Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a subordinate, activity he denied in a sworn statement, according to newly uncovered court documents from a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department claiming retaliation.
Tosca Olives, at the time a 26-year-old sheriff’s deputy, said Jones, then a sergeant in legal affairs, was acting as her unofficial supervisor in the law library of the Main Jail in 2003. She said the contact started with Jones rubbing her shoulders while she took work-related phone calls.
Over two years, she said in a deposition, the touching intensified to him reaching under her shirt. Olives said they engaged in mutual kissing and she contends Jones unzipped her pants and felt between her legs.
Jones said he never had romantic or sexual interest in Olives and, except once, “never had any physical contact with her of an intimate nature.”
The allegations against Jones, a Republican who is challenging Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, for his suburban swing district, are tucked in the voluminous records of a lawsuit brought by four female sheriff’s deputies who said they were retaliated against for complaining about discrimination and preferential treatment. In May, they were awarded a combined $3.6 million in damages. The county has said it will seek an appeal.
Olives, now 39, was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, nor did she testify in court, but excerpts of a July 2014 transcript of her deposition were filed by plaintiffs with the court in the fall. The 52-page document includes only portions of her account that support the plaintiffs’ positions. In it, Olives says she believes it was wrong of Jones to have a relationship with a subordinate, including several unwelcome contacts, but adds that she didn’t know how to respond appropriately in the situation.
“And a lot of times, because I was young I felt embarrassed, or like I had brought it on myself and that I needed to engage in that activity because that was what was expected of me,” Olives said. She added: “I felt like because he was my supervisor that he was more in control and in charge of the situation than I was.”
She said Jones failed to persuade her to skip work to accompany him to a convention in Reno and that he used his post to shield her from disciplinary action.
Olives and Jones declined interview requests though a Sheriff’s Department spokesman. Olives did not respond to an email or a letter, and Jones did not respond to a message left on his personal phone.
Emails between the two submitted to the court show Olives told him in 2008 that she did not want further contact with him, and that he told her he was sorry that “you no longer respect me nor want to be my friend.”
In a signed declaration, Jones, an attorney and graduate of Lincoln Law School of Sacramento, said he met Olives when she was assigned to the Main Jail. She told him she planned to go to law school while continuing to work as a sheriff’s deputy and wanted insight on how to balance the obligations. Jones said he saw himself as a mentor, providing Olives with outlines from his law school classes and occasionally reviewing assignments and offering feedback.
“Deputy Olives told me she appreciated this mentoring,” wrote Jones, who was promoted to lieutenant in 2004, captain in 2007 and became sheriff in 2010.
As part of the mentoring, he said, he consulted with the command staff at the Main Jail about getting Olives an assignment overseeing the inmate law library “to maximize her chances for success at law school.”
On the one occasion in which Jones said they did have physical, intimate contact, he said Olives kissed him while they were in the law library, sometime in 2004 or 2005. Jones said he was “shocked,” told Olives to stop, and instructed her that nothing like that could happen again. Jones has been married to his wife for more than 20 years, and they have four children.
Later, Jones said he also was made uncomfortable when Olives took off her uniform top in the law library and rubbed her chest under her T-shirt. Jones said he left the room and vowed never to be alone with her. “However,” he added, “we continue to have a friendly, professional working relationship.”
Jones also denied asking Olives to go to Reno and said he never protected her from corrective or disciplinary action.
The $3.57 million jury award to the plaintiffs included more than $3.2 million to Sgt. Tracie Keillor, who suffered a stroke she argued was brought on by the stresses of an internal affairs investigation into suspicions that she had tampered with personnel records. Keillor was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The rest of the award went to Lt. Dawn Douglas, Lt. Annica Hagadorn and Deputy Jodi Mendonca for lost earnings or emotional distress.
Olives was not part of the six-week trial because attorneys for the county successfully narrowed the scope of what was presented to the jury to retaliation, eliminating claims of a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, among others.
The trial saw a parade of department brass, including Jones, Undersheriff Erik Maness and former Sheriff John McGinness, testifying about how poor performance and budget troubles were at the heart of what stalled the plaintiffs’ careers.
After the verdict, Jones sent out a May 20 interdepartment correspondence obtained by The Sacramento Bee attributing increased scrutiny toward the department and him to his congressional run.
“For the first time I am not viewed as the sheriff of an outstanding law enforcement agency with broad public support, but rather a Republican running for national office,” Jones wrote.
“As a top race in the country, the focus and attention on this race will be extreme,” Jones predicted. “As I anticipated, that has resulted in personal attacks from a variety of sources – including the media – in an attempt to affect that race. What I underestimated, however, was their willingness to try and drag down the outstanding reputation of the Sheriff’s Department just to color me as disreputable. For that, I want to apologize to each and every one of you.”
In a tentative ruling Tuesday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David DeAlba rejected Sacramento County’s call for a new trial, upholding the multimillion-dollar May verdict.
All told, Olives claimed about 30 inappropriate encounters from 2003 to 2005. She said in the excerpts that Jones rubbed her shoulders and on four occasions put his hands under her shirt. She said that one time, when she asked him to stop, Jones responded by saying “stop being so tempting.”
But she said she “did not know how to respond appropriately,” and that they did share about 10 mutual kisses.
“As I got older and wiser I learned that that is not okay, and how to not end up in those types of situations,” she said.
While Olives didn’t file a formal complaint, she said she considered taking her grievances up the chain of command before Jones advised her against it. Olives said she went to Jones out of courtesy, and ultimately didn’t file a complaint because she feared negative job repercussions.
Olives said she spoke with an attorney about Jones’ conduct and decided against a lawsuit because the activity extended beyond the statute of limitations. Olives said she was afraid she might receive retaliation for speaking out against the sheriff.
In 2008, Jones spotted Olives outside on the street and tried to get her attention, according to email correspondence in the records. Afterward, Jones reached out to Olives to ask how everything was going, what she’d been up to, whether she was still in the juvenile courthouse and if she had gotten married.
“Okay,” he wrote, “enough questions for now; just checking on you.”
She wrote back, telling Jones she intentionally ignored him. Olives said she had gotten married to a man she loved and to whom she was committed. She spoke of undergoing “tremendous” personal growth and focusing on healthy choices that did not include “associating with persons who have been toxic for me.”
“My relationship with you was very unhealthy and highly inappropriate on so many different levels,” she wrote. “And because you were so acutely aware of this at the time and yet perpetuated it is highly concerning.
“I no longer respect you and do not want to be your friend. I understand that I may have the occasion where I will interact with you on a professional level, and I believe it should be just that, professional.”
Jones replied soon after, and expressed surprise at her reaction.
“Wow, I must say this caught me a bit off guard, I thought we were friends; I am very disappointed that you found my involvement with you ‘toxic,’ ” he wrote.
“However, I am aware from our last discussions a year or two ago that you were seeking personal growth and a new life path, and I AM happy that you seemed to have found one. Congratulations on your marriage and your newfound happiness, I know it is something that eluded you in the past.
“I am sorry that you no longer respect me nor want to be my friend. I can’t say I understand, but I certainly will respect whatever conclusion you came to in that regard if it is best for you.
“I will consider us from this point forward merely professional acquaintances and will conduct myself, if our paths cross, accordingly.
“Good luck to you, Tosca.”