Lake Stevens officer alleges retaliation by superiors

LAKE STEVENS — A lawsuit filed last week accuses the Lake Stevens Police Department of retaliating against a police sergeant after she complained of sexual harassment.

City officials deny the claim and say they plan to fight.

The suit was filed Nov. 4 in Snohomish County Superior Court on behalf of Sgt. Julie Jamison. Jamison has worked at the Lake Stevens department since 2006. She previously worked in San Juan County and in Mountlake Terrace, where she was the lead detective in the 2000 murder of mail-order bride Anastasia King.

The lawsuit arrived at City Hall on Friday, said City Administrator Jan Berg.

“The allegations stem from a sexual harassment claim Sgt. Jamison lodged against a subordinate officer over two years ago,” Berg wrote in a prepared statement. “The allegation was thoroughly investigated, and found to be not sustained.”

Jamison made no allegations of improper touching or sexually charged communication in the work place, according to the city. Any changes that have since affected Jamison’s job were part of a larger police department overhaul, Berg said.

Much of the six-page lawsuit centers on how former police chief Randy Celori addressed Jamison’s concerns. Celori left the city abruptly in fall 2012. Since his departure, Lake Stevens police have been plagued by a number of lingering problems and high-profile missteps, including an off-duty bar brawl and a $100,000 civil rights settlement for officers’ bad behavior. One troubled officer, who’s now working under a “last-chance” agreement with the city, is having his credibility questioned in court by prosecutors. They’re worried that his truthfulness could come under attack should he testify in the upcoming murder trial for a man accused in the drive-by shooting of 15-year-old Molly Conley on June 1. Meanwhile, the city says two Lake Stevens officers on the witness list in the case also are the focus of an ongoing internal investigation. No other details have been released.

The city has yet to hire a permanent police chief. Several national searches for candidates have come up short.

Jamison was made a sergeant at Lake Stevens in 2008. In September 2011, she went to Celori to report being sexually harassed by a male colleague, according to the lawsuit.

Jamison was told to work from home during the initial phases of an internal investigation “instead of placing her harasser on leave as is normal practice,” the suit says.

Two weeks later, Jamison was assigned to supervise six officers when the other sergeants supervised three, the complaint says. In November 2011, Jamison was told that her harassment complaint was unfounded, and she was given a negative performance evaluation shortly thereafter.

In 2012, Jamison was moved to a sergeant’s position with a lower profile.

When Celori left and Cmdr. Dan Lorentzen became interim police chief, Jamison told him that she’d been retaliated against for reporting harassment, according to the suit.

Within three weeks, she was assigned to the night shift.

Jamison is requesting an unlisted amount of damages for lost pay, emotional distress and attorney fees. The lawsuit does not name the police officer she accused of harassment.

Jamison and that employee continue to work separate shifts, according to the city.

The city has been making changes at the police department in recent months. Earlier this year, they asked state policing experts to come in and analyze operations and policies.

In August, Berg and Lorentzen announced they were creating an Office of Professional Standards to conduct internal investigations and make recommendations for officer discipline.

The city also is in the process of hiring a new commander.

“Significant progress continues to be made to improve the Lake Stevens Police Department,” Berg said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449, rking@heraldnet.com.

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