Former police dispatcher claims harassment [Corrected]

A former Fountain Valley police dispatcher has filed an Orange County Superior Court lawsuit against the city alleging sexual harassment by a now-retired sergeant.

The employee alleges that the sergeant touched her inappropriately, showed up at her home unannounced and implied he could harm her planned career as an officer if she complained, according to the complaint.

"We believe that this is absolutely without merit, and we are going to defend ourselves vigorously," said Fountain Valley City Manager Ray Kromer.

Rebecca Buenrostro, 23, was hired as a reserve police officer in 2009 after completing her academy training and then later as a part-time dispatcher, said her attorney, Dale Nowicki.

She worked in those positions while waiting to hear whether she would secure a position as a full-time police officer. The department had no openings when she completed her training at the Fullerton Police Academy, but she believes she was told she would be offered a position, her attorney said.

At one point, Fountain Valley Sgt. Eric Orahood contacted her to schedule her background investigation, according to the complaint.

While Buenrostro was still in the academy, Orahood sent Buenrostro sexually explicit messages and asked her to spend time with him, according to the lawsuit.

At one time, she alleges, he told her she was "going to be the next Mrs. Orahood."

After she was hired as a dispatcher, Buenrostro claims Orahood touched her inappropriately.

In February 2009, Orahood showed up at Buenrostro's house unannounced at 7 a.m. to drop off her name tag and later told her he was "glad that he didn't call when he was on his way because he got to see her in her pajamas," the complaint said.

Nowicki said his client didn't tell anyone about the allegations because Orahood implied that he could have sway over her career.

"Was that the smart thing to do because she wanted the job there? No," Nowicki said. "But that was the reason she didn't complain about him."

Buenrostro's dispatch supervisor, Jenna Roberts, who is Orahood's ex-wife, and another dispatch worker, implied that Buenrostro is gay because she didn't respond positively to Orahood's comments, Nowicki said.


An earlier version of the story gave an incorrect name for Orahood's ex-wife.

When she complained about those remarks to Orahood, an investigation was launched, and Buenrostro was reprimanded, Nowicki said.

Buenrostro left Fountain Valley when she was hired as an officer by the La Habra Police Department in June 2010.

Although she received positive reviews from her superiors, Buenrostro was dismissed from La Habra in late July, shortly after a captain in the department tried to find out what had happened in Fountain Valley and right before her new employee probation period ended, Nowicki said.

Buenrostro received a letter, which was obtained by the Independent, from a law firm representing the city of La Habra letting her know that she was dismissed for failure to successfully complete her probationary period, but not because of misconduct.

Nowicki provided the Independent with positive letters of recommendation from Buenrostro's La Habra police superiors.

Nowicki said he doesn't plan to sue La Habra, but that all options are on the table.

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