Yvonne Davada Evans, a former accounting assistant with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, and her husband, retired Lt. Bill Evans, have filed suit against their former employer in federal court.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento by Santa Rosa-based attorney Kerry Schaffer, alleges that Yvonne Evans was retaliated against after she complained of sexual harassment by then-Undersheriff Richard Kimball, and that Bill Evans was subjected to a hostile work environment and forced to retire.
The suit also asks for damages based on violations of the couple’s First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.
“It is disappointing when the cops violate the law, when someone sworn to uphold the law is the problem,” Schaffer said Thursday, charging the Sheriff’s Office with having a “systemic problem” with cronyism. “It shakes your faith.”
According to the complaint, Yvonne Evans (then Cantrell) was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in 2004 as a senior accounting assistant, and her performance reviews were generally good. But after she separated from then-husband Keith Cantrell in 2008, Kimball embraced and kissed her, the complaint stated.
He then began investigating her personal life, and she complained to her union steward about his behavior in January 2009, according to the complaint.
After Yvonne and Bill Evans married, her ex-husband, Keith Cantrell, reportedly called in a tip alleging she had stolen money; she was placed on administrative leave in September 2010 and fired in May 2011.
“Kimball, who was in charge of the investigation, saw the chance to get rid of Yvonne Evans for her complaints against him for sexual harassment,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint also alleges that Sheriff Keith Royal “pressured and bullied the District Attorney to charge Evans with embezzlement,” a charge Cliff Newell denies.
“The bottom line is, a complaint was referred to our office,” Newell said Thursday. “We look at it, we do a legal analysis, not a political analysis, as to whether there is sufficient legally admissible evidence to get a conviction. If we don’t have that, we wouldn’t file the case.
“I don’t recall any extraordinary pressure (to file),” Newell added. “We get pressure all the time from interested parties.”
Yvonne Evans was arrested in August 2011 and charged with four misdemeanor counts of withholding fines after more than $13,000 allegedly was discovered missing from jail funds.
The case against her was dismissed after Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger determined the filing was past the one-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors.
At the time, the Sheriff’s Office investigator indicated felony charges would be sought, but no further charges were filed.
Now, more than two years later, Schaffer has filed suit on behalf not only of Yvonne Evans, but her husband. The delay was due to a lengthy process in which charges of discrimination were filed with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the federal Equal Opportunity Commission; the couple subsequently received right-to-sue notices from both agencies, Schaffer said.
The suit also alleges that retaliation and harassment drove Bill Evans to retire.
“In addition to pressuring (him) to turn on his wife and convince her to admit (to a) theft she hadn’t committed, which made working for the Sheriff’s Office very uncomfortable, Sheriff Royal turned up the heat to an intolerable level,” the complaint alleges.
Shortly after Yvonne’s arrest, the complaint alleges, Bill Evans was placed on administrative leave pending a fitness for duty evaluation; he subsequently was not cleared because he was “not a team player.” He filed for retirement in October 2011.
The complaint alleges the couple’s right to free speech was violated and that Yvonne Evans’ Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure was violated when she was arrested without probable cause.
Royal said Thursday that his office had not yet been served with a copy of the complaint, which was filed Aug. 24.
“I believe this suit is the result of what transpired regarding Yvonne Evans’ arrest, for what we believed was the theft of public funds,” Royal said, noting that the case was dropped due to the statute of limitations.
Royal deferred any further comment to county counsel Alison Barratt-Green, who could not be reached Thursday.
In a corollary complaint, another former employee of the Sheriff’s Office also has filed suit in federal court. Tammy Santiago (aka Saling) is alleging wrongful termination — which stems from statements she made regarding her relationship with Kimball during the investigation of Yvonne Evans.
Santiago, who is representing herself, is scheduled to be back in court Oct. 9.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
“I believe this suit is the result of what transpired regarding Yvonne Evans’ arrest, for what we believed was the theft of public funds.”
Sheriff Keith Royal