BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor
While sexual misconduct allegations against high-profile figures like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore have dominated the headlines, a local case of significance has quietly been playing out in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
It concerns the top law enforcement official in Mountain View, Police Chief Max Bosel, who is accused of sexual harassment by a police dispatcher, Annie Lohman.
The Bosel case made the news when Lohman filed her lawsuit on March 7, 2016, but since then it’s been radio silence. Only small bits of information have emerged during the past 20 months of litigation, though it is noteworthy that the court hasn’t dismissed the case over that time. That would suggest there’s something substantial to Lohman’s allegations that are keeping the two sides fighting.
Lohman claims in the suit that she was “repeatedly subjected to .” She claims that when she rejected Bosel’s advances, he retaliated against her by subjecting her to numerous job performance investigations with the goal of fabricating reasons for her firing.
Her lawsuit indicates that she brought her complaints to HR twice in 2015, and the city investigated her claims.
Bosel’s boss, City Manager Dan Rich, said that her allegations “were not supported by the facts” but that the police would be receiving training “to ensure there is no uncertainty over what is expected of our police department employees” when it comes to harassment.
Lohman filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Both agencies gave her a green light to go ahead with her lawsuit.
Lohman has worked for the city of Mountain View for 14 years and she wants to retire there, her lawyer, James McManus, told the Post when the suit was filed. She’s currently out on paid leave.
“The honorable thing should have been done before a lawsuit was filed to address the problems and violations, which are a pattern of harassment that must stop,” McManus said.
City fires back
One of the reasons victims of sexual harassment don’t come forward is that they fear having their reputation smeared by the perpetrators.
In July 2016, the city fired back at Lohman, filing court papers saying she willingly and “regularly engaged in lewd behavior” at social events with her co-workers, including buying a lap dance for a co-worker and fondling his privates during the dance, sitting on her male colleagues’ laps in a hot tub despite being asked not to and having sex with a SWAT member while his roommate was in the room at an out-of-town SWAT training. She later married one of the SWAT team members.
Despite that broadside, Lohman and her attorney continue to pursue the suit. The case is still in the discovery stage, where both sides exchange information. A judge has referred the parties to mediation. No trial date has been set.
This suit is important because it makes allegations about how the police chief treats women. If this is what he does to a co-worker, what about the women his officers arrest? How are they treated?
I don’t know which side is right in this lawsuit, but how this case ends will be interesting.
If Bosel is entirely in the clear, then the city should be willing to take the suit to trial and feel confident that a jury will reach the same conclusion.
If the city settles by paying Lohman any amount of money, that will look like Bosel was guilty and the City Council, which has to authorize any settlement, is just trying to sweep the matter under the rug.
The public’s right to know
I know settlements usually contain a clause saying the defendant admits no wrongdoing, and lawyers will say it’s often cheaper to settle than go to trial. But a settlement can also mean that the defendant didn’t want the allegations decided by a jury.
If the council settles, it should explain to residents why Bosel should continue as chief. I mean why pay Lohman any money if her claims are false?
I think the people of Mountain View have the right to know whether their police chief engaged in sexual harassment or not. And they have a right to know whether others on the police force did the same thing.
A settlement will hide the truth from the community. A trial will give the public the facts.
Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.