A former Gig Harbor police sergeant has sued the department, alleging gender-based harassment by other officers and that the workplace was a hostile environment.
Sharon Cox, the first female sergeant in the department, contends in the lawsuit, filed last week, that she suffered discriminatory treatment from department managers and male officers, and alleges the managers knew about the behavior and failed to stop it. She is seeking unspecified damages.
Cox resigned in January, citing the alleged harassment.
Attorney Elizabeth McIntyre, who represents the city, said Thursday she had not seen the lawsuit, and had no comment.
According to the lawsuit:
• Lt. Bill Colberg, now retired, told Cox when she was brought on in 2007 that the department really hasnt had good luck hiring women in the past.
• Chief Mike Davis told Cox before she was promoted to sergeant in 2011 that she should expect other male officers to give her a hard time, if she accepted the job.
• When Cox complained to the chief about hostility from male officers, she was reminded the behavior should be expected, and told not to make a fuss about it.
• Lower-ranking male officers were insubordinate to Cox, and one stated she was a waste of space and air. Managers put an officer she beat out for the job under her supervision. The officer was among those who harassed Cox.
• After officers viewed Coxs private employment file, department managers told her it would only make things worse for her if she sought an investigation into the incident. Officers also looked at a private memo sent by Cox to the chief.
• Colberg sent a memo to the chief stating a male officer was creating an environment of mistrust and disrespect for personal gain at Coxs expense. The lieutenant asked for an investigation of the officers behavior. Nothing was done in response to the memo.
• Officers held a vote of no confidence against Cox and called her a coward after she returned to work after an internal affairs investigation, and a few weeks later held a vote to decertify her as an officer.
Coxs attorney, Julie Kays, said that was related to a shooting Aug. 11 at a Key Peninsula grocery store in which one man was killed and another seriously wounded. Cox was responding to a hit-and-run accident at the time, Kays said, and followed the chain of command by contacting a lieutenant before she headed to the scene.
Cox eventually received a written reprimand from the chief for not performing her assigned duties in a competent manner, Kays said.
An outside investigators Dec. 18 report concluded Cox was not subject to a hostile work environment based on her gender when she was a member of the department. The investigator did find that a female officer obtained access to Coxs confidential background-check files and showed the information to other officers.
According to investigator Jim Webber of Kirkland-based Jim Webber Consulting, the officer unintentionally came across Coxs background file while surfing around on a department computer and made sensitive information known to other officers.
The officer described a certain piece of information in Coxs background file as incredible and wondered how, given this information which Webber chose not to disclose in his report Cox could have been promoted over other candidates to sergeant in January 2011.
The report concludes the officer was not motivated by gender but curiosity when she discovered Coxs background file.
Davis left pursuing the matter up to Cox not due to gender but because he was concerned about the possible dissemination of very sensitive information about her, Webber wrote in the report.
Cox declined to be interviewed for Webbers report. Davis declined to comment on the report.
Kays contends the report doesnt consider key elements addressed in the lawsuit, such as the former lieutenants memo, and said the investigation resulting from the litigation will be more thorough.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268
Brett Davis: 253-358-4151