Published on May 21st, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman0
Former San Francisco police lawyer sues over firing
A former Police Department attorney who put together a case to fire then-Deputy Chief Greg Suhr in 2009 filed a wrongful termination suit in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday, charging that Suhr dismissed her in retaliation soon after he became police chief in 2011.
Kelly O’Haire, a civilian attorney hired by the department in 2006 to run internal affairs legal cases, “was terminated in retaliation for creating a strategy and putting together a case for terminating” Suhr, according to the suit.
The case involves a 2009 incident in which a friend of Suhr told him on a Friday night that she had been a victim of domestic violence. When Suhr reportedly urged the woman to make a formal complaint to police, she refused, saying she needed time to think.
On the following Monday, Suhr escorted the woman to a police station to make her report. Her alleged attacker eventually was charged with two counts of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats.
But because Suhr did not immediately report the domestic violence incident, as required by law, then-Police Chief Heather Fong demoted him to captain. Related departmental charges could have cost Suhr his job.
O’Haire filed the disciplinary charges against Suhr with the Police Commission and “determined that her department had enough evidence to present a case to the Commission for dismissal,” according to the suit.
The case was never heard. Fong retired in August 2009 and the new chief, George Gascon, allowed Suhr to serve a suspension for the incident.
In the suit, O’Haire alleges she was threatened by Suhr’s attorney, who told her she was “going to be sorry” she filed the case against Suhr.
Less than a month after Suhr was named police chief in April 2011, O’Haire was laid off for what were described as budgetary reasons, the suit says.
O’Haire actually “was fired for complaining about illegal activities” by Suhr, said Gary Gwilliam, the Oakland attorney who filed the suit. “We don’t have to prove that (Suhr) was doing anything wrong, only that he fired (O’Haire) in retaliation for her efforts against him.”
Police Department attorneys declined to comment.
There are plenty of politics behind the entire incident. There was long-standing bad blood between Fong and Suhr and suggestions that Fong demoted him and pushed hard for the disciplinary hearing in an effort to ensure he would not succeed her as chief.
O’Haire, a former San Rafael police officer and deputy district attorney for Marin County, had her life ruined for doing her job, Gwilliam said. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, along with reinstatement with back pay and all attorney fees.
Source: sfgate.com “San Francisco ex-police lawyer sues over firing,” May 21, 2013.