A Spokane police officer has filed a $3.5 million claim against the city, saying he suffered “personal trauma” after being sexually harassed on the job, then punished by his superiors when he complained.
But Officer Ken Lesperance says he’s willing to settle out of court for $1 million.
Lesperance delivered his “notice of claim” to City Hall last week. He gave Spokane officials 60 days to settle the dispute before he takes it to court.
Assistant City Attorney Rocco Treppiedi said Monday the claim is groundless.
“Our position is real simple,” Treppiedi said. “He has not been disciplined. He has not lost his job as a police officer. He has no claim.”
In the notice, Lesperance accuses community policing coordinator Cheryl Steele of making inappropriate sexual comments to him and about him during the last two years.
The former West Central neighborhood resource officer says Steele made him so uncomfortable he began avoiding her, even though the two were supposed to work closely together.
Lesperance filed a separate sexual harassment complaint against Steele last month. City officials determined Steele may have made comments that could be construed as insensitive, but otherwise cleared her of wrongdoing.
Steele said Monday she never harassed Lesperance, who has since been reassigned to swing-shift patrol duties.
“I absolutely deny everything in those papers,” she said. She declined to discuss the matter further.
Lesperance says police administrators, including Lt. Glenn Winkey and Chief Terry Mangan, “intimidated and harassed” him when he complained about Steele.
He claims they released private information about him and his wife, Kristine, to Steele and falsely described him as an unfit officer to residents of the neighborhood where he formerly worked.
“He was treated as a criminal for consulting an attorney and for voicing complaints against Cheryl Steele,” according to the claim written by his attorney, Amy C. Clemmons. “His reputation and future as a police officer have been destroyed.”
Winkey declined to discuss the specific accusations. “I wish I could. He makes some particularly defamatory claims,” he said.
Attempts to reach Mangan were unsuccessful.