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Sexual harassment and retaliation alleged against Arroyo Grande Police Department

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A female Arroyo Grande police officer filed a civil lawsuit against the police department and its chief, alleging a culture of sexual discrimination and retaliation against herself and two other female officers.

Kimberly Martin—a 14-year veteran of the Arroyo Grande Police Department and the 2002 officer of year—made a number of allegations in a complaint filed in September 2010, including sexual harassment, disability discrimination, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, and retaliation.

“[Chief Steve] Annibali’s harassment of the plaintiff has been unending, severe, and humiliating,” the complaint reads.

Martin joined the department in 1998 as a dispatcher and attended the academy during evenings to become a reserve officer. She was promoted to full-time officer in 2000.

According to the complaint, Martin became the victim of sexual harassment and discrimination when Annibali took over as chief in 2007. Martin alleges that complaints to Annibali against three colleagues—two of whom were her commanding officers—were swept under the rug. The complaint states that those three officers were allowed to take full early retirements, and no other disciplinary measures were taken against them.

The complaint further alleges that Mayor Tony Ferrara singled out Martin and two other female officers in a May 2007 mandatory department meeting for having brought claims of sexual harassment he felt were “possibly a misunderstanding and would be cleared up soon.” Annibali allegedly refused to address the mayor’s “misguided” comments.

Furthermore, Martin contends she and other female officers were routinely overlooked for promotions that were instead given to Annibali’s “golden boys,” or male officers he allegedly favored.

According to the department’s dispatch office, Martin has been out of the office receiving workman’s compensation for approximately a year and a half.

In a written response to the allegations, the city argued to the court that it should not be held responsible for her injuries, that the officers were acting within the law, and that Martin had missed the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit, among other defenses.

The Arroyo Grande City Council met in closed session to discuss Martin’s lawsuit with its legal counsel on several occasions, most recently on Sept. 13.

Chief Annabali; Jay Hieatt, the attorney representing the city in the matter; and Mayor Ferrara did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Neither Martin nor Kevin Boyle, her Calabasas-based attorney, returned calls.

For the full story, check the Dec. 22 issue of New Times.

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