Explosive Sexual Harassment Claim Against Gilroy PD Fizzles, Ends with $25K Settlement

A lawsuit that initially alleged a “culture of sexual activity” at the Gilroy Police Department petered into a wrongful firing claim that the city paid $25,000 to settle.

The deal includes a full dismissal of the lawsuit filed in 2017 by Patricia Harrell, according to the city’s press release. Furthermore, the city agreed to allow her to change her employment status to “resignation” instead of “termination.”

Harrell was fired as a public safety dispatcher in March 2016, according to court documents. She filed a lawsuit against the city, police department and numerous former and current employees—as well as her union, AFSCME—in November 2017.

Originally, Harrel accused officers of having sexually charged conversations at work, engaging in sexual activist with teens and young adult members of the Gilroy Explorers and watching porn in front of colleagues. She denied the department’s assertion that it fired her for misconduct involving trainees.

Gilroy police Chief Scot Smithee on Wednesday applauded the settlement.

“The [GPD] is an outstanding organization that I am proud to lead,” he said. “We hold ourselves to very high standards and did so in the case of Ms. Harrell’s termination. I am pleased to put this behind us so we can focus solely on service to the community.”

Harrell’s attorney, Andrea Justo, said her client is also pleased with the outcome. “Ms. Harrell is finally able to have some closure and move on with her life,” Justo said. “She has suffered greatly, not only from personal attacks during her employment but after this lawsuit was filed. As part of the settlement, the city has agreed to accept our client’s resignation in lieu of the proverbial scarlet designation of having been terminated.”

While Harrell’s initial lawsuit contained many lurid claims of a culture of sexual activity and harassment within the police department, she amended her complaint multiple times as the defendants’ attorneys moved to dismiss many of her charges in federal court.

The city’s press release earlier this week struck a victorious tone in describing how the number of claims and defendants diminished as the case wound its way through court. “Through a series of motions filed by the city and also AFSCME, the city prevailed in significantly narrowing the scope of Ms. Harrell’s case,” the city crowed.

As of this week, Harrell’s complaint included a total of six causes of action, and the only defendants in the lawsuit were the city and its police department. None of the remaining allegations had anything to do with sexual activity or harassment.

The settlement occurred as the case was proceeding through the discovery, or evidence-sharing, phase. It also followed a failed attempt to mediate the lawsuit earlier this year.

“Although the city has maintained all along that Ms. Harrell’s case had no merit and felt strongly as discovery progressed that the evidence did not support her remaining claims, it decided to settle the case at this juncture on terms it viewed as exceedingly favorable to the city when weighed against the cost of continuing litigation of the case,” reads the city’s press release.

Mayor Roland Velasco added: “Our police department works very hard to protect and serve all people who live and work in Gilroy in a professional and ethical manner. I am confident that the department will continue to serve with professionalism and integrity.”

Justo, however, said the lawsuit and settlement were successful in holding the city and police department accountable.

“We believe this contentious lawsuit demonstrates that no organization is above the law; police departments and public entities are not immune from unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation,” she said.

Harrell’s six remaining causes of action against the city and police department, which were dismissed by the settlement, were: age discrimination, gender discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, failure to investigate or take corrective action, retaliation and Title VII retaliation.

Harrell, who is in her 50s, was fired from her job as a Gilroy police and fire dispatcher following an internal investigation into a complaint that she made racially insensitive remarks to a colleague and mistreated trainees, according to documents filed in court in relation to the lawsuit.

Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


  1. It’s all coverup and exploitation of victims. Men’s rights to abuse over women’s rights to safety and dignity. F. That. S.

    • It hard to fight corruption when those with duty to serve and protect are themselves the criminals and aggressors. I totally agree with you. THIS chief of police is a joke! If the head is stupid and corrupted so it is the body!

  2. Gilroy Police should start preparing for a new law suit. Just recently, a Santa Clara County Sheriff employee and former San Jose Police Department Officer attempted to choke his 25 year old daughter after behaving aggressively toward her for the last two years, per daughter!s reports. She stated that if would not be for her 21 year old male sibling and step-mother that came to help her after she yelled for help, he would have succeeded choking her. She called the Gilroy Police Department after the incident. Per her statements, after police talked to her father and sibling, they told her they were leaving due to this being a family isssue. They did not take pictures of injuries. After police left, she called someone to give her shelter for the night because her father “kicked” her out the home. She was not even able to obtain her important documents and other personal belongings. She is in a safe place now and was seen by private insurance doctos due to injuries to her body, mainly neck and arms. This man engaged in the same behavior with her mother; although, the physical abuse was not so significant. Mother left him before escalation. She is also obtaining mental health support. She stated her father abuse was so significant since October of last year that her physical and mental health have significantly deteriorated. She was living with her father because she was working in the same city. Her father physically and emotionally separated her and her sibling from her mother after divorce with manipulation and lies. He was initially “normal,” but his aggressive behavior started two years ago and continue to escalate until this recent incident. This law enforcement officer is currently working at the courts. WHO IN THIS STATE AND COUNTY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR INVESTIGATING THIS PUBLIC CORRUPTION? The victim was able to obtain case number when making an appointment with the private insurer. This law enforcement has also engaged in IRS fraud and watching childporn. NO CONSEQUENCES FOR HIS ILLEGAL ACTS UNTIL TODAY! The Gilroy Police Department Corruption is unimaginable!!! IT APPEARS THE LAW DOES NO TO APPLY To LAW ENFORCEMENT ENGAGING IN CRIMINAL ACTS!

    • I believe every word after living in Contra Costa County and Butte County and now living in Lane County, Oregon …it’s all the same. They design to participate in Domestic Terrorism. It’s the agenda built into the system, it’s called patriarchy. Both sexes and both parties. #InstitutionalMisogyny

      • Yes, The Gilroy victim described above was today again at the Gilroy Police Department. She and her mother were told, the reason father was not arrested was because she responded negative to wanting to file charges. She requested today for filing charges against her father. Initially the commander was defensive about the police response and engaged in justifying their actions. He appeared to change attitude after taking pictures for the first time of the still clear visible injuries. It is true, this is a systemic corruption in which both men and women participate. The challenge we currently have here is the conflict between those who are truly law abiding citizens and believe in justice and those that pretend to be lawful just because they wear a uniform or are the corrupted judiciary that have separated children from their loving parents. We have to come together and fight this corruption. GIVING UP IS NOT AN OPTION! No one is going to do it for us. We have to do it for our selves, our children, our community, our society. SPEAK OUT!

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