From: LA Times
By: Scott Hadley, 11/27/1997
A Ventura County sheriff’s deputy accused of fraternizing with a woman inmate is fighting to get her job back after she was fired earlier this year.
Former Deputy Carol Ryan was dismissed in June for writing letters, exchanging phone calls and repeatedly contacting inmate Nancy Vasquez over a two-year period starting in 1995, county officials say.
Authorities believe that the association began when Ryan was a guard at the Sheriff’s Department’s Ojai Honor Farm and continued after Vasquez’s release in March 1995, said Leroy Smith, an assistant county counsel.
After Vasquez was arrested again in May 1995 and sent to Chowchilla State Prison for a probation violation, Ryan continued to write her, sending her money and clothes, which violates department policy, Smith said.
The connection between the two women was discovered in January after Vasquez was again arrested and authorities found a photograph of Ryan in her pocket, he said. An internal affairs investigation uncovered records of the phone calls and copies of the letters, Smith said.
Ryan, who joined the department in 1993, is in the midst of a Civil Service Commission hearing, trying to be reinstated to her job.
She could not be reached for comment, but her attorney, Ken Yuwiler, said his client does not deny making contact with Vasquez, but that the deputy was coerced.
Ryan, who is gay, has contended that Vasquez threatened to reveal her sexual orientation to Sheriff’s Department superiors, thus hurting Ryan’s career, Yuwiler said.
“She had a reasonable belief that it would damage her career,” he said.
Yuwiler said one of Ryan’s supervisors had told another deputy: “The only reason she is gay is she hasn’t met the right man and I’m that man.”
“There are no allegations that Deputy Ryan broke any law or had intimate contact with Ms. Vasquez while she was in custody,” Yuwiler said.
The Sheriff’s Department would not discuss details of the case, but Capt. Keith Parks said the department does not discriminate against homosexuals.
“We’ve had quite a bit of sensitivity training and education at all ranks ensuring that the workplace is not hostile to homosexuals,” Parks said. “We don’t tolerate harassment.”
The hearing is an administrative proceeding presided over by the five-member Civil Service Commission and conducted much like court hearings.
So far, the hearing has involved 14 days of testimony from internal affairs investigators and Chief Deputy Ken Kipp as well as presentation of evidence, Smith said.
Vasquez, who has been released from prison, has not testified but her recorded statements have been used in the hearing, he said. The proceeding, which started in September, is set to begin again Jan. 6, Smith said.
The Sheriff’s Department has rules against fraternization between inmates and the deputies who guard them, Smith said.
Ryan violated that rule by giving Vasquez her home phone number when Vasquez was an inmate at the honor farm. In addition, Smith said Ryan was questioned about the association originally in April 1995 and denied it.
Finally, Ryan allegedly violated department policy by continuing the association while Vasquez was in prison.
“There are rules prohibiting personal relationships with those involved with criminal activity or a reputation for criminal activity,” Smith said.
In another case, a deputy was fired this summer after allegedly having sexual relations with a woman inmate at the department’s main jail.
Deputy Daniel De Vall also faces four misdemeanor counts of unlawful sex because the California Penal Code prohibits detention employees from engaging in sex with inmates.