EL CAJON CITY MANAGER DEFENDS DECISION NOT TO FIRE OFFICER ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT; CITIZENS ASK FOR JUSTICE DEPT. PROBE

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By Miriam Raftery

March 26, 2015 (El Cajon) – At the El Cajon City Council meeting on Tuesday, several members of the public spoke out to ask that Officer Richard Gonsalves be fired or put on administrative leave pending outcome of a lawsuit by a woman claiming sexual harassment.  Gonsalves has been demoted, but remains on the force.

But City Manager  Doug Williford said that an outside, independent investigation and  a second followup study have been conducted, adding, “Whether it’s the police department or the recreation department, they should not be investigating themselves.”

The Chief of Police does not have the power to hire or fire personnel in El Cajon. That decision rests with the City Manager, who says he stands by his decision after reviewing  all the facts, not merely those details leaked to the press.  He added that all allegations of sexual misconduct are taken seriously.

“The decision is mine, and it’s a decision I stand by,” said Williford.

Mayor Bill Wells emphasized that due process must be followed in the City of El Cajon, as in all organizations, regarding personnel matters.

Bonnie Price, who organized a rally before the hearing, said demotion is not enough. She cited research that found a “pattern and practice of sexual harassment by police officers in the city of El Cajon…If anything is needed right now, it’s community trust in the police.” She noted a criminal conviction in 2007 of an officer requiring women to have sex in exchange for not being arrested, and a 2004 lawsuit over sexual harassment claims.

“I also ask that you follow the lead of Chief Shelley Zimmerman in the city of San Diego who called on the Justice Department” for recommendations which she has stated she plans to implement after numerous misconduct allegations. She noted that lawsuits can be costly for taxpayers.

Robert Clark cited the prior incidents as well and asked, “So how could it happen that the police department and the management of the city did not immediately recognize the severity of the actions of Sgt. Gonsalves in sending graphic photos to a female subordinate. He should not have been demoted. He should have been fired. But it’s a good thing the City of El Cajon has a $10 million reserve, because there are thunderstorms ahead,” he said, then predicted that the city will lose the lawsuit.

Ray Lutz with Citizens Oversight urged the Council to take positive steps to protect public safety and safety of women on the police force. He noted that San Diego Police has had independent oversight from the Justice Dept. and noted scandals with police around the country such as in Ferguson, Missouri.

Steve Jesionka, a  Marine veteran, stated that in the U.S.. armed forces, “great strides have been made against sexual harassment” and voiced surprise that Officer Gonsalves remains on the force.  “El Cajon is a shining star in many ways,” he said, urging Council to take action.

Richard Graydon also chided the city for keeping Gonsalves on the force. “As a teacher, I know if I did anything like that I would be out and could be fired,” he said.  Noting a history of lawsuits and criminal convictions on sexual misconduct charges, he added, “Something has to be done and we can’t wait.”

Also during the Council hearing, the city honored centegenarian Mildred Spethmann (photo, right), who recalled, “I had to sign up to vote when I was 21 and I have never missed an election.”  She attributed her long live to several factors including daily prayer and ice cream.

Manuel Perez, a Borrego Community Health Center  representative invited the community to an open house on April 11th form2 to 2w p.m. at Borrego’s public health clinic  on 133 West Main Street, celebrating national public health week. The clinic currently sees 350 patiets a day

Dr. David Miyashiro from Cajon Valley School District also addressed the Council with an update on techonology learning program sin the cohols and an invitation to the East County Got Talent competition on May 29t, featuring Mayor Wells as a celebrity judge.

The Veterans Commission chair Wayne Clark gave up update on efforts by the commission ranging from bringin KaBoom building projects to local parks to getting homeless vets off the street.

Alexa Frost from Downtown El Cajon announced the annual carshows will open April 22, while Concerts on the Green will commence May 1st. The season will include performances by former Padres player Tim Flannery and Gary Puckett, in a season that will include five full street closures this year.