A Sacramento judge will let stand a multimillion-dollar May verdict that sided with four female Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies who claimed their superiors retaliated against them for complaining about discrimination and preferential treatment.
In a tentative ruling Tuesday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David DeAlba rejected Sacramento County’s call for a new trial, upholding jurors’ stunning May decision to award nearly $3.6 million to sheriff’s lieutenants Annica Hagadorn and Dawn Douglas, Sgt. Tracie Keillor and Deputy Jodi Mendonca.
“The four motions filed by Defendant County of Sacramento for new trials of the claims of Plaintiffs Annica Hagadorn, Jodi Mendonca, Tracie Keillor and Dawn Douglas … are denied,” the ruling read. DeAlba denied Douglas’ claim of nearly $66,000 in lost wages, but otherwise sided with the plaintiffs.
A hearing on the ruling is set for Wednesday before DeAlba.
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“This reaffirms the jury’s verdict and decisions and rejects the claims of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department,” said Jerry Chong, the plaintiffs’ attorney.
The May 17 verdict was a major setback for the Sheriff’s Department and its leader, Republican congressional candidate Sheriff Scott Jones, who disputed the deputies’ retaliation claims and vowed to challenge the verdicts.
Much of the conduct detailed in the bias lawsuit was alleged to have occurred while Jones ran Sacramento County Main Jail as a captain and later as sheriff.
Jurors rejected claims by county attorneys who said budget woes and poor performance, not bias, led to the job changes and argued that the deputies did not lose pay, rank or benefits.
The four deputies claimed their careers were unjustly stalled after they were targeted by their superiors.
Hagadorn, the lead plaintiff, argued that she was unfairly hit with internal affairs investigations and punitively transferred from her assignment as a north area patrol commander after she complained of discrimination. Douglas, Keillor and Mendonca said they were retaliated against for their complaints about a suspected improper relationship between their captain, now Sacramento County Undersheriff Erik Maness, and a female deputy under his command. Claims of a relationship between Maness and the female deputy were determined to be unfounded.
Douglas was transferred out of Sacramento County Main Jail where she served as an operations commander, months after Maness took command of the jail. Mendonca was reassigned from her job overseeing work release programs.
In 2013, Keillor suffered a stroke that she said was triggered by a sheriff’s internal inquiry into accusations that she had improperly accessed electronic personnel files on the job. Keillor was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing. Jurors awarded Keillor more than $3.2 million in their decision.