Atherton has agreed to payt $230,000 to settle a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit a former police officer filed against the town and one of its employees.
In the April documents filed in San Mateo County Superior Court, former Atherton police Officer Pilar Ortiz-Buckley accused Public Works Supervisor Troy Henderson of making salacious remarks and grabbing her in the police break room.
City Attorney Wynne Furth said that the town decided to settle early in the process to avoid costly legal fees. The three involved parties signed a settlement agreement in mid-November.
Ortiz-Buckley, 48, suffered back injuries during the alleged June 2008 attack, which prevented her from wearing her police duty belt and made it impossible for her to do her job, according to the lawsuit.
Although Ortiz-Buckley filed a complaint with the town, administrators did almost nothing to discipline Henderson and in fact blamed the policewoman for the incident, the lawsuit claims. Ortiz-Buckley later pressed charges and received a restraining order against Henderson, a longtime town employee whom the lawsuit described as a serial sexual harasser.
“Despite the permanent restraining order and the criminal charges brought against Henderson because of the June 3, 2008 incident, Atherton continues to maintain that the incident was somehow Officer Ortiz’s fault, and continues to retaliate against Officer Ortiz for making her complaint of sexual harassment, and at the same time, to protect and favor Henderson,” the lawsuit states.
In July a jury acquitted Henderson of two misdemeanor assault and battery charges the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office filed against him in a criminal case stemming from the same June 2008 incident with Ortiz-Buckley.
Henderson testified at the trial that he never made inappropriate comments to female employees and said he only stepped toward Ortiz-Buckley in the police break room to hear what she was saying and then to walk by her.
“We settled for what we wanted,” attorney Scott Bonagofsky, who represented Ortiz-Buckley said. “Criminal trials have a much higher standard of proof.” Ortiz-Buckley remains injured but is pleased with the settlement, he added.
“I think that they realized that they were going to lose to some extent if they went to trial,” Bonagofsky said of the town’s settlement.
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