Attendance at the Paso Robles City Council meeting on Feb. 7 was standing room only. Three uniformed officers stood in the shadows outside the building, while Police Chief Lisa Solomon sat inside, front and center before the crowd and council.
After allegations surfaced that Solomon was accused of misconduct and sexual harassment, it seemed she would be widely criticized at the meeting.
Then one person spoke.
“Lisa’s name has been dragged through the mud,” said Carl Knoll. “She’s a good friend, a good mother, a good wife, and a good chief. These are facts.”
The comments received resounding applause. In fact, most of the speakers came in support of Solomon, although there was some dissention.
Rodia Monterrosobragg (who claims she was assaulted by a former Paso police officer) and Kami Brady (the mother of the deceased 21-year-old Bryan Brady) didn’t speak to the specific allegations against Solomon, but both spoke of misconduct throughout the police department and asked for an investigation. Gary Fowler, a San Luis Obispo resident and ex-commander at Camp Roberts, suggested that the council appoint an outside committee to confirm or refute the allegations conclusively so the city can move forward.
There was nothing on the council agenda concerning police issues, but Mayor Duane Picanco issued a non-statement type statement to address the issue. “The city has not, nor can it now make a comment,” he said.
He said personnel matters should be addressed with due process, the council believes in innocence until guilt is proven, and the safety of residents has not been jeopardized.
As the crowd filed out, Solomon received handshakes and hugs from supporters. Solomon and other officers at the meeting declined an interview.
Meanwhile, the police department is facing criticism from one of its own.
On Feb. 3, Jon Tatro, a sworn Paso PD officer with the city police department, filed a civil lawsuit at San Luis Obispo Superior Court alleging he was retaliated against after attempting to blow the whistle on an alleged traffic ticket quota. Ticket quotas are illegal in California.
According to the complaint, Tatro returned to patrol duty after five years as a D.A.R.E. officer, being awarded D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year in 2009. Within four months, he received a “Personnel Incident Form,” as the legal work describes it, for failing to meet “department expectations” by falling below the shift averages for citations.
Tatro claims to have endured a year of criticism and ridicule when he continued to fail those “expectations,” but also praise when he met his quota.
According to the lawsuit, Tatro took his complaints to Solomon and the city’s Human Resources Department. After receiving no action for six months, he tried to take his complaint to a county judge, but court staff notified the department. The officer then allegedly became the target of an internal affairs investigation.
Tatro claims he was denied favorable job positions, ostracized by coworkers, subjected to counseling, and denied promotions.
Tatro is seeking an unspecified monetary award, and is being represented by the Encino-based law firm Lipow & Harris, which did not respond to a request for comment. The city had not filed its legal response as of press time.