By Royal Calkins
A Marina Police Department commander has filed a complaint with a state agency accusing Police Chief Tina Nieto of unfair treatment and violating payroll rules.
Cmdr. Donna White filed the complaint with the state Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which is conducting a review that will decide whether it will conduct a formal investigation.
White says she initially filed a grievance with the Police Department and the Marina city manager in January 2021 about the payroll issue. She said an employee who reports to her sought compensation for 80 hours of after-hours work that had accumulated without pay. She said she denied the request because it violated city rules and meant that wages earned in 2020 would be paid, against city and state regulation, in 2021. However, she said, Nieto overruled her, improperly paid for the hours and later retaliated against her for raising the issue.
White, who is on leave, also accuses Nieto of failing to accommodate a work-related disability.
White said she contacted Voices of Monterey Bay after reading statements by Nieto regarding sexual harassment issues in the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office. Nieto and sheriff’s Capt. Joe Moses are competing for the position of sheriff in the November election. Nieto, like Moses, said she wouldn’t tolerate sexual harassment, a statement that White said she found hypocritical considering problems that have gone unchecked in Marina. Moses’ comments cost him the endorsement of the outgoing sheriff, Steve Bernal, who apparently had declined to discipline subordinates found to have sexually harassed subordinates.
White said she has had no contact with the Moses campaign.
Referring to Nieto’s actions on the payroll matter, White said, “They’re just deceptive practices and if you’re going to do them for your employees, what are you going to do for the voters?”
The commander also said Nieto had removed some possibly negative information from Police Department applications before sending the paperwork to the city manager, who Nieto supposedly referred to as “picky.”
Nieto said only that she had not done what White alleged and referred questions to City Manager Layne Long. He did not return a call last week.
EEOC complaints are fairly common in government agencies, including police departments. One former Monterey County sheriff was named in about 10 complaints at one time. The state agency generally conducts investigations into the allegations, rules them substantiated or unsubstantiated and in some cases issues letters granting the complainant the ability to file suit.
White was hired in 2019 after serving as a captain in the Sierra Madre Police Department and spending 13 years with the Pasadena Police Department.
She said she has a sizable email record backing up her claims. She said her duties have been limited because of her complaint and that she has been denied the opportunity to serve as acting chief in Nieto’s absence.
“This is not about trying Nieto in the press,” White said. “That will happen in litigation. This is about the truth of a sitting police chief who is not forthcoming…
“At the end of the day, the voters can vote for whom they want but they have the right to know the truth.”
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