The third-highest-ranking officer in the San Luis Obispo Sheriff's County Department has filed a $1.25 million claim against his own division, alleging that a pair of co-workers illegally spied on him.
Chief Deputy Gary Hoving filed a claim on Sept. 7, which accused two of his colleagues Sheriff Pat Hedges and Undersheriff Steve Bolts of sneaking into his office and installing hidden surveillance equipment in October of 2006.
According to the claim, Hoving first became aware his office was bugged on Aug. 17 more than 10 months after Hedges, Bolts, Sgt. Tony Perry, and Sgt. Jay Donovan allegedly met in a San Luis Obispo restaurant and planned to capture Hoving on film and record him.
The claim also noted that, prior to this, Donovan had filed a grievance over a Hoving-ordered transfer of his position in narcotics to patrol.
Hoving's attorney, Michael Stone, said the alleged incident has made it nearly impossible for Hoving to work. The chief deputy is currently on paid administrative leave from the department.
"Based on the damage caused to the working relationship, this has the same effect as rolling a grenade into Hoving's office," Stone said.
The claim is based on a potential violation of penal code.
"Eavesdropping and recording confidential communications between two or more persons without the consent of all is a violation of penal code 632 unless it's done in connection of a criminal investigation," Stone said.
The claim also states that county attorney Clay Hall, who was preparing for a formal hearing on the Donovan grievance, learned of the alleged bugging and told Hedges that the action was illegal and that Hall had an ethical conflict in the case as a consequence.
Hall could not be reached for comment by press time.
Sheriff's spokesman Brian Hascall said that the department first became aware of the claim when a media representative leaked a copy, but didn't release any details concerning the claim.
"Because the claim involves potential litigation against the county and because it involves a personnel grievance, the department is unable to comment," Hascall said.
Undersheriff Bolts said he was unable to comment on the claim for the same reasons.
According to Stone, the county has 45 days to respond to the claim. If there's no response, Hoving can file a lawsuit.
"It's literally in the hands of the county," Stone said. "If they ignore it, it opens the door to go to court."