Deputy Files Harassment Suit Against Department : Workplace: The Santa Clarita woman says several supervisors and deputies sought sex with her. Officials say they’re baffled by the charges.
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on unpaid medical leave filed a multimillion-dollar sexual harassment lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department and a number of male deputies Tuesday, charging that she was subjected to crude harassment over a six-year period and retaliation when she complained about it.
Patricia Cordova, 33, a married Santa Clarita mother of four, said in a lengthy complaint that several supervisors and colleagues sought to have sex with her, made pointed remarks about her appearance and, when she became pregnant, formed a betting pool about who was the father and posted derogatory cartoons about her in the station house.
Although Cordova’s attorney, Virginia Keeny, said the deputy had filed complaints with both state and federal agencies against the Sheriff’s Department in July, 1992, and notice had gone to the department then, a sheriff’s spokesman Tuesday evening insisted that the charges came as a surprise.
“Persons in this department that Deputy Cordova accuses of wrongdoing are baffled by her allegations,” said Capt. Dan Burt, chief spokesman for Sheriff Sherman Block, who as chief of the department is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
“While an established procedure exists to bring allegations of harassment and inappropriate conduct by department members to the department’s attention, individuals and the plaintiff’s bar seem more inclined to convey their message to us via media events on courthouse steps,” Burt said.
“The allegations brought by Deputy Cordova will be thoroughly and professionally investigated by our department,” he added.
Keeny responded, “If these charges come as a surprise to them, their investigation has not been very thorough.”
Indeed, the lawsuit charges that since Cordova aired her complaints last year, there has been hate mail, harassing telephone calls and vandalism at her home that she attributes to the department.
As a result of her experiences, Cordova told a Pasadena news conference at Keeny’s law office Tuesday, she incurred serious stress-related ailments, including sleeplessness, nightmares, stomach cramps, diarrhea and severe headaches, and her doctors have told her she should never try to work for the Sheriff’s Department again.
At the Mira Loma Jail, the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station and at the S.A.N.E. bureau, the sheriff’s drug education unit, where she had worked, Cordova said she had learned that many of her colleagues “believed there were only two kinds of women.
“You were either a bitch or a slut,” she said. “A bitch would not put out (have sex) and a slut would. To these men, you just can’t be a nice woman deputy.”
Among those named in Cordova’s complaint as having harassed her was the lieutenant commanding the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station, a detective lieutenant at the Santa Clarita station, a lieutenant who is the No. 2 press spokesman for Block, and a sergeant who works in the drug education unit in Santa Clarita.
Attempts to contact several officers named in the complaint found three who were willing to make public comments.
One was Lt. Jeff Springs, who encountered Cordova when both worked at the Santa Clarita station and later became a spokesman for Block.
“On one occasion,” Cordova’s complaint said, “Lt. Springs called her into his office on some business. When she entered the office, he told her to step away from the door. When she stepped forward, he grabbed her. He pulled her tight against him with his hands on her buttocks and said, ‘You feel so good.’ He attempted to kiss her . . . “She ultimately freed herself by pushing him away from her. Cordova found this assault very intimidating and humiliating.”
Springs on Tuesday said that being named as a defendant in the lawsuit came as a complete surprise to him, because “she knows I didn’t do any of that.”
“I’m hurt,” he said. “I’m angry. And I’m angry about the process wherein allegations of this type in a civil lawsuit become a media event without being investigated. I may have to bring a legal action of my own to correct the damage that is being done to me.”
Another deputy who commented, Lt. Mike Aranda, now commander at the sheriff’s Palmdale, station, said, “I can categorically deny anything that was alleged by her.” But Aranda confirmed that on one occasion several deputies had been disciplined at the Santa Clarita station for posting derogatory cartoons about Cordova.
Aranda, 48, who is not named as a defendant in Cordova’s lawsuit, because the statute of limitations has run out in his case, is nonetheless described in the suit as having rearranged his schedule so he could work near Cordova, and as “constantly staring at plaintiff’s breasts and rubbing against her” and as having told her that he bet she was “good in bed.”
The two were colleagues at the Mira Loma Jail in 1986-87, Cordova’s complaint said. On one occasion, it said, Aranda “arrived uninvited at plaintiff’s home late one night after she had put her children to bed,” and despite her repeated admonitions, “lunged at her and attempted to kiss her forcefully.” It was only when she “began to cry and beg him to leave her alone,” that he left, the complaint said.
A few months later, when Cordova learned that she was pregnant by the boyfriend she later married, a Los Angeles County firefighter, a new period of harassment began, the complaint declares, with “deputies discussing a lottery in the office to guess the name of the father” and subjecting her to taunts that Aranda was probably the father.
When she sought to complain to the commanding captain at Mira Loma, Ron Oest, Aranda told her that she had to go through the chain of command, and he would talk to Oest on her behalf, the complaint said.
Later, in 1989, after Cordova had become engaged to be married, she received a message to meet Sgt. Ron Boudreaux, a superior at the Santa Clarita station where she was then working, at an isolated spot in her patrol area, the complaint said.
“When she arrived at the spot . . . she drove up next to Boudreaux who was sitting in his car,” according to the complaint. “She asked him what he needed and he said, ‘Congratulations on your engagement. Here’s your last chance to make it with an older guy.’ ” Cordova said she drove off in a state of extreme agitation and embarrassment.
Boudreaux, now in drug education, did not return a call for comment.
Another person named in the complaint, but not made a defendant, was Deputy Dave Rawson, who during the period Cordova worked at Santa Clarita was watch deputy responsible for dispatching patrol cars and assigning work to trainees.
The complaint said Rawson “constantly made derogatory comments about Cordova and other women.
“If Cordova made a mistake or took too long performing an assignment, he openly referred to her as a ‘blond bimbo,’ a ‘dumb bimbo’ or an ‘airhead,’ ” the complaint said. “He stated in her presence and the presence of other female deputies that ‘women don’t belong in this kind of work.’ ”
Rawson, reached through Crescenta Valley Station, where he now works, said, “This is the first time I’ve heard anything of any sort of allegation from Miss Cordova, and I just sort of think it’s hilarious. It is not true by any means. It’s so ridiculous.”