Sacramento County’s $10 million bill in its unsuccessful years-long court battle with four female deputies who claimed they were targeted for harassment and retaliation by their Sheriff’s Department superiors could grow, even after the county last week abandoned its appeal of a multimillion-dollar verdict awarded to the women last spring.
Sacramento County has so far paid outside attorneys nearly $1.25 million in its six-year legal fight against Sacramento County sheriff’s Lieutenants Annica Hagadorn and Dawn Douglas, Deputy Jodi Mendonca and sheriff’s Sgt. Tracie Keillor, according to the Sacramento County Counsel’s Office. Potentially more costs have yet to be billed, the Counsel’s Office said.
Jurors last May awarded the deputies $3.6 million, rejecting testimony from a parade of sheriff’s leaders past and present that performance and budgetary cuts, not payback, led to transfers, internal investigations and promotion passovers.
Attorneys at trial last year argued that the four were targets of retaliation by their superiors that threatened to derail their careers.
A Sacramento Superior Court judge in September then ordered the county to pay the deputies’ attorneys $5.3 million in legal fees. Sacramento County leaders promised to appeal, saying it was the county’s “fiduciary duty to the taxpayers” to fight the ruling and reduce the award. The county filed its appeal in January, according to court documents.
The $3.6 million figure has almost certainly grown. The amount accrued interest during the county’s appeal, according to the Sacramento County Counsel’s Office.
With legal costs at roughly $10.15 million and counting, officials last week were ready to walk away.
In a short statement, Sacramento County Counsel Robyn Truitt Drivon said the settlement was “based upon a determination that it is in the best interests of the County of Sacramento.”
Hagadorn filed suit in 2010 claiming she was repeatedly passed over for assignments and chances to earn higher rank, then was shipped out and targeted for internal affairs inquiries after she complained to the state’s Department of Employment and Fair Housing, before filing her lawsuit.
Today, Hagadorn, the department’s highest-ranking African American female officer, supervises court security deputies at the Sacramento County Courthouse.
Douglas was a jail operations commander; Mendonca, a project manager overseeing work release programs, and Keillor each worked at Sacramento County Main Jail.
All were reassigned from their jail postings months after confronting their captain – now-Undersheriff Erik Maness – about a suspected improper relationship between him and a female deputy under his command and their assertions that the female deputy received preferential treatment as a result.
Keillor, who received much of the $3.6 million award, suffered a stroke that she said was brought on by a Sheriff’s Department internal investigation probing allegations that she improperly accessed electronic personnel files on the job.
The department’s allegations against Keillor were later deemed to be unfounded.