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Nichole Hanchett Misses Court Date PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 15 November 2012 04:36

Former San Fernando Police Sergeant Was To Appear In Los Angeles Superior Court To Discuss Progress Of Her Wrongful Termination Suit Against City Of San Fernando


Former San Fernando Police Department Officer Nichole Hanchett

Former San Fernando Police Department officer Nichole Hanchett, who is suing the City of San Fernando for wrongful termination, failed to make a scheduled court appearance Wednesday, Nov. 14, to speak to the status of attempts to mediate a settlement.

Neither Hanchett nor her legal representation was in the downtown Los Angeles Superior Court building when Judge Mark V. Mooney called the case. Attorney Allison Hilgers, representing San Fernando, was present for the proceedings.

Judge Mooney asked if attempts to mediate a settlement had occurred. Hilgers said yes, but then added both sides "were still very far apart" as far as any decision.

Mooney set a trial date for next April 8. He also directed all parties to return on March 29 for a final conference regarding progress toward a settlement.

The judge said Hanchett and her attorneys would have to show cause for failing to appear on Wednesday, or face sanctions.

"I'm not sure why they didn't show up for this post mediation status conference," Hilgers said, outside the courtroom. "We were just to report to the judge that we had mediated the case, and didn't settle. We already have a trial date, so basically we were just reporting the status." A call to Los Angeles-base attorney William Waldo, who has represented Hanchett in this matter, was not returned.

Her lawsuit was filed against the City of San Fernando and RCS Investigations and Consulting LLC, an investigation company hired by the city.

She accuses city officials of discrimination based on her gender and sexual orientation, that she received unequal treatment. The complaint also contends that Hanchett was fired because she filed a complaint after she was sexually harassed.

Hanchett, who was fired last January, was one of two female officers on the force and is a lesbian. Prior to her termination, Hanchett had received several commendations for her work and was the first female officer to earn the rank of Sergeant at the San Fernando police department in 37 years.

In the suit, a letter written by co-worker Ines Reveles-Sieracki was provided, detailing an incident when Hanchett was referred to as "sausage." The lawsuit reads: "Ventimiglia asked Sieracki, 'whose going to move into the open office in the station.' When Sieracki responded that she did not know, Ventimiglia said 'I thought 'sausage' was moving in there.' Sieracki was at first speechless, but after a few seconds said, 'I don't know who you're referring to.' The room became quiet as those who had heard Ventimiglia's sexist slur were incredulous...Ventimiglia knew that 'sausage' is a filthy, vulgar reference to a male penis.

Ventimiglia made the 'sausage' reference to Plaintiff Hanchett's co-workers in order to demean her in the eyes of her fellow officers." After confirming what had occurred with other officers, Hanchett according to the lawsuit, filed a two-page sexual harassment complaint against Ventimiglia with Michael Okafor, the personnel manager for the city of San Fernando. Hanchett's was quoted in the complaint to say that she was 'tremendously humiliated, offended and hurt by Officer Ventimiglia's derogatory comments and harassment in the presence of several other coworkers and a peer."

Hanchett, as outlined in the lawsuit, "broke down and cried" in the office of then Police Chief Anthony Ruelas. Hanchett was reportedly told that Okafor responded "the city will conduct an investigation into the matter as soon as possible." According to the suit, Lt. Jeff Eley also told her later that San Fernando City Administrator Al Hernandez had stated that he wasn't taking Hanchett's complaint seriously, and planned to have no real investigation into Hanchett's complaint. The lawsuit indicates that Eley advised Hanchett to "get a lawyer."

As previously reported in the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, the lawsuit filed by Hanchett blows the whistle on a controversial jail cell death, claiming that documents were falsified to give the appearance that proper jail checks were conducted on the night when Everardo Jaramillo Reynaga reportedly hanged himself with bed sheets.

The lawsuit alleges that officer Ventimiglia's job was saved after he let it be known that he was aware of the emails documenting the sexual affair between Chief Ruelas and police cadet Maria Barajas. Officer Ventimiglia was the star of a controversial video placed on YouTube that was shot inside the police department and the video was considered "unbecoming" to the department.

Hanchett was later accused of lying when she said she was unaware that filming was going on during her shift, although those that filmed the video told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that they had been given the run of the place and full permission to shoot inside the police department.

The suit contends that there is a sexual disparity between the treatment Hanchett received in this matter and all other officers that were questioned. In particular, Ventimiglia who was temporarily demoted by the lawsuit says he was returned to his regular position on the police force. The suit also indicates a pattern of internal review within the San Fernando Police Department, and a failure to take action even when serious procedures are broken. It claims there is a pattern of police covering up for each other and the city hiring an investigation company that would give the city their desired outcome.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 November 2012 04:43