payoff’ to just be quite and go away; instead of seeing this issue settled in a court of law. Yes, this would take some effort and guts by Hernandez, but to do otherwise, in my opinion, would make him not much better than Chitty. If the citizens of this city are ever to know what took place and who did what to whom, then lots of dirty laundry will need to be aired – in court. This is the only way to get the full story out and to prevent this from happening again. This same thing holds true for Officer Lun and his lawsuit claiming sexual harrasment. He has to have the fortitude to see this all the way through and not take a ‘payoff’ from Jimmy and freinds to shut up and go away.

    Will having any of these claims or lawsuits go all the way to a court judgement cost Paso Robles more money? Probably yes, but it will also make in perfectly clear as to who caused these lawsuits to be filed in the first place – our city government. If ‘payoffs’ are made (ala Chitty) and Jimmy and friends still run this city after November, then guess what will happen. Right, more of the same.
    They will know they can continue to do as they please, just use more of our taxpayer money to pay off
    anyone needed and go on trucking. Remember – it is our money, not theirs.

    (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
    • danika says:

      I did not say Hernandez should accept a payoff and go away…where did you get that from in my previous post? I never advocate taking any payoff..

      My post is about giving Jim App more power. The settlement of claim or denial of claim should be handled by professional Risk Assessors and/or attorneys, not city managers. Especially not one so controversial as Jim App. Doesn’t he have enough power already?

      (19) 19 Total Votes - 19 up - 0 down
      • Paso_citizen says:

        My error. I meant to refer to comment by MaryMalone to Danika”s comment. As distasteful or hard as it will be, the officers who have filed lawsuits need to see them all the way through.
        Justice is best served by the story. the whole story, coming out into the light of day. This will not happen if Paso Robles city (ie. Jimmy) offers a ‘payoff’ or essentially a bribe to the officers
        to just take some of the tax paying citizens money and go away and be quite. One would have to believe that any such pay-off would stipulate that no one could say anything about the case, it would just be closed and the city government would win (politically, maybe not financially) just as they hope they have done with the pay-off to Ms Chiity. Eventually, all would be swept under the rug and business would go on as usual. This is not acceptable.

        (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          I stand by my comment.

          The way the system is set up, it is heavily in favor of the employer.

          I support the victimized harassed employee, no matter what they decide to do.

          If you have not been through being harassed at work, followed by having our legal system facilitate further harassment by your employer during the trial, you can’t really understand the impact it has on the ex-employee.

          (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
        • The Gimlet Eye says:

          the word is “quiet.”

          (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  4. Cindy says:

    If a liability claim is rejected, then that forces a law suit. Without a law suit, the claim will be settled behind closed doors with a non-disclosure agreement. Is that what you want?

    (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
    • Cindy says:

      This post was intended for danikas post below.

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      I didn’t read that from Danika’s post.

      It doesn’t necessarily force a lawsuit, and I would support any option that would get Hernandez the redress he believes he deserves without having to go to court.

      If Hernandez is thinking about filing a lawsuit, he needs to file the claim first, and within a certain time period. So he may be just keeping his options open.

      But it is a big decision to take it to court, and Hernandez may not have the financial or other resources to do it.

      If he has an attorney who will work on contingency, that helps the financial part. However, NOTHING–NO amount of money–can make up for having to deal with the emotional upset that is tied to a lawsuit…especially when you are the victim of employer harassment, retaliation and abuse.

      Contrary to what many people believe, if you are the victim of employer harassment, especially on the level that Solomon dished out to the PRPD officers, going forward with a lawsuit actually makes it much more difficult to get beyond the emotional and physical harm the employee suffered. Filing a lawsuit means the employee will be open to even MORE abuse, lies, and retaliation from the employer. The longer the employer abuse goes on, the more deep the wounds are, and the more difficult it is to heal them.

      While Hernandez will feel vindicated if he files a lawsuit and he wins, he also will have to deal with having to constantly have in the back of his mind the lawsuit–and all of the harassment and abuse he had to suffer, including his retaliation.

      He will also have to be on guard every day because he will never know when the employer will file off another bunch of lies about him and his performance as an employee.

      Most of what goes into court documents becomes part of the public record. So people will read the employers’ lies, often in many different formats. After a time, even some of his friends will start to have niggling doubts.

      The system is strongly gamed to the benefit of the employer, every step of the way.

      This is why so many employees who are victims of employer harassment don’t file lawsuits, or, if they do, they give up long before they are settled.

      So, if just filing a claim will–for Hernandez–deal effectively with the Solomon-App-CityCouncil UnHoly Trinity, then that is the outcome that will most likely help Hernandez get past what he has had to endure at the hands of the City of Paso Robles.

      (11) 15 Total Votes - 13 up - 2 down
    • danika says:

      And you trust Jim App to be the sole judge of the merits of a claim? Likely not. That was my point.

      (15) 15 Total Votes - 15 up - 0 down
      • danika says:

        This post was in response to Cindy’s post above.

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

    **************ATTENTION****************

    It is imperative that everyone who CAN attend tonights CC meeting in Paso do so. Tonight’s meeting is CRITICAL to the gifting of more power to the city manager. Our city council is considering allowing Jim App to have authority to reject liability claims filed against the city. This is being proposed under the guise of “procedural necessity”. It is also based on a Resolution 87-37 which allowed claims settlement authority to the Administrative Services Director…..in 1987.

    Litigation has changed since 1987. Failure to due diligence on liability claims resulting in wrongful dismissal WILL absolutely cost the city more money, guaranteed. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN!

    I encourage ALL of you who can come to the CC meeting tonite, please do so. Stand up say HELL NO!

    (22) 26 Total Votes - 24 up - 2 down
  6. danika says:

    I posted the following on the Trib today and felt it was best to repost it here. I feel the subject matter warrants as wide reaching audience as possible.

    How many claims have now been filed against the City in regards to the former Police Chief?

    The City of Paso Robles has $10million in its General Fund. How long do you think it will last against litigation awards such as these?

    I refer to an email statement made by Councilman Fred Strong on the subject of Paso Robles potential to go into bankruptcy. I encourage those who feel this statement was NOT made by Councilman Strong, to request a copy of the emails to and from Mr. Strong dated April 21, 2012 at 10:40am. Here is his statement, which, when questioned by CPRN2012, Councilman Strong first DENIED having said and then stated I misunderstood his intent.

    “At this time the only danger of the city going into bankruptcy is from
    citizen actions and initiatives which have been, or are, proposed
    without assessing their unintended consequences.”

    We know emails to public officials are subject to public review.

    (44) 46 Total Votes - 45 up - 1 down
    • danika says:

      Amendment to my above post:

      The email indicated above was sent by Mr. Strong on his personal email, but CC’d to all councilmen and Mayor Picanco, making it subject to public review upon request.

      Just wanted to be clear.

      (31) 31 Total Votes - 31 up - 0 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Thanks for bringing up the Strong comment and putting it into current context.

      Clearly, Mr. Hernandez suffered retaliation for engaging in a protected activity. I’m sure Mr. Hernandez is aware of this, and knows he was in the right, and he did the right thing, even though he suffered because of it.

      However, we cannot forget the fact that Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Tatro have suffered, and are suffering, because of the retaliation. They did nothing wrong, the City was clearly in the wrong, yet the retaliatory attacks by the City’s ex-police chief, Lisa Solomon, supported by the current City Manager, James App, were allowed to continue unabated.

      No one in the City government (management and city council) stood up for these two officers. Cities like Paso Robles blah-blah-blah about the safeguards they have in place in their personnel policies to ensure that city managers won’t break the law and use intimidation and retaliation, going so far as to wrongfully terminate these officers. However, when the officers need someone with power in the city government to stand up for them, no one does.

      Those officers were required to put their lives on the line, should it become necessary. Their job involved dealing with sometimes very difficult people and situations. They did their jobs so that–to the extent Solomon and App would allow them to do so–PR citizens would be safer.

      And look how the City has treated them.

      The city council, Solomon and App are foul, cowardly creatures. Solomon severely abused her power as chief, App conspired with her to do so AND to get away with it, and the City Council added their power and weight to effect what has been done to these officers.

      They were doing wrong and lying about it, Mr. Hernandez used the PRA to access public records, and showed what they had been doing.

      Instead of being rewarded for outing corruption in the city, he was viciously targeted with retaliation. The fact that those retaliating are the ones who were outed makes it a conspiracy to silence a whistleblower in my book.

      (25) 31 Total Votes - 28 up - 3 down
    • pasoparent5 says:

      danika, the city of Mammoth Lakes filed bankruptcy on July 3 because of ONE lawsuit–a $43M dollar payout to some developer. I doubt our lawsuits will amount to that much but they WILL cost us millions by the time all’s said and done. And I’m confident App & Yang know more about future lawsuits than they’re saying. No wonder the council’s pushing for a general sales tax increase, not a specific one to be used just to fix our crappy roads. App knows the city’s general fund needs cash asap; the city (i.e. WE the taxpayers!) is gonna need a boatload of cash to pay for these lawsuit!.

      So thanks again, Lisa Chitty. Thanks Jim App. Thanks Iris Yang. Your selfish, arrogant, and incompetent ways are costing your fellow citizens and neither of you could give a @#%$. Your legacies will not be ones of selfless community service; both of you may be remembered as the ones who helped Paso reach the undesirable status of Stockton, San Bernadino and Mammoth Lakes–all BANKRUPT California cities.

      (27) 27 Total Votes - 27 up - 0 down
      • danika says:

        PP5, I do know about the award to the developer in the Mammoth Lakes case and the bankruptcy forced onto the city by this. Do not think it can’t happen to Paso Robles. I have spent MONTHS auditing the city’s budgets, from 2008 – 2012 and including the city’s EXTERNAL audits. My findings will be addressed as we move forward into the campaign term. People will be enraged when they see just HOW the city spent their tax dollars and now want more money to toss about cavalierly.

        (25) 25 Total Votes - 25 up - 0 down
        • pasoparent5 says:

          Agreed, danika. Not to be a pessimist but not only do I think it CAN happen here, I think that under the current corrupt and incompetent leadership it probably WILL happen here.

          (18) 18 Total Votes - 18 up - 0 down

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