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  Fired Investigator Enters Discrimination Complaint
January 19, 2005


The Richmond Police Commission's lone investigator, who was abruptly fired last week, has filed a federal complaint charging that the City Council retaliated against her for commission actions and discriminated against her based on her race, sex and national origin.

On Jan. 4, the council voted in closed session to fire investigator Joan Kubota, who received her termination letter by Fed Ex on Jan. 8 -- putting her in the position of working a commission meeting without knowing she had been put on immediate paid leave pending her Feb. 1 termination.

Kubota, who was hired directly by the council, had not received a performance review in four years. She expected one in July.

"I truly believe only 5 to 10 percent of this is about me and that is because I'm uppity," she said.

"The bottom line is this is an attack on civilian oversight. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a retaliatory firing that all began with Andres Soto."

In August, the city settled a federal civil rights suit brought by Soto that alleged Richmond police unlawfully beat and detained him and his sons at the end of the 2002 Cinco de Mayo festival.

Kubota investigated a related complaint filed with the commission about the officers' actions.

Since then, the Richmond Police Officers Association has pressed for her ouster, she said.

Police union president Mike Gormley said Tuesday that his organization had nothing to do with Kubota's firing.

"We don't have that kind of juice," he said.

The union previously challenged the legality of the commission holding public hearings on complaints against officers based on state privacy provisions.

According to the letter sent to Kubota, "the members of the City Council feel that you have not demonstrated the ability to gain the respect of the executive management team in the Police Department, nor with the executive management of the city, nor with members of the City Council."

Other reasons cited by the council included Kubota's "lack of positive interpersonal communication skills" and questions about her impartiality in regard to "sensitive personnel matters."

Mayor Irma Anderson, who signed the letter sent to Kubota, was in Washington, D.C., at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Tuesday and was not reachable for comment.

"The city has botched performance evaluations for a long time," Councilman Tom Butt said. "Some people complain that she has no rapport with the police. Well, she's not supposed to have a rapport with the police. She's supposed to investigate them."

Kubota's complaint seeks mediation. The city has until Feb. 11 to respond or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will assign an investigator to the case.

Reach Rebecca Rosen Lum at 510-262-2713 or rrosenlum@cctimes.com