RICHMOND, Calif. - A former Fargo police chief who became the top cop here has been sued by a former officer for sexual harassment.
Chris Magnus, head of Fargo police from 1999 to 2006 before moving to Richmond, is accused of making an unwanted sexual advance on Thomas Hauschild, a Richmond police officer.
In his lawsuit, Hauschild alleges he was fired from the Police Department in late 2013 as retaliation for complaining to his supervising lieutenant about Magnus’ sexual misconduct.
Magnus said in a statement Sunday that the Richmond Police Department would “not be distracted or deterred … by frivolous lawsuits.”
“When I learned on Saturday that the City and I were being sued by an employee who was terminated for multiple serious acts of misconduct, including domestic violence and weapons related violations, I wasn’t surprised,” the chief wrote. “What did surprise me was his allegation that I’d made sexual advances toward him many years ago, a new low when it comes to bogus claims.”
Magnus said Hauschild was trying to exploit the fact that the chief is gay.
The federal lawsuit, filed Friday, names Magnus and the city of Richmond as defendants.
Hauschild was hired by the department in 2005 and received good performance reviews, but that changed after he was assigned to be Magnus’ bodyguard, according to his complaint.
One evening, as Hauschild was walking his dog, Magnus approached him and touched him inappropriately on the arm and rubbed his upper leg “in an obvious sexual manner,” the complaint alleges. Hauschild told Magnus to stop, and later complained to his supervising lieutenant about the incident, the complaint alleges.
What followed was a campaign of retaliation that ended in Hauschild’s termination, the former officer claims. The complaint asks for a jury trial and unspecified damages.
Magnus was not doing interviews Tuesday, a Richmond police spokeswoman said. Attempts to reach Hauschild’s attorney were unsuccessful.
Magnus’ full statement:
"One of the things I’ve unfortunately had to become used to as a police chief is getting sued -- either as a party to a lawsuit directed against the City for something involving the police department -- or for something related to a specific employment matter, often disciplinary related, involving an employee. Dealing with lawsuits is one of the least enjoyable parts of the job, but especially here in California, such legal actions are a very common development in cases where someone is suspended, demoted, or fired from a public safety agency.
When I learned on Saturday that the City and I were being sued by an employee who was terminated for multiple serious acts of misconduct, including domestic violence and weapons related violations, I wasn't surprised. What did surprise me was his allegation that I’d made sexual advances toward him many years ago, a new low when it comes to bogus claims. It appears that having assessed some other claim of bias wasn't his best option, this officer and his attorney (the same attorney suing the City on several other cases) apparently decided to exploit the fact that as a police chief who happens to be gay, I would be “vulnerable” to this particular type of accusation.
Attorneys frequently tell you to “say nothing” when you’re dealing with allegations of this type - and I understand why that is from a legal standpoint - but in this instance I feel I have to respond, given my ongoing commitment to transparency and forthrightness. I support the City hiring an independent, outside investigator to fully investigate what’s been alleged - and of course, I will cooperate fully. In addition, I am confident the City will prepare a rigorous defense of the civil claims that have been made.
If the goal of the plaintiff and his attorney is to embarrass, intimidate, or otherwise bully me for doing my job when it comes to addressing misconduct within my department, I can assure you it’s not going to happen. We have made, and continue to make, tremendous strides towards having a police department in Richmond that is highly professional, accountable, and responsive to the community. I plan to continue to hold RPD employees, as I hold myself, responsible to the high standards we have for conduct both on and off duty. My personnel and I are focused on making Richmond as safe and livable a community as possible. We are not going to be distracted or deterred from that goal by frivolous lawsuits."
Chief Chris Magnus