Scotts Valley ex-cop says forced sexual harassment was not investigated

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A wrongful dismissal lawsuit brought by a longtime Scotts Valley Police Department officer accused of sexual harassment says several cases of sexually inappropriate behavior within the force have never been properly investigated.

While David Ball’s complaint centers primarily on the claim that he was discriminated against because of his age, the Santa Cruz County Superior Court’s civil action against the city of Scotts Valley and Chief Steve Walpole, Jr. paints a picture of a department with a “hostile work environment” where scorecard fraud, sleep on the job and retaliation from the human resources department were tolerated.

Ball, a 27-year veteran of the force, argues that several members of city council, including his former SVPD superior, City Councilor Donna Lind, should have recused themselves when considering his ouster appeal.

“Mr. Ball believes he has been discriminated against because of his age and that the city and city council have rampant corruption, nepotism issues and inappropriate conflict,” his lawyer, Neil Berman, of Rucka Salinas-based O’Boyle, Lombardo & McKenna said in an interview. “He fears for the citizens of Scotts Valley because they have incompetent leadership, in his opinion.”

Lind, who is identified in the lawsuit as Walpole’s godmother, declined to comment for the story, referring the questions to the town’s legal department.

City attorney Kirsten Powell said Ball “was fired for good cause after a full investigation and evidentiary hearing.”

The City “denies all the allegations in its two lawsuits against the City and is ready to vigorously defend the actions of the City,” she said.

In a complaint filed Aug. 13, Ball says he owes him $ 67,200 for a “special mission allowance” denied from 2007 to 2019 when he was fired, despite a younger officer receiving a such compensation for similar work.

City council voted earlier this year to adjust SVPD pay scales so that junior officers are not paid more than superiors, as has happened in some cases.

The department has struggled to retain staff over the past two years, although it has successfully hired several officers in recent months.

Ball says colleagues turned on him following the suicide of former officer John Cahill.

“The basis for the reprisals came from a former officer, John Cahill, who was married to the plaintiff’s current wife,” the lawsuit says. “He and the Complainant’s current wife started dating and it upset his supervisors. “

Ball says his superiors resented him and felt he had contributed to Cahill’s suicide.

In an article for cnn.com, Cahill’s father said his son had committed suicide because he “was devastated by the breakdown of his marriage, his financial problems and the possible impact of the divorce” on his family.

Chef Walpole did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Ball claims that a young officer who made sexually explicit comments to a subordinate and sent a sexually explicit message to a dispatcher has never been investigated or reprimanded for his actions. That same agent was discovered committing potential time card fraud, for which the employee was not penalized, the lawsuit also says.

In another case, a trainee who made TEAM COCK BLOCK t-shirts (the letters TEAM followed by a photo of a rooster and a stop sign) for her fellow officers had them confiscated when a male officer was offended by them and reported it to Capt Mike Dean, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit claims that this employee was never investigated for possible sexual harassment. However, when she learned that she had been reported for “regular sleep on duty” and other work performance issues, the lawsuit says she made up a story about Ball sexually harassing her. “in a few hours”, which led to his dismissal.

Ball, in the costume, says his relationship with Walpole started to sour when he told his wife about something Walpole told him unprofessional.

“I don’t even like anybody here,” Walpole told him, he said. “These are just people I work with. “

According to the lawsuit, another officer overheard Ball talking to his wife about it and he reported the conversation to HR Director Tony McFarlane.

McFarlane shared this with Walpole, who threatened to investigate Ball, and then retaliated against him, according to the complaint.

From that point on, Walpole was determined to get rid of Ball, according to the complaint.

Ball says that even if the allegations of verbal sexual harassment against him were true, according to the city’s own employment policies which would not necessarily require administrators to fire him from his job.

Ball denies sexually harassing the intern.

On May 24, 2019, Ball was put on administrative leave with pay by Walpole, who was then interim city manager and police chief, while he was under investigation.

Walpole hired Ehle, Medina & Belcher Associates, a company owned by three former police chiefs from neighboring towns who were good friends with Walpole’s father, Steven Walpole, Sr., the former SVPD police chief, according to the complaint.

“Mr. Ball maintains that the city discriminated against on the basis of age and that their handling of the case was akin to a kangaroo court with multiple conflicts of interest where Chief Walpole should have recused himself during the investigation and the members of city council should have recused themselves during the farce of administrative proceedings to proceed, ”said Berman.

Walpole not only initiated the investigation, “he ordered specific employees to participate, met with investigators several times throughout the investigation, participated in the findings of the investigation, and then sat as the investigator. ‘Hearing Officer “Skelly” even after (Ball) objected to his involvement in this matter, “the lawsuit said.

According to simasgovlaw.com, “Skelly’s review officer must be ‘reasonably impartial and uninvolved’ in the employee’s underlying facts and circumstances. However, they are usually still employees of the same public organizations; maybe just from a different unit.

In order to prevent Ball from getting unemployment benefits, Walpole submitted a written statement, dated January 10, 2019, which inappropriately disclosed confidential personal information in violation of the Public Safety Officers Bill of Rights Act (POBAR) of the plaintiff, despite the appeal process just beginning, according to the complaint.

“Chef Walpole was jealous of him,” said Berman, characterizing his client’s position. “Chief Walpole has had a personal conflict and vendetta against him and his family.”

Berman says Ball wants a jury to review the evidence in the case.


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