San Diego County says it is not liable in a lawsuit against it and the Sheriff's Department accusing a former high-ranking sheriff's official of sexual harassment.
A San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) employee filed a lawsuit against the county in February, alleging her supervisors took no action when she complained about inappropriate sexual behavior involving former Assistant Sheriff Rich Miller.
Miller resigned from his position on March 2.
On March 28, the Department of Fair Employment & Housing issued a Right to Sue notice for a claim filed by a female coworker who said Miller retaliated against her in the form of a demotion for denying his sexual advances.
The woman who filed the lawsuit said she confided in two commanders at separate times involving the conduct but did not file a formal complaint because she feared retaliation.
“Neither commander suggested the allegations be reported to anyone,” the lawsuit states.
The alleged conduct involved unwelcome touching and inappropriate comments over her 5-year employment.
The plaintiff asked to be transferred to another position and interviewed for a job on October 26, 2017, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims Miller learned of her efforts to be transferred from under his command and retaliated against the woman, demoting her on October 31, 2017.
The plaintiff believes if she had complied, “she would not have been demoted, based in part on the preferential treatment of other women who have been linked to relationships with Defendant Miller,” according to the complaint.
The county says it "took reasonable steps" to prevent and correct workplace harassment, and the woman unreasonably failed to use the preventive and corrective measures that it provided.
The claimant said she was interviewed by internal affairs on December 7.
When contacted on February 20, a sheriff's department spokesperson confirmed they were investigating a complaint of inappropriate conduct against then-Assistant Sheriff Miller.
SDSO Media Relations Director Lt. Karen Stubkjaer said at the time that a review of Miller's disciplinary records showed that he had no record of any discipline being imposed against him ever in his career.
Lt. Stubkjaer also said that, other than the current investigation, the department has no record of any internal investigations against Miller within the past five years.
The employee claims that on at least five occasions while she was employed as an Administrative Secretary with the Detention Services Bureau, Miller inappropriately hugged her and thrust himself on her in a sexually suggestive way. She also said in the claim that Miller only hugged her in that manner when the two were alone.
According to the claim, the alleged harassment led the victim to seek medical treatment and counseling from a therapist as a result.
As an assistant sheriff -- one of three on the department's executive staff -- Miller ran the Sheriff's Detention Services Bureau, which oversees the seven county jails.
Ed. Note: A previous version of this article reported the DFEH rejected the claim regarding Miller. That information has been corrected. We regret the error.