Paso police hit with 2 complaints by current and past officers

Current officer claims retaliation over tickets; ex-officer says chief sexually harassed him

jlamb@thetribunenews.comFebruary 1, 2012 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how an internal affairs investigation was launched. It was prompted by a Superior Court administrator, not a judge.

A Paso Robles Police Department officer has filed a claim against the city alleging workplace retaliation he says resulted from a failure to meet illegal traffic-ticket quotas. In addition, the city has received a sexual harassment complaint and other allegations against police Chief Lisa Solomon.

The claim by Jon Tatro, the Paso Robles Police Officers Association president and an officer with the department, was filed with the city Dec. 20.

A claim is often a precursor to a lawsuit. Tatro’s claim only details one side of the allegations and does not mention any police officials by name.

Paso Robles City Manager Jim App would not comment on the Tatro claim other than to say it was denied. Solomon also declined comment.

Retaliation claim

In 2010, Tatro was threatened with disciplinary action if he did not bring up his number of monthly traffic citations to “meet department expectations,” according to the claim.

The California Vehicle Code forbids law enforcement agencies from forcing officers to meet quotas for traffic citations. It also forbids law enforcement agencies from using the number of citations issued by an officer as the sole reason for promoting, demoting, reassigning, firing or otherwise disciplining an officer.

The claim further alleges that Tatro brought the issue of “illegal quotas” to the city Human Resources Department and Solomon, but was told by the HR director to “pursue this issue through Police Department command channels.”

When the city failed to act, Tatro went to an administrator at the Paso Robles branch of San Luis Obispo Superior Court who, according to the claim, then prompted the Police Department to open an investigation into the charges.

The claim does not detail whether there were any findings of such an internal investigation.

But the claim alleges that Tatro faced retaliation from superiors who denied him good job assignments, blocked promotion opportunities and made false statements meant to damage his reputation.

Tatro seeks unspecified damages.

Sexual harassment

Former Paso Robles police Officer Brennan Lux, who was fired in November after a decade with the force, told The Tribune on Wednesday that he filed a complaint with the city that same month alleging inappropriate sexual contact by Solomon.

Lux, 37, would not comment on his firing beyond saying he has appealed it.

App would not comment on the sexual harassment allegation involving Solomon, citing personnel laws that specifically protect the privacy of police officers.

Under its policies, the city is obligated to investigate any complaints that it receives.

The city’s harassment policy states that if a formal complaint is filed with the city, the personnel officer will meet with the complainant within five business days to initiate an investigation of the facts, with further investigatory conferences scheduled with the individual who allegedly engaged in the harassing activity and with any witnesses.

If other issues arise during those interviews, they would be pursued as well.

While App would not comment on the charges against Solomon, generally speaking, he said, the city manager has the discretion to hire an outside third party to conduct an investigation into a complaint to provide the greatest objectivity. He typically takes that step, he said, if the individual who is being complained about is at the same level or is superior to the personnel officer.

“It’s best for everyone that it’s an objective party,” he said.

In Paso Robles, department heads such as police chief outrank the personnel officer.

If an investigation finds that harassment is evident, the policy states, appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, would be determined. If a department head is accused, the city manager sets the discipline.

App said the city provides mandatory harassment and discrimination training to management and supervisory staff every two years and to all staff every four years. All staff received such training last year, he said.

Officer Jon Tatro's claim

Claim alleges illegal ticket quotas in Paso Robles

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