11.19.2009

City of Eureka: Claims will be thrown out

A lawyer representing the city of Eureka issued a statement Tuesday saying the city is confident the more than $1 million harassment lawsuit brought against it by a police department employee will be thrown out of court.

EPD Communications Supervisor Tawnie Hansen -- a 14-year employee of the department -- filed the suit Nov. 10, alleging that the city, and specifically City Manager David Tyson, vindictively and unreasonably delayed an investigation into complaints that Hansen was being harassed by other department employees.

In the statement, Adrienne Moran, of the Santa Rosa law firm Shapiro, Galvin, Shapiro and Moran, said she will be defending the city.

”The city has thoroughly investigated Ms. Hansen's claims and could not substantiate them,” Moran said in the statement, adding that the city is confident the “claims against Mr. Tyson and the city will be thrown out.”

Last week, Tyson denied all the allegations in Hansen's suit.

Seeking at least $1.4 million in damages, the suit claims the harassment rendered Hansen “totally disabled as far as EPD employment is concerned.” She has also accused Tyson of acting inappropriately with her on one occasion and her attorney said she brought those concerns to at least one council member and the city attorney last year.

Two council members, one current and one former board member, told the Times-Standard on Tuesday that they did meet with Hansen in the summer of 2008.

Hansen previously brought suit against unnamed members of the police department, as well as former EPD employee Devora “DeeDee” Wilson, for allegedly making false statements about Hansen on the now defunct “Above the Law” blog, damaging Hansen's reputation, causing emotional distress and inciting constant harassment at Hansen's place of work.

The blog reported allegations -- which Hansen insists are false -- that Hansen and EPD Chief Garr Nielsen were having an affair and that Hansen was consequently receiving special work-related benefits. The suit alleged that Wilson and other department employees continually harassed Hansen as a result of the false reports, sending her flowers, gifts and e-mails addressed to “Tawnie Nielsen,” combining her first name with Nielsen's last.

Wilson settled her part of the lawsuit in August, agreeing to pay Hansen $10,000.

The current suit alleges that when Hansen filed a grievance with the city regarding the harassment, Tyson intentionally delayed the investigation, diluting it into a broader “global” investigation, in an attempt to “cause ongoing harm to both (Hansen) and (Nielsen).”

According to the suit, Hansen submitted her grievance in April 2008, and the investigation did not conclude until May 2009 and failed to refute that the harassing conduct had occurred, but also failed to find anyone responsible for it.
The suit alleges that Tyson was motivated by anger at Hansen and jealousy of Nielsen. Hansen alleges in the suit that Tyson had previously acted inappropriately with her -- speaking openly about a potential sexual encounter of his, flirting with her, making unwanted sexual advances toward her and touching her inappropriately -- on one occasion.
In the statement issued Tuesday, Moran reiterated Tyson's denial of Hansen's claims.

”This lawsuit seeking $1.4 million is the first time that Ms. Hansen has made the salacious, sexual claims against the city manager, which he adamantly denies,” Moran said. “Even though Ms. Hansen didn't like it, Mr. Tyson did exactly what the law and city regulations require of him: He ordered an objective and thorough investigation, which was unable to substantiate Ms. Hansen's claims.”

Hansen's attorney, Alan Goldberg, told the Times-Standard last week that this is not the first time Hansen has made these claims, saying she told at least one council member and the city attorney of the alleged incident between her and Tyson shortly after it happened.

Reached Tuesday, former Eureka City Councilman Chris Kerrigan said he and sitting Councilman Larry Glass met with Hansen at some point in or around the summer of 2008, while Kerrigan was still in office.

”She did talk with and meet with both Larry and I, and her concerns were not only about the city manager but about her situation with the police force,” Kerrigan said, declining to discuss the details of Hansen's concerns. “My recollection was that it encompassed both: her concerns with the city manager and her concerns with her own workplace environment. I do recall that the city attorney was notified, and if it wasn't (Hansen) it was myself who, as the next step, talked to the city attorney.”

Glass confirmed Tuesday that he attended the meeting with Hansen and Kerrigan, but declined to go into any details.

”Tawnie did indeed meet with me and Chris,” Glass said. “She had a number of concerns that she brought to us. That's all I can say at this point.”

City Attorney Sheryl Schaffner declined to comment for this story, saying that Moran is handling all media inquires about the case.

In a phone conversation Tuesday, Moran said that, to her knowledge, “the specific claim that the city manager personally sexually harassed (Hansen) was not made.”

Moran's services are being covered by the city's insurance carrier, Redwood Empire Municipal Insurance Fund, and she is representing both the city and Tyson in the suit. It remains unclear, Moran said, whether the city or its insurance carrier would pay any damages that are awarded if Hansen wins her suit.

”It depends on that nature of the judgment,” Moran said. “I'm confident that it's not going to get that far.”

Reached Monday, Goldberg said he attempted to initiate settlement talks with the city before filing the lawsuit.

”There was an attempt, I'd say, to get the city to talk,” Goldberg said. “They didn't go very far and they weren't very fruitful.”
Goldberg said he notified the city of his intent to sue in a letter dated July 15, which the city treated as a claim for damages, and which was rejected as a routine matter by the City Council at its Sept. 1 meeting.

”They didn't give it the level of seriousness I thought they should have,” Goldberg said.

In her statement, Moran maintains that Tyson acted exactly as the law and city regulations required him to.

”The investigation was conducted by an outside investigator unaffiliated with the city,” Moran said. “These are not the actions of a man with something to hide.”

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 11/18/2009 01:30:19 AM PST

Comments:
happy_in_humbold t
Oakland, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#118 hrs ago

Seems to me the problem is between the city and the police chief. This woman is fronting for the police chief out of loyalty or some other connection and this is just a play to put the city manager back on his heels so no one pursues the other issues out there that may impact the police chief. Long live King Gar.
reader
Arcata, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#217 hrs ago

"The city has thoroughly investigated Ms. Hansen's claims and could not substantiate them," Moran said in the statement, adding that the city is confident the "claims against Mr. Tyson and the city will be thrown out."

I'll bet this doesn't even go to trail The City would be better off achieving an out of court settlement.
Anon
United States
Reply »|Report Abuse|#317 hrs ago

happy_in_humboldt wrote:
Seems to me the problem is between the city and the police chief. This woman is fronting for the police chief out of loyalty or some other connection and this is just a play to put the city manager back on his heels so no one pursues the other issues out there that may impact the police chief. Long live King Gar.
I heard that the chief is also responsible for the balloon tract contamination and plans to erect cell towers in several residential areas in the city and he also ordered the ugly blue recycling bins. This guy has to go.
Anonymous
Eureka, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#417 hrs ago

I just want to say that I'm extremely confident the sun will not rise tomorrow. Thank you. My retainer will be $50,000.
Gary
Eureka, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#516 hrs ago

This might be true, but you can bet that the city will pay out $$ to settle the case, rather than spend even more money on a trial (not to mention public embarrassment for city officials).
Umm
Reply »|Report Abuse|#616 hrs ago

Oh, how wonderful. If the suit is thrown out, it will fuel the blogger conspiracy nuts to even greater heights of rabid batsheet craziness.
Citizen of Eureka
Eureka, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#716 hrs ago

Tawnie is just upset that she quit her job, and now NO ONE will hire her. She is trying to get money anyway she can, well almost anyway, she has not been seen down on 3rd street yet. Tawnie needs to get over herself, she is just not all that, and sorry honey, but we just are not that in to you.
Fred Mangels
“Fred's Humboldt Blog”

Joined: Jan 12, 2008
Comments: 178
Eureka, CA
ISP: Oakland, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#816 hrs ago

reader wrote:
The City would be better off achieving an out of court settlement.
I'm sure that's exactly what she's hoping for. Easy money.

Fired Up
Amarillo, TX
Reply »|Report Abuse|#915 hrs ago

Tawnie has made her bed with the police chief and the department....NOW SHE HAS TO SLEEP IN IT!
brian
AOL
Reply »|Report Abuse|#1015 hrs ago

Why is it that Hansen did not named Dumb and Dumber (Kerrigan & Glass) in the lawsuit? She "talk" to them both "in or around the summer of 2008" yet they both did NOTHING about her claims.
Dollars for donuts
Eureka, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#1115 hrs ago

Anybody can sue anybody over anything at anytime.

Tawnie Hansen got $10,000 in her first nuisance lawsuit. She will probably get some more in this one.

The act is simple. Smear, throw in some salicious accusations. Slap on a big number so the media will put it on page one. Her victims know they'll spend plenty on lawyer fees defending themselves while she smears them even more.

Even after they win, people will only remember the smears & not that Tawnie Hansen lost. They'll be angry, but its cheaper to throw Hanson some bones so she'll go away.
anon
Fresno, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#1215 hrs ago

Citizen of Eureka wrote:
Tawnie is just upset that she quit her job, and now NO ONE will hire her. She is trying to get money anyway she can, well almost anyway, she has not been seen down on 3rd street yet. Tawnie needs to get over herself, she is just not all that, and sorry honey, but we just are not that in to you.
This is why victims of hostile work environment and sexual harassment are reluctant to come forward. She is still a city employee but was forced out of the work place by harassment that was proven when Dee Dee got caught red handed. This prevailing mentality that every woman who claims hostile work environment is working some kind of scam is ridiculous. I doubt she would subject herself to the ignorant bloggers, media, etc. if she did not believe she had a valid case. Not to mention the impact on her family. Until people realize that workplace harassment exists and is illegal more people will be victimized and villified in the media.
anonymous
San Francisco, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#1313 hrs ago

brian wrote:
Why is it that Hansen did not named Dumb and Dumber (Kerrigan & Glass) in the lawsuit? She "talk" to them both "in or around the summer of 2008" yet they both did NOTHING about her claims.
Why, because they are both Glass and Nielsen are behind it.

When I first read about this over the weekend my gut reaction was this is a Glass/Nielsen set up if Tyson whom they without a doubt hate. Those two are joined at the hip at every public event. Glass has it big for Tyson and Nielsen doesn’t have Tyson’s rubber stamp anymore. They knew about this lawsuit in advance and are not bothered by it because it is part of the plan to take down their opposition. Now, thats not new or anything, but the distances these folks will go to take out their opposition is getting sicker and sicker. For instance, check out that complaint - it doesn’t plead ultimate facts. Instead it reads like a steamy and salacious bad book. This is about ruining Tyson, the opposition and not about vindicating anything for Hansen. The complaint is about 1) not being able to stop city employees from blogging on their own time; 2) expanding the investigation of Hansen’s complaints and 3) thrown in just to hook you a suggestive touch by the city manager? Man, this is reading like Tim Stoen and Debi August, revisited.

When I scanned the above the fold part of this article as I was at the coffee shop and it referred to this disgruntled employee raising the issue with a current and a former city council member, My initial reaction was - must be Glass and Kerrigan. Darn near fell off my chair later on when I got a chance to read the entire article and it was confirmed on the back page.

This is wrong on so many levels folks that I could just throw up.
Let A Jury Decide
Reply »|Report Abuse|#1412 hrs ago

Courts are often sympathetic to working people because it's hard to select a jury without half of them either working under a bureaucratic tyrant, or having a family member that does.

Face it, those making six-figure public salaries for years are tied at the hip with community power-brokers and their causes, this doesn't garner much credibility from regular folks who often become bureaucrat's tenants in poor, small towns.

This is the reason the defense attorney is prejudging this case in our local media.

They need a legitimate reason to change venue away from those that know these players well.
Lost in oblivion
Hayward, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#156 hrs ago

Citizen of Eureka wrote:
Tawnie is just upset that she quit her job, and now NO ONE will hire her. She is trying to get money anyway she can, well almost anyway, she has not been seen down on 3rd street yet. Tawnie needs to get over herself, she is just not all that, and sorry honey, but we just are not that in to you.
Scuse me...but wasn't that Dee Dee who quit and can't get work now?
Mr Obvious
Walnut Creek, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#165 hrs ago

It just kills you guys that you can't stir up any gossip on Garr Nielsen
Walter Sobchak
United States
Reply »|Report Abuse|#175 hrs ago

Mr Obvious wrote:
It just kills you guys that you can't stir up any gossip on Garr Nielsen
No need. Garr "Can't find his hat with both hands" Nielsen is proof that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.
yer so right
San Leandro, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#184 hrs ago

I dunno Mr O....it seems that an abundance of gossip about Nielsen got this whole strange business started.
Mr Obvious
Walnut Creek, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#193 hrs ago

Poor Tyson apologists. Point fingers while the headlights are shining directly on your boy.

The good ol' boy network is crumbling and it's **** fantastic
NotQuiteSoObviou s
Eureka, CA
Reply »|Report Abuse|#202 hrs ago

There are MULTIPLE complaints that against your boy Garr being investigated as we speak.
We don't need to stir anything up. It'll all come out sooner or later, as the results of the investigation are made public.
Tawnie's suit only makes her, Larry Glass and Chris Kerrigan look a wee bit desparate.