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Three Salt Lake City police officers who claim they were sexually harassed by a deputy chief and subjected to retaliation say they plan to file suit against the city over their treatment.
In a notice of claim filed with the city, the three women say they were dissuaded from promptly complaining about Rick Findlay because he occupied a position of authority over them and, as deputy chief in charge of Internal Affairs, their complaints would be screened by him.
And when they did complain, the claim says, the women's concerns were not handled "in the ordinary course of such complaints" and the investigation was delayed until Findlay could retire last year.
The women's attorney, Ed Brass, confirmed Saturday that the time for the city to respond to the notice has expired and the women intend to sue. The notice points out that the sexual harassment claim by the three Officer Tiffany Commagere, Sgt. Robin Heiden and former Lt. Melody Gray had been sustained by the city's Department of Human Resources.
Findlay was put on leave in November 2013 while allegations were investigated that he shared a "sexually suggestive" image of a naked woman, who he said was one of the officers, as well as an image of the two other female officers in bikinis, according to documents obtained last year by The Tribune through a records request.
In the notice of claim, Gray said Findlay took her phone without her permission and transferred photos on it to himself. She said one of the pictures was of her and Heiden in bikinis.
"Over the course of the next two years, without her permission and without her knowledge, Deputy Chief Findlay showed the photographs of Lt. Gray to numerous people," the notice of claim says. "This caused her great embarrassment and diminished her reputation and her effectiveness as an officer in command position."
Gray, who was with the department for 18 years, resigned in August 2012 after Findlay began a disciplinary proceeding against her and she complained directly to Chief Chris Burbank about being harassed. However, Findlay was not properly disciplined, the notice of claim says.
The notice of claim says that in addition to showing the photo of Heiden without her permission, Findlay also falsely claimed to have had some sort of personal relationship with her. Findlay attempted to pursue a relationship but was rejected, according to the notice of claim.
During this same time, Findlay sat on board that decided whether Heiden would be promoted to lieutenant, the notice of claim says. It says his behavior damaged Heiden's reputation and prevented her from advancing to higher paying positions.
Findlay also claimed to have shown to various people a nude photo purportedly of Commagere, who states "unequivocally" in the notice of claim that such a photo does not exist. It says that after Commagere complained to Internal Affairs, her assignment in the police department was changed in retaliation.
The Salt Lake City Civilian Review Board found in December 2013 that Findlay had violated the city's sexual harassment policy and committed conduct unbecoming of an officer. Another review, by the city's human resources department, made the same findings.
In a disciplinary letter to Findlay dated June 4, 2014, Burbank concluded the allegations had been sustained but said "your conduct did not rise to the level of termination." The deputy chief resigned that month.
City records show Findlay started at the police department June 1, 1994. Utah police officers who started during that era become eligible for a number of retirement benefits after 20 years of employment. Had Findlay been terminated or left Salt Lake City police prior to June 2014, he would not have gotten those benefits.
Gray told The Tribune on Saturday that it was frustrating that Findlay was not put on leave until long after the complaints were made and was allowed to continue on leave for months after the investigation was complete until his retirement. She and the other two women were in a bad position because the police department, rather than an outside agency, was investigating their complaints, according to Gray.
"There was no protection for us," she said. "It felt more like Findlay was being protected."
Gray pointed out that an outside agency investigates even minor traffic accidents involving police officers. She said she hopes a lawsuit will lead to the same process being used for complaints such as hers.
"The big thing for us is the inequity that existed," Gray said, "and that's what we're trying to correct."