Judge: Most of gay former school police chief’s case can go to trial
A judge ruled Monday that a former chief of the Baldwin Park Unified School District Police Department can proceed to trial with most of her case against the district, alleging she was harassed by a BPUSD board member after disclosing in 2015 that she is gay.
The judge, however, did pare the suit in his ruling.
Plaintiff Jill M. Poe was terminated in 2021 when the district disbanded its police department. In his ruling Monday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert B. Broadbelt dismissed Poe’s claims against the district for extortion, one of her retaliation claims and two defamation allegations. But the judge ruled that she can proceed to trial on her other causes of action, which include a different retaliation claim, harassment, discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Two members of the Board of Education and BPUSD Superintendent Froilan Mendoza also are named as defendants in the suit filed in November 2019.
Poe did not reveal she was gay until after she became chief and believes her sexual orientation caused her to receive disparate treatment, according to the suit, which cites a heterosexual employee who was accused of sexual molestation of children, yet continues working for the BPUSD.
Poe, 54, began as a patrol officer with the district in 2006 and was named chief in 2014, according to her court papers. In July 2019, a local blogger was given a citation by a BPUSD officer for running a stop sign, the suit states. The blogger wrote Mendoza asking that the citation be dismissed or he would disclose Poe’s alleged criminal history while a member of the LAPD, according to the suit.
Poe was an LAPD member from 1990 until 2000, when she was fired for the “stated reason” that she had been accused of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, Poe’s attorneys state in their court papers. In 2000, Poe pleaded no contest to charges of felony auto insurance fraud and misdemeanor filing of a false police report brought against her in connection with her reporting her car stolen, Poe’s lawyers state in their court papers.
The auto was later found at the home of Poe’s brother and the plaintiff, unaware that the vehicle was there, made an insurance claim and received funds, Poe’s lawyers state in their court papers. Poe entered a plea deal in which she paid restitution and completed probation and community service, her no contest plea was later withdrawn and the case was dismissed, according to Poe’s lawyers’ court papers.
After finding out about the blogger’s alleged threat, Poe complained to a deputy superintendent, according to the lawsuit, which says the blogger then made the same demand via email for dismissal of the citation by Poe.
The blogger published the negative information about Poe on Sept. 4, 2019, and the plaintiff was suspended the next day, the suit says.
In October 2019, a television news report “painted a horrible picture of Poe alleging that Poe should never had been hired,” the suit states.
The BPUSD had promised Poe it would correct the portrayal of her in the news segment, but did not do anything to respond to the reports, effectively admitting and acknowledging the statements, the suit alleges.
The former chief also maintains that after she acknowledged being gay in 2015, Board Member Santos Hernandez Jr. publicly commented during board meetings and in other public settings that “a child needs a mother and a father,” remarks Poe found offensive, according to her attorneys’ court papers.
However, Mendoza admitted failing to report Poe’s complaints about Hernandez to anyone or to take any appropriate action, according to Poe’s lawyers’ court papers.
Poe’s attorneys also state in their court papers that Board Member Deanna Robles shunned the plaintiff and called the school police department “worthless” while the plaintiff was the chief, all because Poe testified against Robles in a restraining order dispute involving the trustee before her 2018 board election.