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New Petaluma police chief named in intimidation lawsuit

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The man selected as Petaluma’s next police chief is leaving his job in Desert Hot Springs in the midst of a federal lawsuit filed recently by a female officer alleging she was harassed and fired because she testified against two rogue colleagues.

Patrick Williams (COURTESY PHOTO)

The lawsuit filed last month by former officer Andrea Heath names, among others, Chief Pat Williams, who was selected this month as the top candidate among 42 applicants for the Petaluma police chief slot.

City Manager John Brown said Williams will start in Petaluma on Aug. 13, pending a full background check.

Heath is seeking $5 million for what she claims was harassment and intimidation over several years at Desert Hot Springs after she cooperated with an FBI investigation into two fellow officers accused of torturing two in-custody suspects.

The officers pleaded guilty in February to federal civil rights violations for using excessive force. One was sentenced to a year of probation and the other is awaiting sentencing.

The incidents of excessive force occurred in 2005, two years before Williams took over the department. But Heath alleges she was demoted, harassed, intimidated and ostracized by her fellow officers and supervisors when it became known that she was cooperating with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office during their investigation.

In the 81-page lawsuit, she lists numerous incidents she says were meant to shut her up, endanger her life and discourage her from continuing to cooperate with the federal prosecution.

Williams and his boss, Desert Hot Springs City Manager Rick Daniels, didn’t return calls seeking comment Friday.

Petaluma City Manager Brown couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, but earlier he told the Petaluma Argus-Courier this week that he wasn’t aware of the suit, filed June 28 in U.S. District Court in Southern California. He said he was confident that any potential problems would be uncovered during the background investigation.

Mayor David Glass didn’t return messages seeking comment Friday. Councilman Mike Harris said he couldn’t talk about the suit until he learned more.

“It concerns me, however, I will reserve comment at this time until I speak with the city manager,” he said.

The council is set to meet Monday evening to discuss several other issues. While this issue isn’t on the agenda, it could come up during the sessions set aside for the public, council members or city manager.

Health’s lawsuit names Williams as the chief, the two officers who were convicted, and several other colleagues and supervisors who she says engaged in a department-wide conspiracy to intimidate her.

She claims Williams discouraged her from speaking with federal investigators who wanted to interview her in 2009 while she was off work on medical leave after surgery. When she acted against his order, he “scolded” her, the suit claims.

Heath stopped working at the department when she went on stress leave in March 2010. Late last year, she was retired from the city on disability. She is appealing the decision.

Brown said last week that Williams’ background check would take three weeks.

(Contact Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.)





11 Responses to “New Petaluma police chief named in intimidation lawsuit”

  1. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Hiring outside the county AGAIN. Don’t tell me they couldn’t find someone qualified in this county.
    I have seen people harassed for no reason in my own work environment (3x now). Sometimes it’s because they aren’t liked by their supervisors (this is most often and manufactured “issues” with their work are found-standards other workers aren’t held to). Sometimes it’s coworkers because the person does such a good job the rest look like slackers. Often it’s because they choose not to be part of the status quo-keeping out of office politics, not participating in gossip, not joining in outside activities, being honest and above board.

    Then there are others who get away with everything, who don’t seem to be at their desk much and no one knows where they are. But management likes them so they can do pretty much what they want to or don’t want to and other workers have to pick up their slack. These are the workers other workers dislike but feel helpless to change get rid of.

    It’s up to the management at the top to put a stop to this kind of behavior and let their employees know that it will not be acceptable. Good management stays out of office politics, applies the rules fairly to all, and treats all employees equally and fairly.

    The fact that there was a controversy that lasted a long time would make me leery of this particular candidate. Sometimes they get good recommendations because their employer wants to get rid of him. Bob Deis got a job in Stockton.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  2. Que Sera says:

    This fellow is a part of the same old same old mentality in city govts. And because of it, there is more corruption and disservice to the public which pays the bills.

    Is there anyone in govt the people can put their confidence in?

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  3. BigDogatPlay says:

    So did anyone read past the first paragraph of the story?

    The incidents of excessive force occurred in 2005, two years before Williams took over the department. But Heath alleges she was demoted, harassed, intimidated and ostracized by her fellow officers and supervisors when it became known that she was cooperating with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office during their investigation.

    Might want to have a look at why the plaintiff was actually fired, and what Williams’ role was in that before getting all hot to trot about him being a bad choice.

    He brought stability to DHS PD by flushing out the rejects, like the two idiots that the plaintiff testified against, then recruiting and retaining good cops who are respected in the community.

    Know the whole story before you start flinging poo.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9

  4. bill says:

    How did this guy win the straw vote? It would seem someone without lawsuits hanging over their head for past performance in the cop world would be better suited to serve as head cop in Petaluma. Who did the choosing?

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 3

  5. Mirkarimi v2.0 says:

    Well we should know pretty soon whether or not this is simply another case of “I did it before I was sworn in, so it doesn’t count” or if the police commission just made a bad choice and is going to have to choose again.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  6. Ray M. says:

    Maybe whine country shouldn’t speed or talk on their cell phone while driving.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 10

  7. Coral says:

    41 other candidates, and this is the top choice? If He is found guilty of the charges in the lawsuit, what then?….
    Are we drinking “stupid water” in this county?.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 3

  8. whine country romance says:

    When he moves to town, I hope he gets the warm reception I got after getting a new job… being pulled over within a week by the Petaluma PD.

    Officer: “I’ve never seen you around here before. What are you doing in my town?”

    Me: “just trying to live and work and drive my car.”

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 14

  9. Paul Andersen says:

    This seems like yet another example of the misguided leadership endemic at Petaluma City Hall. Why would announce you’ve hired someone who has yet to pass a background check? Whatever happened to due diligence? It certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence in our local leadership, especially in the City Manager’s office.

    Thumb up 33 Thumb down 4

  10. Jim says:

    He fits in good with Petaluma PD where lieutenants lie under oath. What a joke of a police force.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 10

  11. Bad Pick says:

    I feel sorry for the people at the Petaluma Police Department. 3 years of indecision with an acting Chief. The two ex-Captains battling it out for attention and supremecy. No money, layoffs and bad morale.

    The solution? Hire a guy from a small police department with a recent no confidence vote and now an “ethics” lawsuit. The City Manager is doing a fantastic job with this department.

    Good luck to those of you at the police department. Sounds like your are gonna need it.

    Thumb up 33 Thumb down 3

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