Six years after accusing Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto of kissing her on the lips and giving her at least 100 unwanted hugs, a former deputy has settled her lawsuit against the county for a $98,000 payment.
Victoria Zetwick, a retired deputy who served 24 years in the department, sued Prieto and the county in 2012, alleging sex discrimination and harassment “which included unwanted hugging and kissing” from 1998 to 2012.
“Prieto subjected plaintiff to unwanted hugs and kisses,” her lawsuit stated. “Plaintiff estimates that over the course of 14 years with the Sheriff’s Department, with Prieto as sheriff, he has hugged her at least 100 times.
“Each time was awkward, unsolicited and unwelcome for the plaintiff.”
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Zetwick claimed Prieto kissed her frequently on the cheeks, but at a May 2003 employee awards ceremony said he kissed her on the lips.
Prieto’s attorney has denied the allegations, saying the veteran lawman’s hugs were “platonic” and “no different than the type of hug one might give or receive with a grandma or friend.”
The case has wound its way through the legal system since being filed in federal court in Sacramento. In November 2014, the case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley, who found Zetwick “did not put forth sufficient facts to support her claim.”
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that dismissal in November 2016, and the lawsuit was revived until a settlement was reached in January.
Zetwick attorney Johnny Griffin III and Prieto declined to comment.
A copy of the settlement, obtained by The Bee through a public records act request to the Yolo County counsel’s office, shows the lawsuit was settled without any admission of wrongdoing in exchange for a payment of $98,000.
The settlement was made “in order to avoid the substantial expense and inconvenience of further litigation,” the document states.
The agreement requires Zetwick and the county not to make any statements or contact the media.
It also provides for sheriff’s retirement badges to be delivered to Griffin’s office for Zetwick and her husband, also a retired deputy.