Police chief accused of lying to FBI, while department knew, according to lawyer

Mike Koozmin/SF ExaminerSF Police Chief Greg Suhr

New and wider allegations surfaced Wednesday in the second day of a whistleblower trial against Police Chief Greg Suhr and San Francisco.

Attorneys for plaintiff and former police attorney Kelly O’Haire alleged in court Suhr lied to the FBI for a security clearance, and the Police Department knew about it — and that a Superior Court judge who was then a lawyer for Suhr threatened the plaintiff with retaliation.

The new details came from Suhr’s disciplinary files as reference in the second day of pretrial motions in a civil suit against The City and Suhr.

The suit filed by O’Haire alleges she was fired soon after Suhr became chief in 2011 because she proceeded with a prosecution of him. The 2009 prosecution regarded a domestic violence incident Suhr responded to that year, which revealed past issues in Suhr’s record showing a pattern of skirting the law. O’Haire recommended Suhr’s termination to the Police Commission in the matter.

The City and Suhr argue O’Haire, who was terminated weeks after Suhr’s appointment by Mayor Ed Lee, was fired for budgetary reasons.

“They shouldn’t be able to argue that she’s not protected because The City already knew Greg Suhr had been in trouble for lying to the FBI,” said Jayme Walker, one of O’Haire’s lawyers in court Wednesday, in reference to her right to legal whistleblower status.

Attorneys for The City would not say which cases San Francisco or the Police Department knew about regarding Suhr’s prior disciplinary issues, but did allude to some knowledge. “Some of the situations were already known to the employer,” said David Ammons, an attorney for The City. The case also allegedly implicates a handful of city officials for their complicity or failure to protect a whistleblower. “She is making some very serious allegations against the chief of police and a judge in this court,” said Cheryl Adams, another attorney for The City, about O’Haire’s motives, which she questioned in court.

For instance, O’Haire’s case alleges James Collins, a sitting San Francisco Superior Court judge who represented Suhr in 2009 for the Police Officers Association, threatened O’Haire that if she didn’t drop the case, she would be fired when Suhr became chief.

Additionally, arguments by O’Haire’s lawyers in Judge Lynn O’Malley Taylor’s court Wednesday noted that O’Haire even feared The City would misplace her claim of whistleblower retaliation against The City.

“We have a lot of witness that will testify that the City Attorney’s Office lost stuff all the time,” said Walker who added that O’Haire feared her claim of being a whistleblower would also be lost.

According to a deposition in the case, District Attorney George Gascon told Mayor Ed Lee and his chief of staff, Steve Kawa, about O’Haire’s firing for what he thought was relation, but they did nothing. Lee has said he doesn’t recall such a conversation.

Jurors have not been selected yet in the civil trial. Proceedings will continue today.

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