Scandal left Paso Robles police chief with few options

Some council members say Lisa Solomon would have been forced out had she not retired

jlamb@thetribunenews.comMarch 23, 2012 

Lisa Solomon, center, has agreed to leave her post as Paso Robles police chief.

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

Some Paso Robles City Council members say that although police Chief Lisa Solomon stepped down on her own, the council would have forced her out had she not done so.

“It’s very sad. She was a decent person, although she made some mistakes,” Councilman John Hamon said. “Unfortunately, she needed to know she was a police chief 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Had she not announced her early retirement, he added, the city would have taken action.

Controversy had swirled around Solomon for the two months leading up to her departure. She was accused of inappropriate sexual contact by former officer Brennan Lux and was named in a civil lawsuit involving an alleged illegal traffic-ticket quota. Solomon has declined to comment on the suit and the formal complaint.

Under a settlement reached Tuesday, Solomon’s 26-year career in the Paso Robles department will end April 2. She will be paid $250,000, the settlement says.

Key meeting

According to several council members, they were briefed on an investigation into the allegations against Solomon in a closed session March 6 called to discuss “potential litigation.” The investigation was conducted by attorney Debra Estrin of San Francisco, who was hired Nov. 30 as a consultant for $150 an hour plus expenses, according to her contract. The city has not said how much she has been paid so far.

Hamon told The Tribune the details of the incomplete investigation were not divulged during the briefing, but he said, “If it did happen — we don’t know for sure — but if it didn’t, why would she resign?” Councilmen Fred Strong and Nick Gilman said a briefing took place but would not comment on the details. Councilman Ed Steinbeck had no comment, and Mayor Duane Picanco could not be reached.

Solomon’s resignation

At some point after the briefing, the council came to the realization that Solomon’s position as chief had become untenable, Gilman said.

Starting March 12, Solomon took 10 days of paid leave.

By the next City Council meeting, on Tuesday, she had reached an agreement with the city to be paid $250,000 to leave her job. Most of the money — $230,500 — was to be paid as a result of damage to her reputation. Solomon characterized her departure as an early retirement.

“The allegation received so much publicity and controversy,” Gilman said. “That makes it very hard for her to stay in her position. Whether the allegations are true or not, people are going to believe them.”

“This was a very difficult time for all concerned,” said Strong, who agreed with Gilman’s description of Solomon’s departure. “The City Council and the administration handled this to the best of their ability and came to the best solution they could find for the benefit of all parties, including citizens.”

Solomon, who was named chief in 2007, would not comment for this story.

Lawsuit outstanding

The city faces a civil lawsuit filed by officer Jon Tatro, who was formerly head of the union that represents Paso Robles’ officers. He alleges the department, under Solomon, had an illegal traffic-ticket quota system.

The city and Solomon have denied Tatro’s allegations.

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