It has been a little more than a year since Yvonne Davada Evans, a former accounting assistant with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, and her husband, retired Lt. Bill Evans, filed suit against their former employer in federal court.
The lawsuit, which alleges that Yvonne Evans was retaliated against after she complained of sexual harassment by then-Undersheriff Richard Kimball, and that Bill Evans was forced to retire, continues to wend its way through the U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
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 in 2010, her ex-husband 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 alleged.
The complaint alleges that Sheriff Keith Royal “pressured and bullied the District Attorney to charge Evans with embezzlement,” a charge DA Cliff Newell denied.
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. The case against her was dismissed after a judge determined the filing was past the one-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors.
The suit asks for damages based on violations of the couple’s First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights; it also alleges that retaliation and harassment drove Bill Evans to retire.
Shortly after Yvonne’s arrest, the complaint alleged, 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 alleged 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.
The initial complaint was filed in August 2013, but a joint status report had not been filed as of March 2014. According to court records, summons were served in April, and a motion to dismiss was filed by the attorney for the Sheriff’s Office.
An amended complaint was filed in May, and a new motion to dismiss was made that claimed, among other points, the suit was not filed in time and Royal was protected under qualified immunity.
“Plaintiffs Yvonne Evans and Williams Evans set forth a lengthy story,” wrote Michael Pott, the attorney for Nevada County. “Unfortunately for plaintiffs, that story lacks legal merit.”
According to Pott, there was no county policy that led to the deprivation of their constitutional rights. Pott also argued that Yvonne and Bill Evans were not protected under the First Amendment because they spoke out as public employees, not as private citizens.
“Neither plaintiff voiced their concerns to anyone outside the county,” Pott wrote. “Therefore, their internal complaints are legally deemed to be made pursuant to their official duties as county employees.”
Evans was terminated because he undermined the department’s authority, Pott said, and therefore is not entitled to First Amendment protection. Pott also argued Royal had probable cause to believe Yvonne Evans was guilty of embezzlement when he terminated her.
A July 3 hearing date was vacated and no new hearing dates have been set, according to court records.
A corollary complaint filed by another former employee of the Sheriff’s Office is also making its way through the lengthy judicial process. Tammy Santiago (aka Saling) alleged wrongful termination, which stems from statements she made regarding her relationship with Kimball during the investigation of Yvonne Evans. Saling, who is representing herself, recently filed her opposition to the county’s motion to dismiss her suit. A conference has been set for Jan. 21, 2015.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.