Arroyo Grande settles with female police officer who claimed harassment

clambert@thetribunenews.comFebruary 20, 2013 

Arroyo Grande Police Station.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Arroyo Grande has reached a settlement agreement with former senior police officer Kimberely Martin, who filed a lawsuit against the city’s Police Department and its chief in 2010 alleging a pattern of sexual harassment and unequal treatment.

Martin will receive $162,500 as a “personal physical injury payment” and in return agreed to release her claims against the city and won’t apply for future employment with Arroyo Grande, according to documents signed last week and in January.

In a separate action last week, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted to approve a resolution determining that Martin suffers from a disabling back injury that she received while at work in 2009.

The action allows Martin to receive benefits from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Martin started with the city as a part-time dispatcher in August 1998, was hired as a reserve police officer in 1999 and promoted to senior officer in 2003. She was named the city’s Police Officer of the Year in 2002.

She filed the lawsuit in September 2010, alleging a pattern of sexual harassment and unequal treatment over a nearly three-year period since Steve Annibali was hired in September 2007 to lead the agency.

In her complaint, she alleged that she was retaliated against for voicing her concerns and claimed that Annibali’s harassment had been “unending, severe and humiliating.”

The city responded in October 2010, denying the allegations and reaffirming its confidence in Annibali.

Martin’s last day on the city’s payroll was Jan. 31, and she retired effective Feb. 1, according to the settlement agreement. Reached by phone, Martin said she couldn’t comment, citing a confidentiality clause in the agreement.

As part of the agreement, the city will dismiss all pending adverse employment claims against Martin, withdraw an action to terminate her employment, and purge any documents from her personnel file containing allegations used in disciplinary actions.

The money for the settlement comes through the city’s insurer, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state. The city doesn’t have a deductible, City Manager Steve Adams said.

The city is still involved in a second, similar lawsuit filed by a female officer against the Police Department, Annibali and former Cmdr. John Hough in December 2011.

Michelle Cota, who has worked for the Arroyo Grande Police Department since 2003, alleged that she was discriminated against and sexually harassed, and that her complaints instigated additional mistreatment.

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