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L.A. OKs $1.25-million payout to two lesbian LAPD officers

The two officers — one is now retired — alleged they were subjected to repeated sexual harassment by a supervisor at the department's Van Nuys Division.

March 20, 2013|By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles City Council approved a $1.25-million payout Wednesday to a lesbian LAPD officer and a lesbian retired officer to settle claims by the women that they were subjected to repeated sexual harassment by a supervisor.

The agreement marks the latest in a long string of six- and seven-figure settlements and jury awards the city has had to pay in cases of discrimination, retaliation and other workplace strife that LAPD officers have brought against one another with some frequency.

In an 11-1 vote, the council signed off on the payout to avoid a trial in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by now-retired Officer Linda Gotham and Officer Lynn Whitey.

The two women, both openly gay, were assigned to the department's Van Nuys Division in 2010, where they were supervised by Sgt. Randy Hoffmaster, a 25-year veteran of the force.

On several occasions, the women charged in court documents, Hoffmaster made vulgar sexual comments and propositions. Their repeated complaints to more senior officials led to nothing, the women said in the lawsuit.

After the officers filed suit, department officials opened an internal investigation, said Matthew McNicholas, the women's attorney. The findings have not been made public, but according to McNicholas, Hoffmaster resigned at the conclusion of the inquiry.

Hoffmaster could not be reached for comment. Department spokesman Lt. Andy Neiman confirmed that Hoffmaster was no longer with the LAPD, but declined to comment on the suit.

Along with the findings of the LAPD's investigation, the women's claims were supported by officers who witnessed the abuse and who were prepared to testify at trial, McNicholas said.

The apparent failure of department officials to address the women's complaints until after a lawsuit was filed underscores an ongoing struggle within the LAPD. Top police officials and the civilian board that oversees the force have come under increasing pressure to improve the department's ability to quickly and effectively resolve workplace conflicts before they result in costly litigation.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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