The supervisor of a woman suing the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department on claims of sexual harassment said Thursday that she had not signed a document allegedly detailing the woman's 38 absences, even though her name is on it.
Jackie Bernal said she wrote a performance review that rated Lydia Lopez's attendance record as "satisfactory" in April 2007. That was changed to "needs improvement" less than two months later by Undersheriff Bill Heyne without her knowledge, Bernal testified in the trial.
Lopez, 36, said she repeatedly was punished and eventually was forced to quit after reporting sexual harassment by drug agent Bill Pooley, who since has been promoted to Riverbank police chief.
Bernal was one of three women who obtained a combined $545,000 settlement against the county last fall, just before their discrimination lawsuit was scheduled for trial.
Sheriff Adam Christianson and his second in command, Heyne, disciplined Lopez at separate hearings shortly after she named them as potential defendants, said Lopez's attorney, Jeffery Hubins.
Lopez was the subject of an internal affairs investigation on suspicion of falsifying timecards, Heyne said, and received a letter of reprimand in her personnel file.
Heyne acknowledged sending an e-mail asking a Sheriff's Department employee to "get eyes on (Lopez) and see what she is up to," or to go to her residence to confirm whether she was home sick.
He said this was not a "normal" practice.
Heyne testified that Lopez was considered AWOL, or away without leave, after missing three consecutive days of work without notifying a supervisor. Under county policy, that can result in an employee's automatic resignation.
Sheriff's officials found no evidence of criminal activity in another internal affairs investigation, which looked at whether Lopez visited her then-husband, a Norteño gang member now serving a life sentence, in jail four to six times while she was a sheriff's employee.
Heyne said Lopez accessed information on two of her ex-husband's co-defendants in a restricted database on her first day after having been transferred to the jail, but she faced no disciplinary action. Lopez denied that charge in court.
Hubins says Lopez seeks "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in the lawsuit, which is among five legal challenges brought by current or former female employees against the Sheriff's Department.
Testimony will continue Thursday morning in Department 23 at 801 10th St. Christianson likely will testify Feb. 19.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.