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Recruit Files Sex Harass Suit

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) A female former deputy sheriff trainee has accused Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Ihde of endorsing a systematic policy of sexual harassment against women who join the force.

Monica Quinn filed a federal civil suit in San Francisco May 28 charging Ihde and his administration with failing to investigate her claims last year that her field training officer hounded her out of her job after only five weeks by repeatedly abusing her.

Quinn, a former Lake County sheriff's deputy who has returned to a job at the Lake County Sheriff's Department, alleges that her supervisor, Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff John Blenker, demanded that she accompany him on an out-of-town trip, retaliated against her when she refused, withheld the training he was supposed to provide her, and wrote her up for actions she performed at his direction.

Sonoma County Claims Manager Doug Gow said last week that contrary to Quinn's complaint, her allegations were given a thorough investigation by the sheriff's internal affairs division. Gow said the investigators told him Quinn's charges were unfounded. On Feb. 22, he denied her civil-damages claim against the county.

Sheriff's personnel routinely undergo training to educate them on the county's policy against gender discrimination and sexual harassment, Gow added.

The lawsuit claims that Ihde's department fostered an unwritten policy of harassment against female deputies and retaliation against those who complained about the conduct of their male co-workers. She said that after she resigned May 31, 1995, Sgt. Kirk Spaulding admitted to her that the department knew "it had a problem with Blenker.'' Quinn claims Blenker boasted to her that he had driven another female deputy to quit through a campaign of harassment.

Gow said he is unaware of any other complaints filed against Blenker. Quinn is seeking reinstatement and an unspecified amount in damages for emotional distress, lost earnings, attorneys' fees, and punitive damages. She is also requesting a court order barring the Sheriff's Department from engaging in sexual harassment.

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From the June 6-12, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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