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Probe Clouds CHP Official

The assistant chief, who seeks top post, is accused of showing nude photos of a fellow officer to others while on duty.

July 09, 2004|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — A top candidate to replace retiring California Highway Patrol Commissioner D.O. "Spike" Helmick has been investigated recently for allegedly showing nude photographs of a fellow CHP officer to other high-ranking officers while on duty.

Assistant Chief Art Acevedo is the subject of a $5-million civil claim involving the woman with whom he allegedly had an affair in 1995.

Acevedo said the probe is an attempt to derail his chances to become the CHP's top officer. He accused Helmick of disclosing the details, a charge that Helmick denied.

Claims filed with three state agencies allege that Acevedo kept sexually explicit Polaroid photographs of the woman in the glove box of his state-issued car and showed them to other supervisors after the affair ended.

He was an internal affairs sergeant at the time of the affair, but now oversees the Los Angeles area as one of four assistant chiefs. CHP spokesmen declined to comment on what they said was a personnel matter.

Acevedo's attorney, in a letter to the CHP's general counsel this week, demanded that Helmick stop "disseminating defamatory information which was obtained during a confidential CHP investigation ... [which] appears to be an attempt on the part of Commissioner Helmick to interfere with Assistant Chief Acevedo's intent to seek appointment."

Acevedo told the Sacramento Bee that he did not display the photos, and Helmick said he has stayed out of the process to choose his successor.

The harassment claims say the woman is a 36-year-old officer from Southern California who had a six- or seven-month affair with Acevedo. She says she posed for the photographs at Acevedo's suggestion, but didn't learn they had been shown to anyone until she was approached by two CHP internal affairs investigators March 17.

The woman, a 13-year department veteran, says in one claim that she was "absolutely horrified and humiliated" when she found out. "I feel that my reputation has been irreparably tarnished, and my career as a CHP officer is essentially over."

Two CHP captains allegedly have said Acevedo showed them the pictures, including one in which the woman is performing a sexual act on him.

The woman, who has since married another CHP officer and has two children, says she cannot return to work because rumors and the potential damage to Acevedo's promotion have created a sexually hostile work environment. She has been granted a state disability claim on the grounds that she suffered a stress injury because she was victimized in "a high-profile sexual harassment investigation."

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing has issued the woman a "right to sue" letter, said Director Jacqueline Wagner.

The woman's attorney, Craig Ackerman, sent a letter in April to the CHP, Acevedo and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seeking $5 million in damages.

"All of California would undoubtedly find Assistant Chief Acevedo's and the CHP's conduct in this matter utterly appalling," Ackerman wrote.

"To make matters worse, CHP has to date taken no disciplinary action against [Acevedo]," Ackerman's letter continued. "Instead of CHP immediately terminating [his] employment for, among other things, egregious violations of its sexual harassment policy, the governor's office is apparently still considering his promotion to ... commissioner."

Ackerman said the CHP rejected his settlement offer. The state Board of Control also has rejected the woman's $5-million claim, a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against the state, though no suit has been filed yet. She also filed a harassment claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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