San Diego Unified School District

Lawsuit alleges San Diego school police chief's relationship allowed favoritism, corruption

Nine San Diego Unified School District police officers are represented in the lawsuit

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A lawsuit was announced Wednesday alleging that officers at the San Diego Unified School District's police department were subject to retaliation and mistreatment, and that the district's police chief showed favoritism toward another officer he was dating.

Allegations surfaced earlier this year in an anonymous email to school board members that claimed Chief Alfonso Contreras had been dating Sgt. Jenifer Gruner for years before he assumed the role as district police chief.

After Contreras was named chief last year, Gruner began receiving preferential treatment and falsified time cards in order to skip out of work, according to attorney John Gomez, whose firm represents nine district police officers in the upcoming litigation.

Gomez highlighted one instance in which he alleged Contreras and Gruner were spotted in a picture posted to social media at a football game in Indiana while they were supposed to be working.

San Diego Unified spokeswoman Maureen Magee said the district "is precluded from disclosing the details of personnel matters, and does not discuss pending litigation. All allegations received by the district are taken seriously and investigated."

According to Gomez, officers who supported the pair's relationship were afforded better opportunities, while those who didn't were mistreated. Gomez alleged officers brought their concerns to SDUSD Superintendent Lamont Jackson, but "were ignored completely."

He said the officers are seeking to have Contreras and Gruner placed on administrative leave and for the district to conduct an investigation into the allegations of time clock violations and unequal treatment.

While nine officers are currently represented in the case, Gomez said his firm expects to eventually represent a majority of the district's officers.

One of the plaintiff officers, Jesus Montana, appeared at a Wednesday morning news conference announcing the lawsuit. He said concerns brought up by the officers were downplayed by higher-ups, leaving them "feeling like they can't turn to anyone."

"We are asking (the district) to protect those who go out to serve and protect our students, not to sit back and protect those who serve the chief of police and his club," Montana said.

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