Gilroy Police Department Rocked by Lurid Sex Scandal Lawsuit

Members of the Gilroy Police Department hosted sex parties, exposed themselves at a Christmas party and had inappropriate relations with young Police Explorers, according to a lawsuit filed by an ex-police dispatcher.

The 60-page NSFW suit names names—including high-ranking officers, police wives and girlfriends—and graphically describes alleged sexual misconduct and possibly criminal conduct. In addition, plaintiff Patricia Harrell says in the suit filed Aug. 7 in state Superior Court that she faced harassment for complaining about the activity.

City officials had little to say about the suit.

Though neither Police Chief Scot Smithee nor Public Information Officer Jason Smith were available for comment, Captain Kurt Svardal, who has been with the force since 1992, said he would not make any comments about pending litigation.

“I have not seen it,” said Svardal. “I am sure the city has it. Obviously it’s pending litigation so we won’t make any comment. I’m sure the city will vigorously defend it and I’m not going to comment yet because I don’t know the contents.”

Harrell, a veteran senior police communications supervisor, was fired three years short of full pension eligibility. She was sacked for alleged improper conduct with trainees when she attempted to warn them about the situation in the GPD.

She had worked for the department since 1990.

But Harrell, a wife of 29 years and mother of four, claims her termination was part of a coordinated and purposeful pattern of retaliation that began when she objected to the sexually charged environment and conduct that permeated the department, on and off-duty, warned coworkers to watch out for certain officers and attempted to improve the department’s procedures and professionalism.

Higher ups in the department ordered others to “f…” with her, meaning make her life miserable, according to the suit.

As a result, Harrell claims, she was harassed, threatened, investigated and reinvestigated, called names, subjected to unwanted sexual advances, disciplined, shunned, admonished, punished, overworked to the point of exhaustion, wrongly accused of wrongdoing and ultimately fired.

The alleged overworking resulted in nearly $22,000 in overtime pay in 2015, according to official city records published by the nonprofit, Transparent California.

At the time of her termination in March 2016, Harrell had earned $127,400 in salary and overtime the year before and her compensation included another nearly $46,000 in city-paid benefits.

When Harrell complained internally about what she was being put through, her suit alleges, she received no support from the other high-ranking female on the force, former Police Chief Denise Turner, the department hierarchy or the city administration, the suit alleges.

Harrell’s civil suit alleges 13 counts of wrongdoing by the city and her union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.

They include age and gender discrimination, sexual harassment, violations of federal civil rights laws, negligent infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, whistleblower retaliation and wrongful termination. The suit demands a trial by jury.

If even some of what Harrell alleges is true, it raises serious questions about a department whispered for years to be rife with sexual promiscuity and misconduct, and about what the city’s elected officials and administrators did or did not know and when, and about overall leadership, oversight, judgment and commitment to the law in the years leading up to Harrell’s dismissal.

Harrell, “loved helping the community and her peers,” according to the suit, and was Dispatcher of the Year in several years and recognized at the County and State level for her public safety work.”

And, she had an unblemished performance record with no discipline “until 2006, which the City of Gilroy later admitted was unwarranted.”

That discipline was meted out by former Police Chief Gregg Giusiana, who later apologized, according to the suit, and said he should have acted differently.

The suit describes Harrell as a “happily married” wife and mother who had known many of the police officers since they were kids.

Even some of them, the suit indicates, became part of the problem under pressure from their superiors.

The litany of alleged questionable sexual conduct by police and others in the suit is staggering. The lawsuit, which can be viewed at bit.ly/gpdsuit, also claims:

• Two officers, Geoff Guerin and Jesus Contreras, according to the suit, “had sexual intercourse with members of the Gilroy Explorers, comprised of youth ranging in age from fourteen (14) to twenty-one (21). When their conduct came to light, [one] was demoted, but then ‘got his stripes’ back, while [the other] was allowed to resign.” While the suit brackets the age range of the Explorer troop, it does not specifically accuse either of sex with a minor.

• “At office parties, GPD employees would throw their keys in a bowl and whoever pulled a key had sex with the person who owned the key.”

• The wife of an officer, who also was a department employee, proudly displayed her genital piercings to pool party guests. “By the swimming pool, Ms. [Andrea] Arthur boasted about a piercing on the clitoris of her vagina. When some asked to see it, she opened her wrap and spread her legs. Mortified, several women and children vacated the swimming pool.”

• Arhtur’s police officer husband, Officer Royce Heath, when they were engaged, “brought a Salinas police officer to ‘screw her’ while Heath watched. She later stated that she did not do it.”

• Arthur invited another officer to touch her breasts while they were in the Communications Center, and he did.

• Arhtur also “kept a book in which she documented all of the sexual improprieties that occurred at the GPD, so that she could reveal the information should she ever be disciplined for her misdeeds. [She stated] ‘If she goes down, other people are going down with her.’ Ms. Arthur also claimed that Officer Heath supported the fact that she was keeping a book documenting misdeeds.”

• At a Gilroy Police Officers’ Association Christmas party, “the female spouses [of two GPD officers] were outrageously intoxicated and were sexually touching both males and females including each other. Also, several people at the party were taking pictures of females exposing their private parts.”

• On a separate occasion, [an officer] showed sexually explicit photos that were inside a locker depicting GPD personnel groping [a communications staffer].”

• “For the first several years of his employment, [a male communications staffer] attempted to make sexual advances toward [Harrell] inviting her to come to his house…despite knowing [she] was married with 4 children.”

• The same man “engaged in sexual activity with other GPD officers and employees, and attempted to have sex with men by luring them to his house with the promise of ‘wild’ and ‘crazy’ women and alcohol. When women did not show up, [he] would tell the male guest, ‘Let’s get naked while we wait’.”

Other allegations involve both hetero- and homosexual liaisons, threats of physical harm, breakups or near breakups of marriages over sexual escapades and recruits in fear of losing their jobs caving into the pressure from above to participate in shunning Harrell.

“These are very serious allegations,” said Harrell’s attorney, Andrea Justo, of the Costanzo Law Firm in San Jose, on Monday. “We hope the City of Gilroy and the Gilroy Police Department take them seriously.” She called her client “A very loyal employee for over 20 years” and said the allegations, “span that amount of time.”

Asked whether allegations in the suit of “sexual assault” refer to criminal behavior by police officers, Justo said her firm represents Harrell in a wrongful termination lawsuit and that whether crimes were committed is for someone else to determine.

City officials are keeping quiet about suit. Human Resources Director LeeAnn McPhillips cited “pending litigation,” and declined comment.

Mayor Roland Velasco, who grew up in Gilroy, said he’d been emailed a copy of the suit and that McPhillips has advised him to decline comment on specifics of the suit.

Velasco described the allegations as Harrell’s “side of the story.”

He added, “I am confident that we have a police chief that will be able to…lead the department right now [and] at the end of the day the city of Gilroy is going to prevail.”

Velasco said no one has ever brought to his attention any matter involving sexual misconduct in the police department.

Several members of the department factor prominently in Harrell’s allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct and/or bullying retaliation and harassment.

One is for Royce Heath, on both counts.

Heath was promoted rapidly by former Chief Turner, who last year tapped him to be a captain.

Then, within a month of returning from retirement to take the chief’s position permanently, veteran GPD officer Scot Smithee learned something about Heath that caused him to suspend him in January of this year.

When he returned in May, Heath had been demoted to the lowest rank, officer.

Neither Smithee nor other city officials will say what got Heath into trouble.

He is pushing back against the demotion and his attorney is negotiating with the city while Heath has been placed on reduced duties.

Over the course of more than two years, Harrell sought the help of her union to work with the city on her job status, hired one and then another attorney, filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and did all she could to “come to some sort of a resolution that didn’t have to cost her job,” but was unsuccessful, Justo said.

Also named in the suit is Harrell’s union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.

Harrell alleges that after agreeing to represent her in her job dispute with the city, the union then refused, thus failing in its responsibility to her as a member.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount in real and punitive damages.

This article first appeared in the Gilroy Dispatch. Some additional information from the lawsuit has been included in updated versions of this story.

21 Comments

  1. I think what we have here is a situation involving poorly educated, poorly trained, poorly supervised, poorly lead and terribly undisciplined borderline deviates and criminals. The department should be under lock down (with pay) with the Sheriff Department providing all services. Of course their not much better suffering from the same aforementioned problems. Conduct a through investigation using the DA’s Office and outside criminal investigators and not the DA’s “Gang of Cops” investigators. Fire and charge those who have committed crimes within the statue of limitations and start to hire new personnel that are tightly supervised and disciplined by a professional Chief from outside. Now is that possible “No”. So learn to live with the scum. If you think this is bad wait until you see all of the behavior on San Jose PD, that’s next.

      • You need FBI to investigate not the corrupted Santa Clara Sheriff’s office. Those in the Gilroy PD and City hall are corrupted. This is why children have been molested, raped, an so on. People of Gilroy, this is the opportunity to file your complaints, at least online. Post here!

  2. “If even some of what Harrell alleges is true, it raises serious questions…”

    Behold the new measure for establishing credibility in the news media, the “one bad apple” standard. Certainly the plaintiff’s attorney realizes this, which explains the use of a scattergun in preparing the complaint. Fully aware of the lowbrow ways of the news media, and the effect its interest in a story has on spineless civic leaders, the bar for settling a case that, on its face, appears very suspect, has just been lowered to the point where, should it be established that any member of the Gilroy police department has ever engaged in sex, anywhere, anytime — penetration not required, at least five zeroes be added to the three or four bucks the case is really worth.

  3. Rocked Gilroy PD? LMAO This is hilarious at best. Let me see, a disgruntled ex employee that has an ax to grind. You guys fell for it hook line and sinker. You really are that dumb and lack journalistic integrity as well as investigative skills.

  4. This should come as no surprise,because there’s no such thing as law-abiding police officers. There are only two kinds of police officers 1) The BAD ones who commit crimes while hiding behind their badge & 2) The WORST ones who refuse to expose the BAD ones,thus allowing them to continue running amok in our communities. Armed & dangerous you’re just as likely to be killed by a law enforcement officer as by a stranger (wives,girlfriends,neighbors,family,friends,co-workers & rival gang members aren’t strangers). This is why millions of Americans have little respect for the law & even less for those sworn to “protect & serve”. Molesting young boys & girls in the Police Explorers is an epidemic nationwide (you can look it up),they’re taking advantage of easily manipulated & impressionable wannabees. Firing them & taking their pensions is letting them off light. Prosecuting & imprisoning them with those they helped put away seems like a much more appropriate punishment for their criminal conduct (or castration).

    • Wow! A brief peak into Waxman’s brain and I’m almost too dizzy to type. He’s condemned the bad guys in his head for not exposing the bad guys in his head. Maybe a clue to his confusion can be found in his name.

      Is Herb a take on your actual given name, Cannabis?

    • I think it reminds me of the late great Clintoon stained blue dress White House scandals. Where do you think these kids come up with these ideas Bill, I mean Herb?

  5. Obstruction of justice, promotion of child pornography and domestic violence, infliction of emotional distress to women and children, corruption. Others involved or aware of these prior claims, former Gilroy mayor Don Gage, interim mayor, former Gilroy police chief, Lori Penn and her husband Stephen Penn from Morgan Hill, Commissioner Irwin Joseph, Susan Wilson from Morgan Hill, Donna Mayorino, Christopher High School, The Mercury News, Univision 14, KRON 4, other judges, and other police departments, Sheriff Lori Smith, Cindy Chavez, David Cortese, and more. This Gilroy Police Department is a Highly corrupted institution. If you have information to share, contact the lawyer of this law suit. Others have already done. They are not too big to fail! Santa Clara County needs honest leaders not corrupted individuals with hunger of power and recognition. You can help to bring them down. Do not stay quiet!

  6. The Gilroy Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff office helped to protect a deputy investigated of child porn allegations by failing to write proper reports and writing good standing letter for deputy to present in court so he could maintain his “clean” law enforcement status. All this information has already been made public by different sources of information. Nor Lori Penn, husband, Irwin Joseph, or others have filed for a defamation law suit. Wouldn’t these very strong public allegations been harmful for their reputation? Deputy has been working for the Sheriff’s office one day per month since the child porn allegations and investigation. Don Gage resigned shortly after these allegations were reported to his office. Morgan Hill Police investigated the domestic violence allegations. This is not going to end and more children would keep being the victims of these corrupted individuals and system if the public stays quiet. Please report your story.

  7. Media deletes or not allows some of these allegations due to the powerful individuals involved. Screen shots are being taken to report those media outlets not allowing all individuals to exercise freedom of speech!

  8. What am I missing? Except for the unwanted advances by co-workers on the plaintiff, and the allegations regarding the Police Explorers, the only sexual allegations are between consenting adults. If other people are having sex, what business is it of the plaintiff?

  9. August 18, 2017 – 9:36 PM WWJ CBS Detroit

    Amid claims of sex parties, harassment and retaliation, now Gilroy’s mayor breaks his silence about the lawsuit rocking the police department. (8-18-17) [Read More]

    Tags: Police Department – Gilroy – now Gilroy’s mayor breaks

    1 Comments Add New Posting as Anonymous Sign In

    Anonymous 0 sec ago

    The following information was posted in October of 2016 and removed today 08/29/17. Gilroy former mayor resigned in December:

    Sheriff Lori Smith, I am publicly asking via this forum for an explanation of letter sent by Lt. Kristen Tarabez # 1588 to former attorney for one of your deputies, Raymond Lorenzo Villarreal about his good standing with the department even when at that moment there was on ongoing investigation on your deputy for child porn. This letter was sent to attorney Susan Wilson from Morgan Hill who presented it to Commissioner Irwin Joseph. This letter helped this deputy to present a clean image to a corrupted Santa Clara County family court. Screener Lori Penn from Morgan Hill who used this letter and other illegalities that have happened through this case to allow a minor child to live with his sexually perverted sheriff deputy and former San Jose Police officer father. I would like to know if you knew about the ongoing child porn investigation, the letter written by commander, and why this deputy was allowed to keep working for the department. If you knew you are part of this corruption. If you did not, what kind of Sheriff are you?
    Lori Penn made outrageous recommendations to court accepted and signed by Commissioner Irwin Joseph. The Gilroy Police Department is also part of this corruption. The wife of this deputy called the department reporting domestic violence by this deputy in different occasions. The responding officers wrote incident reports that did not reflect the violence reported on calls. These incidents reports were also used by Lori Penn to make her recommendations. These recommendation favored this corrupted deputy. The deputy’s former lawyer Susan Wilson retired shortly after Lori’s Penn recommendations. Ms. Wilson passed her cases to Lori’s Penn husband Stephen W. Penn SBN: 131044 with office in Morgan Hill.
    On October 6, 2015 deputy’s ex-wife filed a formal complaint at the City of Gilroy Mayor’s office and requested an investigations as to why incident reports and domestic violence calls do not match. She was told the mayor’s office would give her a call back. The Mayor resigned without giving that call back. All these illegalities protected and supported the deputy’s wants in the family court system. Is this individual still working for your department? What were the results of the child porn investigation?
    When the head of a department is corrupted, the body of the department is corrupted as well. You are simply trying to save your position and protect your ego by avoiding public shame. If you knew or not, you do not deserve to keep your position. Either condition make you professionally and morally incompetent. Too many corrupted deputies. If that poor inmate would not die, your department would be running business as usual.
    SHAME ON YOU. IF YOU HAVE A BIT OF DECENCY, SIMPLY RESIGN!

  10. Public report! Then take picture of your “comment awaiting moderation” and then check if sites actually post!

  11. Gilroy mayor received a phone call on response to his comments on the news. The phone call stated how others are preparing to support current suit and provide new information about the Gilroy Police corruption and sexual allegation. According to Gilroy Dispatch elements of the Gilroy Police department have been demoted or have resigned. A top person part of this sexual scandal. Others that knew about this corruption and pretended not to know are Cindy Chavez, David Cortese, DA Bathija, and family court judges. The community is part of this problem since they keep honoring these individuals with lack of decency and leadership.

  12. Allow me to post all my material San Jose inside. They make it difficult for people to post. They should make it as difficult for people to consume child porn. These websites ask you for email and this and that and they make not even post your comment. Guys can just go online and have free porn. An then our governmental entities complain about human trafficking and child sexual abuse. Not so much freedom to post my opinion online but very much freedom to consume porn. It is clear United States and the world are dominated by males. For this, women and children would keep being sexual slaves and victims of all crimes.

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