A male Anaheim Police Dept. supervisor tampered with a sex offender database to sabotage a female senior detective, Laura Lomeli, whom he had singled out and retaliated against after she complained, according to a lawsuit Lomeli filed against the City of Anaheim last month.
Lomeli’s supervisor, which the lawsuit identifies as Anaheim Police Sgt. Jeff Dodd, also denied her the vacation time she earned and certain training opportunities despite being “the most senior detective in the unit,” her lawsuit alleges. Read it here.
In her lawsuit, Lomeli also alleges that Dodd accused her of filing late police reports in an effort to block promotions.
The filing states that workplace conditions under Dodd, and his treatment of Lomeli, partly prompted the departure of an unnamed Orange County District Attorney’s office prosecutor and an investigator who worked with Anaheim Police Department’s sex crimes unit for 15 years.
The lawsuit comes from one of the department’s more public-facing people, one whose work not only includes keeping tabs on registered sex offenders in town, but also holding a dual role as the department’s Spanish-speaking media liaison.
Dodd is at the center of Lomeli’s grievances, but department leadership and City Hall also allegedly failed to end the situation after Lomeli complained.
Deputy Chief Rick Armendariz at one point “acknowledged the unlawful behavior by Sgt. Dodd by apologizing to Lomeli for the treatment she suffered,” the lawsuit states.
“We never like to see an employee issue rise to the level of a lawsuit. Beyond that, we want to respect all involved by refraining from any additional comment as we review what we have received,” said Anaheim city spokesperson Mike Lyster in a written statement Thursday.
Anaheim Police Sgt. Shane Carringer declined to offer comment on behalf of the department.
The employment attorney fighting in court on Lomeli’s behalf, Bijan Darvish of Huntington Beach, made headlines once for his own prior career in law enforcement – namely over his involvement in the videotaped, 2002 beating of a Black teenager in Inglewood.
Darvish was acquitted of filing a false police report about the beating and, along with his former partner, successfully sued the City of Inglewood for unfair discipline in 2005.
“I did sue the city for discrimination and I prevailed,” said Darvish, when asked about it over the phone Thursday.
He also appeared in the news in 2006 after firing three shots at a driver to end a police chase, while off-duty as a Huntington Beach police officer.
Darvish, now representing Lomeli in her case against Anaheim, said a trial date has not been set yet, though the next hearing is set for Aug. 8.
Lomeli seeks monetary damages for emotional and physical harm and an injunction to prevent this from happening to other employees, according to the lawsuit.
It also requests a court injunction to prevent further delays by the department in investigating workplace discrimination and harassment complaints, beyond the current one-year statute of limitations under existing policy.
“When there are no consequences for discrimination, the workplace is not only unsafe for everyone, but it discourages others from reporting discrimination and emboldens the predators,” Darvish said in an email.
Lomeli was hired at the department in 2005.
In 2008, she was promoted to detective in the Family Crimes Unit. She also became the Spanish-language media liaison in 2009, a title she still holds now, according to the claim.
And since 2012, Lomeli has been a detective at the Sex Crimes Unit.
She was the single detective responsible for managing the city’s “550-plus sex registrants,” and was also assigned further sex crime cases to investigate, according to her claim.
Dodd was assigned as her supervisor in 2016.
He was making coffee for himself in Lomeli’s cubicle around January 2019 when the two discussed the working hours of a protest scheduled the following week, the lawsuit states.
It adds that Dodd told Lomeli, the only woman from her unit assigned to work the protest, that the unit adjusted its working hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., instead of 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
But the next week, Lomeli arrived at 10 a.m. and learned Dodd and the unit’s other male detectives had come to work at 5 a.m. to “earn overtime,” said Lomeli’s lawsuit.
Lomeli eventually confronted Dodd, explaining that all the men in the unit were able to earn overtime; “however, as the only female, she was denied the ability to work overtime,” the lawsuit said.
After that, Dodd began to retaliate, accusing Lomeli of filing late reports – something which “would reasonably impact her prospects for advancement” – and refusing to approve her for certain training despite her being the “most senior detective in the unit,” the lawsuit said.
Lomeli’s lawsuit also claims Dodd didn’t approve her requests to use “earned vacation time.”
Things worsened as time went on, according to the lawsuit, which alleges that between May and June of 2019, Dodd contacted the IT department, entered the database Lomeli used for sex offender registrants “despite being instructed to talk to Lomeli before accessing the database” and “sabotaged the data.”
“On several other occasions Sgt. Dodd sabotaged Lomeli’s work database by deleting information and importing improper data,” the lawsuit said, adding that Lomeli then had to take time away from her other duties and correct the data.
A few months later, Dodd called Lomeli into another lieutenant’s office and falsely accused Lomeli of not performing her duties, also “falsely” accusing Lomeli of theft by “claiming that Lomeli was submitting overtime slips when she did not work overtime,” according to the lawsuit.
Lomeli’s lawsuit said she then reported some of the described conduct to department administrators.
Around the end of August 2019, Lomeli’s lawsuit said the city’s Human Resources Department contacted her and said her hostile work environment grievance would be “handled by HR, and not through the grievance process.”
The following month, Dodd began “reassigning Lomeli’s cases to others without notifying Lomeli,” and made a “bogus complaint against Lomeli” to the department, “falsely” accusing her of “unsatisfactory work performance and possible dishonesty,” the lawsuit said.
She was also ordered to provide weekly personal updates on cases – something “no other detective was required to give,” Lomeli’s lawsuit alleges.
It adds that an Orange County District Attorney’s office prosecutor and an investigator – both of whom had been working at the sex crimes unit for “nearly 15 years” – left the department due to Dodd’s treatment of Lomeli, among other reasons, like a “toxic” environment under Dodd.
By December 2020, the department found that the allegations by Lomeli “were not sustained,” her lawsuit said, adding that “defendants chose to wait over a year before completing the investigation against Sgt. Dodd.”
“By then, Defendants were legally prevented from imposing any punitive action against Sgt. Dodd and other employees,” the lawsuit said.
Nearly a year after the probe, the lawsuit claims Deputy Police Chief Rick Armendariz and officials from the city attorney’s office and the human resources department had a meeting with Lomeli, where Armendariz acknowledged Dodd’s mistreatment of her.
At the October 2021 meeting, the deputy chief “acknowledged the unlawful behavior by Sgt. Dodd by apologizing to Lomeli for the treatment she suffered,” the claim reads.
Armendariz, however, said the results of the probe into him “were confidential based on the attorney-client relationship between the Defendant and the attorney-investigator.”
Then the lawsuit describes Dodd’s alleged “final act” of humiliation toward Lomeli.
He was at one point transferred to the Internal Affairs Unit, the lawsuit said, “where he would be in charge of investigating other officers and the first to know if Lomeli filed a complaint.”
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @photherecord.
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