LOS ANGELES (CNS) - An Irwindale police dispatcher is suing the city and a former police chief, alleging the chief sexually harassed the married woman even after she told him she wanted to end the intimate relationship they had that was initially consensual.
Mariela Isabel Avila's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the city and ex-chief Ty Henshaw alleges sexual harassment, gender discrimination and harassment, failure to prevent discrimination, harassment or retaliation, hostile work environment and negligent hiring, supervision or retention.
Avila, the wife of Irwindale police Sgt. Robert Avila, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought on Tuesday.
Henshaw's attorney, Bradley Gage, issued a statement on Wednesday regarding the suit.
"The chief denies the allegations in the lawsuit," Gage said. " He denies pursuing her relentlessly or otherwise. We look forward to putting the accuser under oath, where she will have to explain her actions. In the end, we expect complete vindication for Chief Henshaw."
Avila was hired at age 19 as a part-time police cadet for the IPD and the next year continued her career there as a 911 police dispatcher, a role she has maintained for 15 years, the suit states. She currently is the secretary for the Irwindale Police Association Board of Directors, the suit states.
Avila was introduced to Defendant Henshaw sometime in 2014 when he was hired as a captain and that same year he told Avila that she could not work the same shift as her husband even though they had done so since 2007, the suit states.
Henshaw began flirting with Avila in 2017, their relationship grew and they were intimate for the first time at a Monrovia hotel in 2018, the suit states.
The pair continued to have an occasional sexual relationship for the next year, but Avila ended it in May 2019 by texting her decision to Henshaw, who begged her not to break up with him, the suit states.
"Despite plaintiff's request ... Henshaw ... continued to text her every day both while she was at home and at work," according to the suit, which further states that the ex-chief "continued to pursue, harass, and retaliate against plaintiff over the next several years."
After Avila informed Henshaw that she and her husband had begun living at a new home, Henshaw texted her "congratulations" with an eyeroll emoji, according to the suit.
"Throughout the next several months the emotional trauma from her relationship with ... Henshaw began taking a significant toll on plaintiff's mental health," the suit states.
During the December 2019 annual Christmas party, Henshaw brushed against Avila in an inappropriate way while her husband was in an adjacent room, the suit states.
"This made plaintiff feel extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable because the bar was full of colleagues from work, city dignitaries and several members of her family were in the next room," the suit states. "Plaintiff was worried that someone would see what was happening, so she took her drink and quickly left the bar area."
During the pandemic period in May 2020, Henshaw called Avila twice and disparaged her husband, the suit states.
In July 2021, Avila resigned from her job as a communications training officer, a decision she says she would not have made had she not been harassed for refusing Henshaw's alleged sexual invitations.
Avila, who later was excluded from staff meetings by the chief beginning last May, believes she has been targeted, sexually harassed and battered, discriminated against and retaliated against by Henshaw, according to the suit.
"In effect, plaintiff's work performance, salary and feelings of safety as a woman have been compromised," according to the suit.
Henshaw retired from the IPD in July.