Update: June 21 - The Civil Service Commission hearing is Friday, June 22 at City Hall. We initially reported the hearing was Thursday, June 21 and regret the error.
Two female officers with the recently settled sexual harassment and discrimination complaints with the city for $15,000 each, both connected to former Lt. Eric Sortland, who was fired in October but is seeking reinstatement.
The women--a corrections officer and a patrol officer--are also potential witnesses next week at .
Enumclaw Patch obtained copies of the women's complaints (attached to this story), which were settled in mid-May. In them, officers Nona Zilbauer and Amber Brunelle complain about sexual discrimination, harassment and unequal pay.
Zilbauer wrote in her claim that she faced several instances of harassment and unfair treatment by Sortland and Sgt. Tyler Chilman, who were her managers.
According to the claim, Zilbauer said fellow officers warned her the men were targeting her, possibly as retribution for refusing to sign a "vote of no confidence" that Sortland began in August 2008 against Chief Jim Zoll.
She reported the men were not following policy regarding shift changes, and when she complained about being left on graveyard shift, Chilman told her that Sortland was "tired of you whining and crying about doing graveyard and he's not going to allow you to go to day shift...."
Zilbauer also claims that Sortland and Chilman asked other officers to keep detailed notes on her mistakes in an effort to single her out to "get me fired or at least severely disciplined."
After she reported the incidents to her guild representive, Kim Pippin, and no further action was taken, Zilbauer alleges the men went further with their harassment. While her percentage of correct bookings was higher than the other corrections officers', Chilman gave her low marks on her evaluation and she was placed on probation in December 2008.
And when she was hired both as a corrections officer in 2007 and then as a patrol officer in 2009, Zilbauer alleges she was started at a lower pay rate than male counterparts though she had more experience.
Brunelle, who was hired in August 2009 after 11 years of experience in corrections, also names Sortland, Chilman and Officer Chris Grant as the principal parties in her claim.
Shortly after her hire, Brunelle alleges Sortland told her he preferred not having anyone in his department that belonged to the "NBA," later learning it stood for "No Babies Allowed."
"He had basically just told me that he did not want women with children around," Brunelle wrote. "I was a mother."
In spite of her experience, Brunelle said her observations, suggestions and good work in the jail were routinely ignored by Chilman, who was her manager, including discovering an inmate was having a relationship with his attorney, and discovering inmates were making homemade alcohol using bread and sugar they ordered through the inmate store.
In November 2010, Brunelle administered CPR to a female inmate who she reported having seen through the jail camera sitting in an odd manner. The inmate was stabilized at the scene by fire officials who responded and later taken to the hospital, though she died shortly after.
Fire Capt. Greg Schipper had reportedly written a letter of commendation for Brunelle. "I have been told by multiple officers and dispatch personnel that I deserved a department commendation as my actions were above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly enough, Chilman still gives me the feeling that I did something wrong."
Brunelle's colleague Grant presented a different ordeal--one allegedly fueled by sexist and racist comments. Brunelle said in her complaint that Grant regularly proclaimed, "And there is Amber center stage ... someone get her a pole!" and made other disrespectiful remarks. She said he indicated his distaste for potentially working with a black job candidate who was up for a new corrections position: "I don't have any use for those types," she quoted him as saying. When she reported the remarks to Chilman, he did nothing, she said.
Like Zilbauer, Brunelle said she was also subject to unfair scheduling, working the majority of time since her hiring on graveyard shift and having vacation requests denied. She also alleged fraud on Sortland's part in misrepresenting the position she accepted in terms of pay, overtime, incentives and retirement.
Both women said when they reported the incidents, neither the police department nor the city took appropriate actions to remedy the situation.
According to City Administrator Mike Thomas, the women's claims were settled in May and each was awarded $15,000 in damages; their initial claims were much higher at $350,000 each. As part of the settlements, neither the city nor the women admitted to any wrongdoing.
Robert Kim, who represents both women, said they agreed to the settlement because they wanted to move on. "Legal battles in court are time and resource intensive," he said in an email to Patch. "We'll keep an eye on Nona and Amber. I hope things will change at their department going forward for them."
The city of Enumclaw does not face personnel claims like that too often, said Thomas, and these settlements came about relatively quickly from when they were first filed. "I'm happy that this issue is settled and we can move forward," he said.
Chilman and Grant remain employed with the Enumclaw Police Department, though both received written reprimands that go into their personnel files. Thomas explained the reprimands are cumulative, so that if further claims are made against them, there would be escalating consequences for the men. If no further claims are made in a two-year period, the reprimands are cleared.
Sortland's termination last year coincided with an investigation by the State Auditor's Office of the police department's property room, which he managed, according to The Courier-Herald. (The PDF of the Auditor's Office findings is attached.)
Brett Purtzer, who is representing Sortland through his hearing next week, has declined to comment at this time.
The claims by Zilbauer and Brunelle will also be a factor in the hearing, which takes place June 22 at City Hall. The hearing was initially supposed to occur in January before severe winter weather conditions forced its postponement.