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Testimony continues in Sacramento sheriff’s bias trial

Sacramento County sheriff’s attorneys began to present their case Friday in Sacramento Superior Court against four female deputies who sued the agency alleging that retaliation and discrimination by superiors stalled their careers after they complained of bias on the job.

The defense’s case at the civil trial before Judge David De Alba comes after two weeks of plaintiffs’ testimony, the last week from lead plaintiff sheriff’s Lt. Annica Hagadorn and retired sheriff’s Sgt. Tracie Keillor. In their 2010 lawsuit, Hagadorn alleged she had been repeatedly passed over for promotions and assignments while she was a north area patrol supervisor and that the snubs and a pair of internal affairs investigations were payback for the legal action.

On the stand this week, Hagadorn listed a series of open supervisory positions and training opportunities for which she either applied or expressed interest, but was denied. She said she was ultimately shifted out of her north area assignment to the department’s Elk Grove-area jail facility – a two-hour commute from her Auburn-area home.

Hagadorn said she determined that her lawsuit was to blame.

“I felt I was very qualified,” she said. “I believe I was being punished for not dropping the suit.”

On Friday, sheriff’s attorneys countered with Hagadorn’s then-supervisor, retired Capt. Steve Bunce. Bunce testified that Hagadorn’s job performance, not bias, held her back, pointing to a highly critical evaluation of Hagadorn he presented in 2010 that found the lieutenant “below standard” in categories including relationships with co-workers, reliability and leadership.

Bunce said Hagadorn had lost her unit and that her relationship with other managers was spotty.

“She was demanding respect because she had bars on her collar, but she didn’t earn that respect,” read one passage from Bunce’s evaluation.

Keillor, a corrections administrative sergeant, said she was retaliated against after reporting what she suspected to be inappropriate behavior between her then-supervising captain, now-Sacramento County Undersheriff Erik Maness, and a female deputy that led to preferential treatment for the deputy.

Two other plaintiffs, sheriff’s Lt. Dawn Douglas and Deputy Jodi Mendonca, also alleged they were transferred out of assignments or denied promotions. Both allege they were removed from positions at the sheriff’s jail facilities – Douglas at the Sacramento County Main Jail, where she was an operations commander; Mendonca, as a project manager overseeing work-release and other programs – after their complaints about the female deputy under Maness’ command.

The plaintiffs’ allegations span the years 2006 to 2009 when then-Capt. Scott Jones oversaw the Sacramento County Main Jail. Jones was elected sheriff in 2010. He won re-election, unopposed, in 2014 and is now competing for a congressional seat against incumbent Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

Keillor suffered a stroke at her home in February 2013 that plaintiffs’ attorneys say was triggered in part by a sheriff’s internal affairs investigation into accusations that Keillor improperly accessed electronic personnel records. Keillor was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing.

Sheriff’s attorneys denied the plaintiffs’ claims, but a Stanford University stroke neurologist testified this week that though Keillor did not have traditional risk factors for stroke, stress from the internal affairs investigation may have been a factor.

Keillor described the time of the inquiry as “a very difficult and traumatic time for her,” said Stanford neurology professor Chitra Venkatasubramanian. The Stanford physician said Keillor gained weight rapidly, could not sleep, experienced palpitations and was “very distraught.”

“She worked very hard, very sincerely and she said it was like she lost a part of herself,” the physician said. “She saw (the allegations) as a slur on her character.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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