Richmond’s gay police chief accused of sex harassment

The city manager of Richmond said Monday that a civil rights lawsuit filed against the city and police Chief Chris Magnus by a former officer appears to be meritless.

At the same time, City Manager Bill Lindsay said the city is hiring an independent investigator to look into the claims by former officer Thomas Hauschild. Hauschild alleges in a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco on Friday that Magnus conducted a biased termination proceeding that resulted in his being fired in retaliation for a complaint that Magnus made unwanted sexual advances toward him.

Lindsay said in a statement:

“I must keep an open mind in light of my position as city manager, but Chief Magnus will continue to have my full confidence pending the outcome of the investigation. … I must say that given the age of the claims and the fact they are filed by an officer who was fired and is, therefore, biased, as well as Chief Magnus’ demonstrated record of exemplary performance, this lawsuit appears facially meritless.”

Lindsay added:

“During the approximately eight years of Chief Magnus’s tenure, serious crime in Richmond has been dramatically reduced.”

The city manager’s news release also included a statement by Magnus saying:

“The claims made by Mr. Hauschild against me are completely baseless and categorically false.”

Art Hartinger, a private lawyer representing the city, said the scope of the city’s forthcoming investigation has not been determined, but noted that the state Fair Employment and Housing Act requires probes of claims of a hostile work environment.

Hauschild, an eight-year veteran of the police force, was fired in December 2013 for misconduct including domestic battery and weapons-related violations, Lindsay said. Hauschild alleges in the lawsuit that on an occasion when he was assigned to protect Magnus’s house at night, because of threats Magnus had received, the chief one evening “attempted to engage in an inappropriate, personal sexual relationship” with him.

The lawsuit does not give the date of the incident. It alleges that Magnus touched his arm and began rubbing his upper leg in an obvious sexual manner. It says Magnus had previously called his personal cellphone a number of times.

Hauschild says in the lawsuit that he informed Magnus he did not want a sexual relationship with him and reported the incident to his supervising lieutenant. He alleges that Magnus then became furious and engaged in a series of retaliatory actions, including denying him training, denying him an appointment as acting sergeant and initiating an internal affairs investigation into a 2012 altercation with his ex-wife and his alleged possession of eight unregistered guns bought from other officers.

The lawsuit is based on claims of violations of federal civil rights law, the state fair employment law and the federal and state constitutions. It seeks financial compensation for back pay, a punitive financial award and an injunction. Magnus, who is gay, was married last year.

In a posting on the Police Department’s Facebook page during the weekend, he called the lawsuit “a new low when it comes to bogus claims.”