San Jose, CA – California’s first female sheriff has denied allegations that she sexually harassed at least three former employees over the course of her decades with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department.
The accusations against Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith came to light in April, after one of the men – a 30-year correctional officer – submitted his letter of retirement, KGO reported.
"You will recall how, on multiple occasions, you sexually harassed me,” the officer wrote in the letter, which was sent specifically to Sheriff Smith.
That letter has become part of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department’s Equal Opportunity Department (EOD) investigation.
"He had experienced sexual harassment from Sheriff Smith and remained silent or largely silent, I should say, over the years fearing retaliation," the officer’s attorney, Josh Boxer explained.
The officer said that Sheriff Smith first propositioned him when she was his supervisor at the Main Jail, KGO reported.
The officer explained that the sheriff touched herself in a way that made him uncomfortable.
During a second instance, the officer said Sheriff Smith “suggestively handled a police baton,” KGO reported.
The final occasion took place as they were both working the 1994 World Cup at Stanford Stadium, the officer said.
During that instance, Sheriff Smith propositioned him in a trailer, he said.
The officer, who asked not to be identified to help protect his children, has since filed a lawsuit alleging age and disability discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, KGO reported.
Boxer said he planned to depose Sheriff Smith in the next month or two, but that the county has been objecting.
“Our case continues to grow," Boxer told KGO. "And it's certainly bolstered by the other individuals who have come forward as well with similar stories of harassment."
Former undercover narcotics Officer Gary Brady said that Sheriff Smith propositioned him during a convention in November of 1991.
Sheriff Smith was second-in-command at the department at the time, and had joined in a night of drinking with Officer Brady and other department personnel, he said.
Officer Brady noted that he and Sheriff Smith were both married, but that they wound up having an encounter in an unmarked patrol unit parked outside a hotel.
"She undressed and she got on top of me and she wanted me to do some things that I'm embarrassed to talk about now,” Officer Brady told KGO.
He said he cut the encounter short, and told her it was “time to go.”
Officer Brady said that Sheriff Smith retaliated against him after the incident by removing him from the Allied Agencies Narcotics Enforcement Team, so he confronted her.
"I always remember her vein on the left side just standing up," he told KGO. "And she told me, 'It's about time the females in this department get the good jobs.'"
Officer Brady went on to file a gender discrimination grievance with the department, and later filed a sexual harassment complaint with the county, but both of his claims were denied, he said.
According to Officer Brady, investigators admitted to him that they spoke with a few of his witnesses, but not everyone.
“Maybe Laurie Smith liked you,” one of the investigators told him, according to Officer Brady.
A third employee, former Deputy Ed Albanoski, alleged that Sheriff Smith made sexual advances towards him one day in the late 1980s as he was on his lunch break at the Elmwood Women’s Jail.
“She had her uniform shirt unbuttoned down to like the third button, not wearing a t-shirt, not wearing a bra, and kind of exposing herself to me," Deputy Albanoski told KGO. She then asked him to go out for drinks on two occasions that day, but he said he declined.
Deputy Albanoski was later injured in the line of duty, and was out on disability for two years before he went to then-Assistant Sheriff Smith to talk about rejoining the department.
"I was basically pleading with her to get my job back,” he said. “She goes, 'Well, you should have been nicer to me at Elmwood.’"
Deputy Albanoski and Officer Brady said they have no plans to file lawsuits against Sheriff Smith or the department, but that they wanted voters to hear their stories before the sheriff’s election.
Sheriff Smith has adamantly denied the men’s allegations and insinuated that their personnel files held unfavorable information about them.
“It’s all false. Absolutely false,” she told KGO. “If you get a waiver from them for their personnel records that would probably tell you a lot."
But despite the officers’ signed waivers, the department has not yet provided any material that raised questions about the officers’ credibility, KGO reported.
Sheriff Smith has served five terms in her current position, and has been a member of the sheriff’s department for 45 years, the Daily Mail reported.
She is up for reelection on Tuesday.