The Palo Alto Police Department have reportedly looked into allegations that a cop’s botched response to a medical emergency endangered a woman’s life last month.
According to sources familiar with the case, the matter involves Officer Yolanda Clausen’s conduct during an incident in early June and her subsequent disclosure of private information about it to her wife. Namely, Shay Franco-Clausen, a Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority trustee, Santa Clara County Democratic Party executive board member and chair of the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women.
The crux of the complaint involves a June 3 call from a resident about a female neighbor begging for medical help. An ambulance arrived just a couple minutes after the 911 call. Instead of rushing the woman to the nearby Stanford Hospital ER, officers delayed the ordeal by ostensibly responding as though to an involuntary psychiatric hold (a 51-50 in police scanner parlance) instead of a medical crisis.
It took 43 minutes after the initial call (during which time the woman experienced a grand mal seizure) for paramedics to finally get her to the emergency room, where doctors made a grim diagnosis. She suffered not from anything drug-related or psychiatric, as Clausen—based on her video-recorded conduct and conversation on the scene—seemed to suspect.
Turns out, the woman had a brain tumor.
Piecing together the series of events through dispatch logs and Clausen’s body-cam footage, the woman’s family identified more problems than just the slow response to a life-or-death situation. Clausen also allegedly conducted a legally dubious search of the family’s home, rifling through her purse while searching for drugs or alcohol.
And when she returned home, Clausen apparently told her wife, Franco-Clausen, about the identity of the woman involved in the incident (which Fly has been asked to withhold). Text messages obtained by Fly show that Franco-Clausen relayed what she heard to at least two other community leaders.
Once the woman filed a complaint against PAPD over the incident, Franco-Clausen panicked enough to circle back to someone she texted about the confidential matter.
“Did you tell anyone what I shared about [redacted] with you,” she asked in a June 13 text obtained by Fly. She added: “My wife’s job could be on the line because of it.”
Later that day, she followed up with another text: “[Redacted], I need to know what you said to [redacted]. They launched an investigation on Yolanda today.”
Franco-Clausen’s status as a local Dem Party e-board member may be on the line, too.
According to county Dem Party Chairman Bill James, there will be an inquiry into whether she violated the group’s code of conduct. However, he says, “I don’t see this as involving the party’s work” but rather as more of a dispute “between two individuals.”
“In my role as county chair, I have talked to the people involved in this, I have tried to be a bridge between them and I did review this text string,” he tells Fly in a phone call Tuesday morning. “I also responded to the person who sent it to me to let them know that I would consider it to be a complaint under our rules.”
A voting member of the local party who asks to remain anonymous, calls James’ official statement about the matter kind of a letdown. Franco-Clausen holds numerous positions of trust in the county and should be held to a higher standard, the fellow Dem says.
“It seems inconsistent with the values of the Democratic Party to try to prevent a witness to potential police misconduct from giving evidence in an investigation,” the source adds.
Franco-Clausen denies wrongdoing and disputes that PAPD launched an investigation into a complaint filed by the woman’s family.
“It’s just not true,” she says, explaining that her text message about an unspecified “they” who “launched an investigation” into her wife was a dramatic flair because she was worried about the prospect of a probe, not the actuality of one.
“People know that we operate with the utmost respect and integrity, consistently,” she says in a phone call Tuesday evening. “It’s unfortunate that it’s gone this far. I’ve over-embellished; I was very disappointed in that.”
The reason she mentioned her wife being at the scene of the call, she says, was to reassure mutual acquaintances about her. “I was hoping that they would find comfort that my wife was there,” she says.
Franco-Clausen also echoes James’ statement about the whole thing having nothing to do with the Dem Party, and that she’s confident that a review will clear her name.