PLEASANT HILL -- A Pleasant Hill police officer has sued the city and the police department, alleging that a supervising officer sexually harassed her after she ended their romantic relationship.
In a lawsuit filed in December in Contra Costa County Superior Court, veteran Officer Kelli Geis alleged that Lt. Jose Delatorre stalked and harassed her after she broke up with him in 2011 after three years of off-and-on dating. Pleasant Hill, the Pleasant Hill Police Department and Delatorre are named as defendants.
The suit claims Geis endured a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and retaliation. Geis seeks undisclosed compensatory and punitive damages.
"This appears to be a classic abuse-of-power harassment case. It appears that Lt. Delatorre was frustrated by Ms. Geis' rejection of him, and so he punished her by resorting to his authority," Geis' attorney Judith Wolff wrote in an email. "As his subordinate, Geis was required to 'take it' for a certain period of time until she couldn't any more."
Janet Coleson, Pleasant Hill's interim city attorney, declined to comment on ongoing litigation. Coleson would not say whether or not Delatorre is on administrative leave. The Times tried to leave a voice mail for Delatorre at the police department but was told he is out for an extended amount of time. Delatorre could not be reached for comment.
Geis joined the police department in 2002 and was promoted to detective two years later, according to the lawsuit. In 2009, Geis became a community resource officer and returned to patrol in January 2012.
After the breakup, Delatorre called Geis repeatedly at work to discuss personal matters and sometimes called her offensive names, according to the lawsuit. If Geis didn't answer the phone, Delatorre would angrily confront her at her cubicle in the police department, yelling and using abusive language, the lawsuit says.
In January 2012, Geis was reassigned involuntarily to patrol under Delatorre's chain of command, though he wasn't her direct supervisor, according to the lawsuit. Geis alleges in the suit that Delatorre, who was the patrol division commander, would take her off calls for service because she refused to resume a sexual relationship with him. Delatorre also allegedly told other police officers he would beat them up if they tried to date Geis, according to the lawsuit.
Last May, Geis agreed to meet Delatorre at a parking lot while they were both on duty, the suit says. Delatorre became angry when Geis refused to date him again and sent her harassing text messages later that day, according to the suit. The lawsuit speculates that Delatorre used GPS to track Geis while she worked because he allegedly showed up twice when she was on a break with a colleague. According to the suit, Delatorre's behavior alienated Geis from her partner and other officers.
"It was commonly known among her co-workers that Delatorre did not want plaintiff talking to anyone; that he wanted to isolate her, generally, and that Delatorre was wildly jealous of any man whom he believed might be having sex with plaintiff," the suit says.
By summer, Delatorre's harassment allegedly escalated into undermining Geis' standing within the police department, according to the lawsuit. Geis alleges that Delatorre ordered her supervisor to give her a written evaluation in July advising her to issue more citations or risk receiving a more formal "performance improvement plan." Geis filed an internal complaint against Delatorre in October.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.