Three women who were arrested after participating in a "scanty panty" contest at a Red Onion restaurant in Santa Ana have filed a lawsuit contending that the establishment misled them and knew the event violated a city ordinance.
The three women, all professional models, also allege that five Santa Ana police officers violated their civil rights and humiliated them by making snide comments and "putting them on display" at the department's holding cells, the women's attorney, David L. Douglas, said Thursday at a press conference.
One of them, Wendee Arleen Hagen, 21, of Riverside, said that she was made to strip to her underwear so a male officer could take a photograph of her for evidence, according to Douglas.
Douglas said the photograph could not be located.
"It was humiliating," Andrea Haug, 23, of Huntington Beach, said of the arrest. "They treated us like we were criminals or something."
The women said they had participated in such contests before and after the 1990 arrests. First prize in the contest was $100 and Hagen said she won a $50 second prize.
She said the thong-type lingerie "was more than I wear at the beach."
Santa Ana City Atty. Edward J. Cooper said he had not seen the lawsuit and would have no comment.
Police spokesman Lt. Robert Helton also declined comment on the lawsuit. However, he confirmed that the women were arrested Dec. 18, 1990, for violating a city ordinance that prohibits "the exposure of a person's private parts in a public place such as a restaurant." The ordinance construes private parts to include buttocks.
Helton said that in all, eight people were arrested in connection with the event, including the restaurant's manager. The charges against the three models were dropped, he said. However, it was unclear what happened to the other cases.
Stephen W. Solomon, an attorney for International Onion Inc., the parent company of the Red Onion restaurant chain, said the restaurant's contest did not violate city laws. "They (restaurant management) didn't do anything wrong," he said.
The plaintiffs are Haug, Hagen, and Donna Fleagle, 24, of Westminster. A fourth woman, Cary Ashmore, also is a plaintiff in the suit. Although she did not participate in the lingerie contest, she was arrested after she removed her blouse, revealing her bra, to win a T-shirt.
The suit, filed last week in Orange County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages. It also names radio station KNAC as a defendant for co-sponsoring and advertising the event.