Two female former Capitol Police officers say their work environment turned hostile after they reported sexual harassment by a sergeant.
They told the former police chief, governor’s office, Arizona Department of Administration and Arizona Department of Public Safety in hopes that something would change.
That was three years ago, and still, Bobbie Golden and Shelley Hebets have heard nothing.
Now, Golden and Hebets are suing Capitol Police, former Police Chief Andrew Staubitz and the state, saying they failed to investigate and act on the claims.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, also names the man they said harassed them: Wayne Corcoran, who retired before an investigation could be launched.
And in a twist to the legal battle, Brian Neus of Mesa, a Capitol Police internal affairs sergeant who supported the women, was fired and has filed a lawsuit against the state.
The allegations add to the continued turmoil surrounding the police agency, which patrols a small area of downtown Phoenix around the state Capitol and provides security to state lawmakers.
"There was no investigation done for Shelley or I," Golden said. "We were never talked to, never interviewed, even though we went beyond what was needed to report it. Police agencies are obligated to conduct investigations and have closure to it. We were humiliated and yet no one seemed to care."
Attorneys for Corcoran and the state declined to comment.
Staubitz’s attorney Steve Biddle said all the defendants have asked the judge to dismiss the case because it lacks merit.
Corcoran measured Golden and Hebets for ballistic vests in 2002, even though the chief directed him to have a female officer measure them, the suit says.
Corcoran is also accused of making a quip about Golden’s breast size.
Hebets said she complied with the measurements because he outranked her, but she immediately reported the incident to Neus.
Hebets also says that Corcoran pulled her shorts up high on her thigh at a training class, asking her, "Is this the uniform of the day?"
In depositions, Corcoran defends his actions, saying he was never directed to not measure female officers.
He "did so in a professional and appropriate way and that neither Golden or Hebets expressed discomfort with his actions in any way," Corcoran’s attorneys say. Corcoran also denies commenting about Golden’s breast size.
Neus sent a memo to the chief detailing the women’s claims, and Corcoran was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Corcoran testified in a deposition that he was never informed of the sexual harassment allegations, but he decided to retire days later before the investigation got under way. Despite the allegations, Staubitz wrote Corcoran a letter of recommendation, and Corcoran was hired as a lieutenant with the Maricopa County Parks Department. He later transferred to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Trails Division, which is now responsible for patrolling the county’s wilderness and recreation areas.
That was the last either woman heard of her complaints.
Golden said that once Corcoran left, she and Hebets were alienated by their peers, and the work environment grew increasingly hostile.
"After we filed, we were scrutinized," she said. "Everything we did was looked at under a microscope.
"They would mess with my schedule instead of letting me be on patrol. It was little things, but when put all together, it was tiring being messed with on a constant basis. Someone else could do the exact same thing, and they weren’t talked to."
Hebets requested that DPS conduct an internal investigation into how the chief handled the harassment claims and retaliation, but there were never any findings, the lawsuit states.
The DPS investigator, Wendell Grasse, became the Capitol Police chief a year later, and Staubitz was demoted to captain.
The women also contacted Department of Administration director Betsey Bayless, who had a risk management investigator look into the allegations. In a deposition, risk management investigator Jon Vella agrees that the women were working in a hostile environment and said the sexual harassment allegations were plausible. He reported his findings to Bayless, but the women said they never heard what the conclusion was.
Vella admitted he took very few notes during his investigation, and later threw them away because he didn’t think he would need them anymore.
The governor’s chief of staff Dennis Burke was also informed of the allegations and he told his staff that he was working on it, a staff member testified. But the women never received any results of an investigation, and the workplace hostility continued, they said.
Golden and Hebets quit the force in December, saying the stress had grown too much and was affecting their health.
Meanwhile, Neus, who reported the women’s sexual harassment complaints, said he faced retaliation for supporting the women in their legal fight.
Neus said internal investigations were launched against him, including claims that he unholstered a gun in a stairwell, which he denies, and talked about another internal investigation to co-workers when he wasn’t supposed to.
"People don’t get fired for discussing an investigation," said Neus, a 10-year veteran of the agency. "They may get reprimanded."
He was fired in March 2004 a day after he filed a whistleblower letter against the chief and other officers at the agency. In March, he filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the state, Staubitz and Grasse.