BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
A captain who was let go after an up-and-down 30-year career with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has reached a settlement in her lawsuit against the county, and the Board of Supervisors will take a look this afternoon behind closed doors.
Amy Le’s lawyer Seth Weiner said he wouldn’t reveal the proposed settlement until the county has signed it and the terms were solidified.
Le sued the county and the sheriff’s office in November 2019 for $5 million after she said she was forced to resign in retaliation for reporting a sexual harassment complaint against Assistant Sheriff Michael Taylor.
Two sides to the story
She also said Taylor belittled her and treated her differently because she is an older Vietnamese woman.
On the other side, the sheriff’s office said Le was put on leave for lying about where she got the money to build a Zen garden and barbecue area at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, called the Elmwood Gratitude Garden.
It was a fall from grace for Le, who started with the sheriff’s office in 1989 as a clerk.
In 2016, three years before her resignation, Le was elected as president of the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association, the union for jailers.
In 2017, she earned more overtime pay than any of the other 1,500 sheriff’s employees. Her total compensation was $449,767.
In 2018, the union led by Le endorsed Sheriff Laurie Smith for re-election and spent $300,000 to support her campaign.<
In charge during jail incident
That August, Le was the watch commander when inmate Andrew Hogan was having a mental health crisis, and he was taken to the main jail in the back of a van without a seatbelt.
Hogan bashed his head into the van wall at least 50 times and was left in the back without medical care, resulting in permanent brain damage, according to his family.
That November, Smith was re-elected as sheriff. In December, Le was promoted from lieutenant to captain and the internal affairs investigation into the Hogan case ended without any conclusion or explanation.
Supervisor Joe Simitian has speculated that Le and Smith participated in a quid-pro-quo, with campaign donations exchanged for a promotion and ending the Hogan investigation.
The county paid Hogan’s family $10 million, and the jail supervisors’ role in the incident was sharply criticized by independent police auditor Michael Gennaco.
Simitian and the rest of the board have called for new leadership of the sheriff’s office, and one of their reasons is that Smith is costing the county millions of dollars to settle lawsuits.
Put on leave
Le was placed on leave on May 31, 2019, after the Elmwood Gratitude Garden was completed. She said she built the garden with a volunteer inmate crew and funded construction with donations from her husband, the union and her own money.
The garden had a barbecue area, trees and flowers, and an arbor with benches.
Shortly after the project was finished, another captain red-tagged the structure. Le claims in her lawsuit that the structure was red-tagged at the request of Assistant Sheriff Taylor, who had been hostile to her since she was promoted to captain.
Sexual harassment complaint
A week later, Le said she reported a sexual harassment complaint made by a female lieutenant against Taylor.
Le was then told in a letter to surrender her badge and to stay away from the sheriff’s property. The letter alleged that she made false statements to her superiors about getting donations for the garden.
The day before her investigative meeting with internal affairs, the county promoted someone to fill Le’s position. Le said she resigned rather than suffering through a meeting that would