A Santa Clara County judge sided with the city of Mountain View and Police Chief Max Bosel in a tentative ruling Thursday, stating that a former dispatcher's allegations of sexual harassment happened too long ago and complaints of retaliation lacked evidence.
A final ruling on the case has yet to be issued.
The tentative ruling by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Peter Kirwan grants the city's request to dismiss several complaints filed by former Mountain View Police Department employee Annie Lohman. She alleged that Bosel and other department personnel engaged in sexual harassment -- repeatedly subjecting her to sexually explicit banter, lewd jokes, nudity and simulated sexual acts -- and later engaged in gender discrimination, disability discrimination and retaliation.
Lohman's suit alleges that Bosel had openly flirted with her until about 2012 and 2013, when he found out that Lohman was in a relationship with another member of the department's SWAT team, at which point he acted "jilted" and took action to demote her.
In February 2015, Lohman was placed on paid administrative leave and received a notice from Bosel of intended discipline and a recommended demotion. She returned to her job after more than a year in a demoted role as a Public Safety Dispatcher II. Prior court documents show the city's attorneys argue the demotion was a result of poor performance.
The judge's ruling states that claims of explicit banter, jokes and nudity by members of the SWAT team date back to 2006 and 2007, which far exceeds California's statute of limitations. The allegations of sexual harassment would have had to occur after Oct. 23, 2014, according to the court document.
The suit argues that Lohman's refusal to "submit to defendant Bosel's inappropriate and unwelcome sexual behavior" continued beyond that cut-off date, but evidence is thin that such a "quid pro quo theory" of sexual harassment took place.
"There is no evidence, however, that defendant Bosel made, expressly or implicitly, submission to his sexual conduct a condition of plaintiff’s continued employment or continued receipt of concrete employment benefits," the tentative ruling states.
Kirwan also tentatively agreed to dismiss charges that the city had violated the California Fair Pay Act by giving Lohman lower pay for the same job held by a man in the department named Andre Harrison. Attorneys representing the city say the pay differential had to do with experience and the fact that Harrison had stepped down from a prior role supervising all public safety dispatchers, and that he was allowed to retain his previous pay as a communications operations supervisor. He was disqualified from receiving pay raises until other lead dispatchers caught up with salary, which happened in 2013.
In a statement, Bosel said he was "confident" that his name would be cleared once the facts came out, and that it's a relief to see a case that started in March 2016 is finally winding down.
"The court's tentative ruling is a welcome sign that this exceedingly long and stressful situation appears to be coming to an end," Bosel said. "I appreciate the support of my family, friends, colleagues in the police department and the city, and look forward to the final ruling coming out soon."
Lawyers representing Lohman did not immediately respond to the Voice's request for comment.