Arroyo Grande police officer alleges sexual harassment

A female Arroyo Grande police officer has filed a lawsuit against the city’s Police Department and its chief, 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, filed in September 2010, Kimberely Martin alleges she was retaliated against for voicing her concerns and claims that Annibali’s harassment had been “unending, severe and humiliating.”

She is seeking compensation for medical expenses, general damages for emotional distress and mental suffering and attorney’s fees, among other damages.

The city responded in October 2010, denying the allegations. In a statement Monday, the city reaffirmed its confidence in Annibali and noted all supervisors are required to take sexual harassment training every two years, which California law mandates for most managers in government and business.

The parties are set to have a case management conference on April 5.

City officials declined to disclose whether Martin is on leave from the department. Her attorney, Kevin Boyle, was out of the office and could not be reached for comment.

According to the complaint, Martin was hired as a part-time dispatcher in August 1998 and attended an evening police academy. She was hired as a reserve police officer in 1999 and promoted to senior officer in 2003. She was presented the city’s police officer of the year award in 2002.

She was injured at work in September 2009 and recently had back surgery, according to court documents.

Martin alleged that in May 2007 another officer had sexually harassed her and two other female officers with offensive and demeaning comments.

After an investigation, Annibali offered that officer a full retirement and no disciplinary actions, according to the complaint.

In the months that followed, Martin alleges a pattern of disparate actions, such as giving preferential treatment to male officers — who were referred to as “golden boys” — while overlooking female officers for promotion.

In its statement, the city countered that Martin sued after she was the subject of an investigation by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.

According to Martin’s complaint, the District Attorney’s Office investigated for four months and found nothing. The District Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment.

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