Jury finds for Nevada County Sheriff’s Office in civil suit | TheUnion.com

Jury finds for Nevada County Sheriff’s Office in civil suit

After deliberating for two days, a jury on Wednesday found no evidence the Nevada County Sheriff's Office terminated one employee and forced the resignation of her husband because she complained of sexual harassment.

The weeks-long civil suit alleged former Sheriff's Office employee Yvonne Evans was retaliated against, with criminal charges of embezzlement and eventual termination, after complaining of sexual harassment by then-Undersheriff Richard Kimball. Her husband, Lt. Bill Evans, claimed he was forced to retire after being subjected to an internal affairs investigation and a fitness-for-duty evaluation.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Kerry Schaffer, sought to paint the Sheriff's Office — from Sheriff Keith Royal on down — as engaging in a conspiracy to discredit his clients. Schaffer had put the price tag for economic losses, pain and suffering for the couple at about $4.75 million.

Carl Fessenden, the attorney for the county, argued it was the plaintiffs' claims that were not credible.

Fessenden told the jury in his closing argument it might be true Yvonne Evans complained about the harassment and she was fired, but there was no connection between the two events. Bill Evans, he said, retired of his own free will.

The jury agreed, finding that it was true that Yvonne Evans engaged in a protected activity — complaining of sexual harassment — and that she suffered an adverse action, her termination. They did not find, however, that her termination was retaliation for having spoken out.

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In Bill Evans' case, the jury found he did engage in a protected activity — Yvonne's complaint of harassment — but that he did not suffer "constructive discharge" and was not forced to retire.

"The Sheriff's Office is pleased with the decision reached by the jury," Undersheriff Joe Salivar said. "Maintaining the public trust and continuing to serve the community at the highest level will always be our top priority."

"Obviously we're disappointed," Schaffer said, noting the verdict was 9 to 3.

Schaffer said he was proud of his clients' integrity, adding, "They got a chance to have a forum and tell their story … I'm sad that a case like this didn't draw people in to watch the testimony."

To contact reporter Liz Kellar, email lizk@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.