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Second officer files lawsuit against Arroyo Grande police 

A second female police officer has filed a civil lawsuit against the Arroyo Grande Police Department and its chief, seeking unspecified damages for alleged sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

According to court documents obtained by New Times, senior officer Michelle Cota filed a lawsuit Dec. 22, six days after a similar lawsuit from another female officer was made public.

The lawsuit accuses top department officials of refusing to address employee complaints of sexual harassment and engaging in retaliatory action against those female officers who complained.

“Our investigation is not yet complete, but we believe other women have also been subjected to discriminatory animus and retaliation for their complaints of unfair and unequal treatment,” Cota’s Santa Barbara-based attorney, Christine Adams, wrote in a statement to New Times.

Police Chief Steven Annibali, who is specifically named in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The lawsuit is similar to another filed by officer Kimberly Martin in 2010. Like Martin, Cota alleges that her complaints about the behavior of a male colleague went unanswered by department officials. She further alleges the colleague wasn’t disciplined but instead offered a full retirement.

Cota was named Officer of the Year in 2004.

Arroyo Grande offices are closed until Jan. 2 and city officials could not be reached for comment. The city has not yet filed a legal response.

In a previous statement regarding Martin’s lawsuit, City Manager Steve Adams said: “The city has consistently and strongly enforced regulations and laws preventing sexual harassment.”

Adams also said in the statement that all supervisors are required to attend sexual harassment training every two years, and the city has taken “additional steps” to make the training available to all its employees.

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