The sheriff’s Me Too problem
His undersheriff and head of internal affairs were the subjects of separate legal payouts
Annica Hagadorn was in career purgatory for almost a decade.
It was May 2009 when the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant first complained about the gender and racial discrimination she faced at one of California’s largest law enforcement agencies. That initial complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing eventually surfaced through a far-reaching civil lawsuit that alleged a chilling pattern within the department: Female subordinates who slept with their male supervisors were promoted. The women who complained were written up, demoted, passed over, publicly humiliated or internally investigated.
In the spring of 2016, a Sacramento County jury ruled that the Sheriff’s Department had indeed discriminated against Hagadorn and her co-plaintiffs, Dawn Douglas, Tracie Keillor and Jodi Medonca.
Today, Douglas, Keillor and Medonca are no longer with the department. Hagadorn was finally promoted to a captain’s grade in March. As for the man whose conduct they exposed, Jones promoted him to be his undersheriff.
According to an SN&R review of public records and court documents, Jones has constructed his inner circle with some of the very men who cost Sacramento County millions of dollars over substantiated allegations that they treat women terribly.
Jones’ No. 2, Erik Maness, was a leading antagonist in the yearslong discrimination lawsuit that culminated in 2016 with a jury hammering the Sheriff’s Department for nearly $7 million in damages to plaintiffs and their attorneys.
Meanwhile, Jones’ pick to investigate corruption within the department was himself implicated in a sexual harassment claim that resulted in a $50,000 settlement for a female subordinate, SN&R has confirmed.
Current and former employees say it’s part of a culture that benefits from Jones’ absentee leadership: Anyone who complains sees their careers get stalled, are subjected to retaliatory investigations or are forced out. As for the people the buck supposedly stops with?
“The moral of the story is they’re still there,” said Donna Cox, who retired from the department in 2016 and is challenging Jones. “They didn’t have to step down.”
If Jones clinches his third term in office next week, it will represent the failure of the Me Too movement to swing local politics, say his critics and challengers—who are sometimes one and the same.
For his part, Jones told SN&R earlier this year that the issues uncovered by the civil lawsuit occurred prior to his election in 2010. In March, he said he believed he already reformed the internal promotions process to prevent such favoritism from happening under his watch.
But he has elevated individuals who were at the center of such allegations, none more central than Maness. According to Transparent California, Maness has been promoted twice under Jones’ leadership: He went from being a captain to a chief deputy in 2013, and was promoted to undersheriff in 2016, a role he serves currently. Jones made Maness his No. 2 the same year that he testified about his treatment of female subordinates while he captained the main jail.
A decade ago, Douglas and Keillor complained about a female employee Maness was romantically entangled with to then Capt. Jones, who, they said, told them “hands off,” according to court documents. Their complaints led to an investigation, which then-Undersheriff Thomas McMahon dismissed.
In July 2008, then-Capt. Maness was transferred from patrol to command the main jail, which placed him directly above the three women who complained about his relationship with the female subordinate.
Plaintiffs claimed that Maness removed Lt. Douglas from her position as the jail’s operations commander, stripped Deputy Medonca of an inmate drug abuse position that would have paid her overtime and took Sgt. Keillor from the jail’s administrative office, despite stellar reviews in the position. Plaintiffs said Keillor was subjected to an internal affairs investigation for a bogus claim of felony computer fraud. The blowback took its toll: Keillor suffered a stroke in February 2013.
“If you’re on a hit list, if they don’t like you, then you’re done. And that’s what happened to Tracy Keillor,” Cox said. “That is still the culture.”
Reached by phone, Hagadorn declined to comment on the case.
“It just would not be appropriate,” she said, citing the impending election. “It’s not who I am as a person.”
Medonca didn’t return a call requesting comment, while Keillor and Douglas couldn’t be reached.
Cox says she witnessed the mistreatment of her female colleagues and experienced it herself as a sergeant whose complaints were dismissed while those of her male subordinates were pursued. Cox, who retired as a sergeant after more than 12 years on the force, said department heads “pick and choose who they’re gonna uphold the law with.”
Cox reached her breaking point in August 2016.
“I couldn’t deal with that negativity,” she said. “It’s bad enough surviving patrol, but then to go to work [with management] trying to do a Tonya Harding on you because they don’t want you to promote.”
Meanwhile, the man Jones has entrusted to root out corruption within the department has had his own Me Too moment.
According to court documents, Stephanie Angel was one day into her new assignment on the eighth floor of the county jail when her immediate supervisor began hitting on her.
It was May 2006 and Angel was a deputy with the Sheriff’s Department, which runs both the downtown jail and a larger custodial facility on the outskirts of Elk Grove. She was also married.
Angel said in the civil complaint she eventually filed against the department that she informed her new boss of her marital status in turning down a dinner date, but that then-sheriff’s Sgt. Santos Ramos continued his advances, procuring her private cellphone number and texting her sexually suggestive remarks.
The complaint says that Ramos didn’t give up courting the married women for 19 days. On May 30, 2006, Angel met with Ramos and a captain without her union lawyer. She thought they were going to discuss an injury she sustained a few days earlier, the complaint says. Instead, Ramos leveled six allegations that led to her demotion and prompted an internal investigation that lasted almost a year.
Angel filed her lawsuit against the county and multiple Sheriff’s Department officials at the end of 2007, including Ramos, then-Sheriff John McGinness and Jones, then a captain commanding the jail where this all transpired.
The lawsuit was ultimately settled for $50,000, according to county spokeswoman Kimberly Nava.
Jones promoted Santos to lieutenant in 2012 and to captain in 2015. Santos now leads the department’s Professional Standards Division, which is responsible for investigating alleged misconduct by officers. That has put him in charge of an investigation into the woman who once complained about him.
Angel is now at the center of a criminal probe into whether she and her partner took advantage of an elderly woman experiencing dementia, whom detectives found staying with extended family in the Philippines. The Sheriff’s Department revealed the investigation in March, though it didn’t name Angel and her partner except to say that she was a 14-year deputy and he was a six-year deputy.
As of May 24, the district attorney’s office had yet to file charges against Angel. Richard Allaye Chan Jr. said the investigation into his client is payback for her harassment claims against the department.
“Here’s the problem, and nobody’s making this nexus,” Chan began. “Guess who she sues: Scott Jones. Santos Ramos. … And guess who Santos Ramos is? He’s a captain and he runs internal investigations.”
As for Jones, he stands on the precipice of an outright victory next week thanks to a sizable fundraising lead, the benefits of incumbency and the reflected glory he’s been getting from last month’s arrest of the suspected East Area Rapist, Joseph James DeAngelo.
His main opponent is former deputy chief Milo Fitch, a veteran who has spent the latter part of his career trying to reduce the state’s sky-high recidivism rate through rehabilitation programs. On Twitter, Fitch took aim at Jones’ insistence on fighting the gender discrimination lawsuit at taxpayers’ expense.
“Over a six-year legal battle, the Sheriff’s Department paid out $10 million of county taxpayers’ funds to female deputies who had been harassed and retaliated against by superiors,” Fitch wrote. “We need a reset of the department’s culture to support all deputies.”
Cox thinks she’s that reset, not Fitch. But she’s also at a loss to explain why a cultural shift hasn’t happened sooner.
“How are men not having to step down?” Cox asked. “And those two [Jones and Maness] are guilty in a court of law, and they’re still in the one-and-two positions. … How are they still in control?”