El Cerrito Spends Over Half a Million to Settle Sexual Harassment Case

A few months ago I saw this in the budget document (page 71)

This is in the Human Resources Section of the Budget. You will note the $500,000 for a large legal settlement. If you remember in 2019 Sarah Perez sued the ECPD for sexual harassment and retaliation. She alleged she was sexually harassed by her supervisor David Wentworth. When a complaint was filed by a colleague on her behalf she alleges the retaliation began. The situation ended with her quitting her job.

I did a public records request. Documents provided to me show that Ms. Perez received some back pay and a $544,341 settlement. The settlement agreement has no admission of liability. Three current members (Fadelli, Quinto, and Abelson) were on the council when this was approved. When looking at the size of the settlement it is easy to wonder if the lawsuit had no merit would there have been such a large settlement?

Remember just last month when the City Manager pushed to eliminate $58,000 from the budget by reducing library hours. Well, they are writing a half a million dollar settlement check for a police officer that is still employed by the ECPD. As is the Lieutenant alleged to have retaliated against her. It specifies in the settlement that Sergeant Wentworth will pay none of the settlement. So the taxpayers paid for it. And we’ll pay it again if allegations are made against him again.

This is deeply disturbing on many levels. The allegations are upsetting. The financial implications are horrible especially given El Cerrito continues to teeter on the financial brink. The money was attributed to the Human Resources Budget but perhaps it should have been taken out of the police budget.

My guess is that city staff and council will not talk about a legal issue. Fine. Then let’s start asking what policies and systems were put in place for ECPD to make sure something like this never happens again. Chief Keith should explain how many females currently work as sworn officers (in 2019 it was 4 of 40) and how he is protecting them from sexual harassment. 

One more example of the dysfunction of El Cerrito. 

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