BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
In an interview with the Post yesterday (April 26), Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith flatly denied allegations that she tried to have a sexual encounter with a subordinate officer in 1992 and interfered in a gender discrimination investigation brought by the same officer.
The Mercury News reported on April 1 that in 1992, then-Assistant Sheriff Smith went into the sheriff’s Internal Affairs office and demanded a cassette tape containing an interview with now-retired Sgt. Gary Brady.
The tape was part of an investigation into a gender discrimination complaint he filed after being removed from a prestigious, three-year drug task force assignment.
Smith didn’t deny that she took the tape, but said she delivered it to the county’s Equal Opportunity Division to investigate the discrimination complaint. She said Brady was one of eight employees who were transferred out of the task force. She said the transfers weren’t under her purview and that the 1992 investigation had nothing to do with her.
“Anytime there’s any management-level person, or someone at a lower level like a (Deputy Sheriffs’ Association union) president or something like that, we’ll farm out the investigation. We won’t do it internally,” Smith told the Post. “The tape had nothing to do with me, and it’s interesting that if there were allegations of sex against me, why wouldn’t he have said it in ‘92?”
In 1996, Brady filed another complaint and, according to the Mercury News, told an internal affairs sergeant that four years before, Smith had taken off her clothes and initiated a sexual encounter in an unmarked police car during a three-day law enforcement conference in San Mateo County.
Brady said he cut the encounter short, angering Smith and leading her to pull him off the assignment. But Smith said she never had any kind of personal relationship — they weren’t even friends, she said.
“I doubt I was ever in a car with him,” Smith said.
Smith was cleared in both investigations, and when the story leaked as she ran for sheriff for the first time in 1998, she said the complaint was an attack on her because of her gender.
Smith said the supposed sexual encounter wasn’t even mentioned in either of Brady’s complaints.
“Both complaints were exactly the same. There was not a hint of sex in either of them. Period,” Smith said. “It’s like a three- or four-page document where he talks about gender discrimination: ‘He was moved because he was a man. A woman got to stay there. Everybody who works narcotics likes him better than they like her. He has open cases.’”
Why did the story surface now?
Smith suggested that Brady had told his story to the Mercury News now to help her challenger Jose Salcido’s campaign. Brady and Salcido were seen in a photo together in September at the birthday party of former Lt. Armand Tiano, who served time in prison for fraud and child molestation.
“They’ve been peddling the story for 20 years,” Smith said, referring to her political opponents.
Two of Smith’s challengers in the June 5 race, retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa and Deputy Joe LaJeunesse, condemned Smith’s behavior in taking the tape.
“The relevancy for me is about the use and abuse of power, of being in charge of that unit, having a complaint lodged against you and then removing the tape,” Hirokawa said, noting that he knows Pat Verzosa, the civilian secretary who wrote a memo at the time about Smith removing the tape.
Hirokawa said Verzosa was “very highly regarded, very trustworthy.”
LaJeunesse said he believes Smith took the interview tape, but doesn’t know if he believes Brady’s allegation because he doesn’t have all the information. He also condemned anyone in the sheriff’s office who knew about her conduct at the time, but waited to come forward until this year.
Hirokawa noted that he was a deputy in 1992 and didn’t know “a lot of these things” until the story broke this month. He said he Brady worked as deputies in East San Jose and said he was a good narcotics cop.
“I’m not saying he was a perfect guy. I didn’t know him to be a liar, either, but I just don’t know,” Hirokawa said.
Brady told the Mercury News that he came forward about his gender discrimination and sexual harassment complaint in part because of the Me Too movement.