Former transit administrator alleges racism in federal suit against police, city |

Former transit administrator alleges racism in federal suit against police, city

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Allegations of racism have been lodged against South Lake Tahoe police by former South Tahoe Transit Authority Administrator John Andoh in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday.

In the suit, Attorney Jeffrey Fulton contends police arrested Andoh, who is African-American, in October because of an intimate relationship he developed with STATA administrative assistant Allyson Ritchie, who is Caucasian. Ritchie is the sister of police officer Andrew Eissinger.

“During the relationship, Ms. Ritchie advised (Andoh) that she had a brother who was a police officer for the city of South Lake Tahoe, and that this individual would become enraged should he discover that Ms. Ritchie was involved in an interracial relationship,” Fulton wrote in the suit.

Ritchie has said she believes she was fired in August 2009 because of the break-up with Andoh, according to the suit. But her position was eliminated because of budget cuts, Fulton contends.

Ritchie and Andoh’s two-and-a-half-month relationship ended in May 2009.

Contact information for Ritchie could not be located Thursday.

The attorney alleges the city, the police department, Officer Russell Liles and unnamed defendants conspired to deny Andoh his rights because of the relationship and Ritchie’s dismissal from her position at STATA following her relationship with Andoh. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

The suit also contends police falsified information in the police report detailing Andoh’s arrest, have a de facto policy of racial profiling and inadequately investigate complaints of misconduct.

Eissinger declined to comment on the suit Thursday via e-mail and Liles did not immediately return an e-mail requesting comment.

Capt. Martin Hewlett said he had not seen the suit as of Thursday afternoon. Suits against the city are typically served to the city attorney, Hewlett said.

City Attorney Patrick Enright said the city had not been served with the suit as of Thursday.

The police department has a policy against racial profiling and conducts “extensive training” to prevent racial discrimination, Hewlett said.

When asked whether Andoh may have been arrested based on his race, Hewlett replied, “Absolutely that is not the case.”

The allegations against the police department and the city center around Lile’s contention that Andoh gave misleading information following a Sept. 4 traffic accident.

Police said Andoh changed his story about whether a Jeep Wrangler he was driving made contact with a 58-year-old bicyclist at the corner of C Street and Emerald Bay Road.

Police arrested Andoh Oct. 1 after a warrant was issued for Andoh’s arrest on a misdemeanor charge of allegedly giving misleading information to an police officer.

Fulton contends the District Attorney’s Office issued a warrant for Andoh’s arrest without probable cause or Andoh’s knowledge following a request to review the case by Liles.

Andoh has previously told the Tribune that he was consistent with police when detailing the incident. In the suit, Fulton also said Andoh never changed his statement.

Prosecutors dropped the charge against Andoh in February. The charge “wasn’t as clear as we initially thought it was,” said El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe at the time.

In the suit, Fulton also said Andoh believes he “that the STATA Board may have eliminated plaintiff’s position with STATA because of the unlawful arrest.”

The STATA Board of Directors voted to eliminate the transit administrator position and use the salary savings to hire a new executive director, Andoh said in March.

Andoh said he advocated for the move at the time.

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