Apache Junction Police Chief Glenn Walp sexually harassed and stalked a department employee, then retaliated against her when she rejected his advances and complained to the city manager, according to a legal claim filed Thursday.
Jenny Lewis, an administrative assistant who worked directly for the chief, says what happened to her is part of a pattern in which Walp and his top deputy, Cmdr. Jay Swart, harassed employees they deemed disloyal in an effort to force them to quit. Lewis’s claim, the first step in bringing a lawsuit, demands a $300,000 lump-sum settlement.
City Attorney Joel Stern said Friday the claim has been forwarded to the city’s risk management carrier, which will determine how it should be handled. He declined further comment.
Walp did not return phone calls and Swart refused to comment on Lewis’ claim.
The harassment and retaliation alleged in Lewis’ complaint are similar to charges leveled in April by former officer Cynthia Adams, a 17-year department employee who also has filed a claim against the city. Though Adams makes no allegation of sexual advances by the chief, both she and Lewis say Walp treats female employees in a demeaning manner and has bullied those he dislikes to drive them out of the agency.
An investigation conducted in April by a private law firm representing the city concluded Walp’s behavior toward Lewis was inappropriate but well-intentioned. Walp, who described his actions as “philanthropic” efforts to help out a fellow employee, was ordered by City Manager George Hoffman to write an apology to Lewis.
In the claim sent to the city on Thursday, Lewis says Walp’s inappropriate advances began in January, when he asked her for a hug as a Christmas gift. It continued into March, with Walp giving Lewis expensive sunglasses and high-end beauty products, offering to help buy her a car, and asking her to a formal dinner.
Walp also offered to give Lewis his credit card so she could buy a formal dress, or anything else she wanted, if she would accompany him to the dinner, according to the claim. Walp said he would pick Lewis up in a police vehicle, the claim states.
Lewis said she became increasingly uncomfortable and physically ill because of Walp’s advances. On March 15 she sent Walp an e-mail that rejected his invitation to the dinner and asked him to stop giving her gifts.
“Ms. Lewis was deeply concerned and felt very uncomfortable with the continued stalking,” Lewis’ claim states. “She had never asked for anything from Chief Walp and the continued offers of gifts of such a personal nature deeply troubled her.
“Ms. Lewis knew from past experience that Chief Walp always got rid of those who ‘questioned’ him or who he felt were ‘disloyal’ to him in any way. Lewis felt trapped and stalked by his bids for her sexual favors.”
Lewis filed a formal complaint against Walp on March 29.
Walp was put on paid administrative leave by Hoffman on April 3. Walp was allowed to return to duty three days later.
Lewis said she was dissatisfied with the city’s response to her complaint, which included no discipline against Walp, according to the claim.
After Walp returned to duty, Lewis said she was harassed and ostracized by fellow employees who remain loyal to the chief. Her office was moved outside the police building, and Lewis has been told a “ghost” program would be loaded into her computer hard drive so she could be monitored, according to the claim.
Efforts have stalled to have Lewis’ position reclassified, which would have resulted in a substantial pay hike, since she complained about Walp’s behavior, according to the claim.
In addition, Walp solicited letters from certain police employees seeking negative information about Lewis in an effort to discredit her, according to the claim.
“Chief Walp and his supporters, including Mr. Swart, have circled their wagons, and again have commenced a campaign of retaliation in an obvious effort to demean and discredit Ms. Lewis to force her to terminate her employment and/or gather sufficient evidence to support her termination,” the claim states.
The city’s original investigation of Lewis’ complaints says Walp does not dispute giving gifts to Lewis, offering to help her buy a car or inviting her to a formal dinner. However, that investigation concluded Walp’s actions were innocent, and that he was only trying to help a financially strapped co-worker.
Troy Foster, who conducted the investigation, did conclude that Walp’s actions — though well intentioned — were inappropriate.