County, Sheriff's Spouse Take Aim at Deputy's Harassment Suit


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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Attorneys for Los Angeles County and the wife of Sheriff Alex Villanueva are seeking dismissal of portions of a lawsuit brought by a sheriff's deputy who alleges her career has been derailed because a recruit the plaintiff found to be physically unfit for hiring was a friend of the sheriff's spouse.

Deputy Lina Pimentel's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges nine causes of action, including retaliation, discrimination and harassment. The defendants are the county and the sheriff's wife, retired LASD Sgt. Vivian Villanueva.

But according to court papers filed Friday by attorneys for the sheriff's spouse, she does not have an office at any county building, has not supervised or reprimanded any county employees and does not have a county vehicle, all contrary to what Pimentel claims in her lawsuit.

``(Pimentel) appears to have added these knowingly false allegations to publicly embarrass Sheriff Villanueva,'' Vivian Villanueva's lawyers state in their court papers seeking dismissal of the two claims against their client in the suit, which allege retaliation and harassment.

Lawyers for Los Angeles County want four of Pimentel's nine causes of action dismissed against the county -- for discrimination-disparate treatment, work environment harassment, failure to prevent harassment and failure to perform a mandatory duty.

``The allegations in plaintiff's complaint are boilerplate, illusory and conclusory...,'' county attorneys state in their court papers filed March 18.``Yet, none of these is supported by any facts in the complaint, other than plaintiff's misperception of the reality caused by the strong dislike she has towards her coworkers.''

In her suit filed Jan. 12, Pimentel says she was hired in January 2007, served as a patrol deputy and in August 2019 and was given a highly regarded recruit training officer job at the Sheriff's Academy. She later took part in the decision to dismiss recruit Natalie Garcia, a close, personal friend of Vivian Villanueva, the spouse of the current sheriff and a retired LASD sergeant, the suit states.

``Vivian Villanueva was acting as a supervisor during all relevant periods of time ... and had an office at plaintiff's worksite,'' the suit alleges.

Garcia, a longtime LASD custody assistant, was making her second attempt to complete the academy, but Pimentel, Garcia's drill instructor, determined that she was physically unable to complete the course, the suit states.

``Garcia falsely claimed to plaintiff*s superiors that plaintiff had forced her to do additional physical training requirements in violation of her medical restrictions,'' the suit alleges.

In retaliation for plaintiff dismissing her friend as unqualified, Vivian Villanueva ``reported'' to the academy and called the plaintiff two obscene names reserved for females, the suit alleges. Vivian Villanueva also warned others to keep Pimentel away from her because, ``I will go off on that (epithet),'' the suit states.

``This gross example of nepotism, abuse of office and workplace harassment has been ratified by current Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who allows his wife to call female deputies names ... in the workplace,'' the suit states.

Pimentel's career progression ``has now been effectively terminated'' because of Vivian Villanueva's personal attacks on her, according to the suit, which further alleges the sheriff's spouse is ``misusing her husband's position as the apex employee of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to do illegal favors for her friends and punish those who do not do favors for her friends.''

Garcia, upset because she was unable to meet the minimum physical standards for a deputy, filed a complaint against Pimentel because the plaintiff had told her, ``The sheriff is not here to save you,'' the suit states.

``Plaintiff expressed this to Garcia because (Pimentel) believed that Garcia would seek to abuse her influence with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, by and through his spouse Vivian Villanueva,'' the suit states.

Pimentel also believes Vivian Villanueva and Natalie Garcia have misused their ties to the sheriff to obtain a take-home vehicle and other benefits that are not available to non-sworn peace officers like Garcia, the suit states.

A hearing on the motions brought by the county and Vivian Villanueva are scheduled to be heard by Judge Terry A. Green on May 17.

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