Santa Ana Police Chief Wins Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed By Lesbian Ex-Commander

A retired Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) commander who alleged gender and sexual orientation discrimination has lost her 15-month-old federal civil rights lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna this month granted SAPD’s request for summary judgment, declaring that Tammy Franks did not adequately supply facts that would allow the case to proceed to the jury trial stage.

Franks, who is gay, claimed Police Chief Carlos Rojas discriminated against her based, in part, by making her the first employee placed on administrative leave based entirely on an anonymous letter, according to court records.  

Investigators concluded the January 2014 letter from a disgruntled ex-employee, who claimed Franks discriminated against straight male officers, was meritless. After that finding, Rojas—who’d made a dramatic show of having the commander disarmed and escorted out of SAPD headquarters—eventually allowed her to return to duty. However, the plaintiff, through San Diego-based lawyer Derek T. Anderson, said she prematurely retired because her ability to manage junior cops had been undermined by existing double standards, unfounded inflammatory rumors and the chief’s refusal to officially declare her exonerated.

In court filings, Anderson asserted that Rojas’ five justifications for placing Franks on leave were inconsistent with statements made by other officials and therefore lacked credibility.

But Selna found the chief believable, noting Rojas didn’t utter clearly identifiable anti-gay or anti-female rants that created a provable hostile work environment.

“Franks provides no evidence that these alleged acts of harassment were related to her gender or sexual orientation,” the judge, a 2003 appointee of President George W. Bush, opined. “For example, Franks provides no evidence of ‘sex specific and derogatory terms [showing] that the harasser is motivated by general hostility to the presence of women or lesbians in the workplace . . . [She] argues only that ‘it appears’ four heterosexual male Santa Ana police officers who were subjects of hostile work environment investigations [received better treatment].”

After siding with Rojas inside Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Selna ordered the retired cop to pay the city’s legal expenses.

Franks received numerous commendations for public service as she rose through SAPD ranks during her 28-year career.

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