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City of San Francisco Getting a Hefty Bill

April 29, 2015 Legal Team

Kelly O’ Haire joined the San Francisco Police Department in 2006 as an attorney. She had previously served for ten years as a deputy district attorney in Marin County. At the time of her hire with the SFPD, the department was headed by Police Chief Heather Fong.

In 2009, a deputy police chief, Greg Suhr received a call from a female friend who alleged that her boyfriend had battered and chocked her. While Suhr encouraged her to make a formal police complaint, he failed to comply with the SFPD’s policy since he did not attempt to arrest the female friend’s boyfriend.

Enter O’Haire, whose prime responsibility was handling disciplinary cases for the department. She filed a complaint with the Police Commission; in her findings, she urged the department to fire Suhr because the situation was handled poorly. Suhr had a previous record from a criminal charge involving an assault and battery cover-up by off-duty police officers. Suhr was demoted by Police Chief Fong.

During the pending disciplinary case against Suhr, Fong retired her post. She was replaced by George Gascó who was elected district attorney two years later. In 2011, Suhr was back in the hierarchy and appointed police chief by the mayor.

O’Haire alleged that once Suhr transitioned into the leadership role, he swiftly retaliated against her for filing that report in 2009. Suddenly, O’Haire was disciplined for bad performance to the point of her termination. She was shamed in the last weeks at her employment; the city’s attorneys accused that she had no legal basis for bringing a claim against Suhr for wrongdoing in 2009.

After years in negotiations and litigation, the city chose to settle the case right before jury selections were set to begin. San Francisco agreed to pay O’Haire a settlement of $725,000 but did not admit to any wrongdoing.