H-ARROYO GRANDE

Dec 29, 2011 11:15 AM by Caroline Lowe

Female officer files lawsuit against Arroyo Grande police department and chief

A female Arroyo Grande police officer has filed a lawsuit against the city police department and the police chief, claiming she was a victim of discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.

Officer Michelle Cota filed the suit on December 22nd.

The city is already in the middle of another lawsuit involving a second female officer, Kimberly Martin.

In Cota's lawsuit, she claims male officers were given opportunities denied women on the Arroyo Grande police force.

Christine Adams is the attorney for Cota. Adams released a statement that said, "Chief Annibali's statements make clear that he is not at all happy women stand shoulder to shoulder with men on the police force, He and other high ranking law enforcement personnel have withheld mentoring, training. and promotional opportunities to female police officers who have dedicated their careers and lives to protecting Arroyo Grande and its citizens."

In response to the Cota lawsuit, Arroyo Grande City Manager Steven Adams released this statement on Wednesday. "We believe there is no merit to these allegations and the City will aggressively defend this lawsuit. The employee involved is currently on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into violations of City personnel regulations and policies. Because of privacy issues, we cannot disclose any factual information or any of the specifics. Since Chief Annibali was hired in 2007, he has worked hard to increase accountability in order to provide the most efficient and effective public safety services possible. Unfortunately, in the public personnel system under which we operate, litigation is all too often a strategic repercussion of such efforts. Most of the City's officers have responded to these efforts in a positive manner. As a result, the City has an excellent police department that is dedicated to providing a high level of service to the community."

An attorney who is representing the police department and police chief in the Martin lawsuit said he does not want to try the case in th news media. But attorney Jay Hieatt said, " I have utmost confidence in Chief Annibali and in his integrity and approach to his job."

The Martin suit was filed in 2010.

The attorneys in that case are scheduled to meet with a judge on it in April.

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