A lawyer for the City of Santa Ana is calling a lawsuit filed by a retired, high-ranking police officer who says she was discriminated against because of her sex and sexual orientation "an attempt to extort money" based on a claim that "borders on ridiculous."
Diana L. Field with Ferguson, Praet & Sherman filed those remarks in advance of a scheduled April 20 hearing with U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
Field is asking Selna to dismiss Tammy Franks' lawsuit before the case reaches a jury trial.
The Weekly first reported in January about the case, which alleges a homophobic officer filed a frivolous, theoretically anonymous complaint designed to smear Franks' reputation and sabotage her career that saw her rise to the rank of commander.
She claims police management, including Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) chief Carlos Rojas, treated the complaint as legitimate, confiscated her badge and gun, embarrassed her by escorting her out of the building, took three months to determine the allegations were bogus and then waited another five months to announce the findings. Those events crippled her leadership abilities when she returned to work and she felt forced to retire prematurely, she says.
But Field told Selna that the lawsuit is baseless.
"Plaintiff feels that the city should have instantly made a 'snap judgement' that the anonymous complaint had no merit without any investigation whatsoever," Field wrote. "Not only is this contrary to law where complaints about peace officer misconduct are made, but it is bordering on ridiculous that someone, such as [Franks], who was in charge of Internal Affairs, would make that suggestion."
Additionally, Field says the lawsuit contains no evidence that anyone named in the complaint discriminated against Franks based on her sex or sexual orientation.
But Derek T. Anderson, Franks' lawyer, is telling Selna that Field has misrepresented the facts of the case and is downplaying reality. He says the SAPD probe created a situation where "rampant rumors were circulating that changed the conditions in which Franks worked in a way that subjected her to a humiliating, degrading workplace environment."
According to Anderson, those false rumors included that Franks was under investigation by the Orange County district attorney's office; addicted to methamphetamine; arrested for domestic violence; helped her wife cheat on a SAPD promotion test; sexually harassed a police cadet; improperly management of the gang unit; and botched a homicide investigation.
"Based on the defendants' actions, Franks–a member of defendants' command staff–was forced to carry the taint of those suspicions, suffered significant emotional distress and had any realistic opportunity for future advancement destroyed," Anderson wrote.
He also blasted Field's legal arguments, returning the favor of labeling them crafty and "ridiculous."