Promotion lawsuit hits courts

Police sergeant alleges that superiors maintained hostile environment and that he was passed over due to rumors he is gay.

January 06, 2009|By Joseph Serna

A Newport Beach police sergeant’s lawsuit against the city and the police department claiming he was not promoted to lieutenant because of rumors that he is gay will likely go to trial by the end of this month, attorneys for the city said Tuesday.

Sgt. Neil Harvey, who has been on the force more than 25 years, filed a lawsuit in April 2007 against Newport Beach, its police department and former Police Chief Bob McDonell, claiming that he was harassed, retaliated against, and passed over for promotions because he was single, perceived as gay, and actively pursued reporting other officers’ misconduct.

Last week, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos ruled that the city and its employees are immune to lawsuits claiming Harvey was retaliated against. Instead, the trial, tentatively scheduled to begin Jan. 26, will focus on Harvey’s treatment by co-workers who thought he was gay.


According to the complaint filed with the court, Harvey says he was passed over for promotion in 2005 and 2006 despite his scoring higher than most on the two objective portions of the test. A third portion involves input from sources inside and outside the department. There, Harvey scored low. The low test scores are not strong enough to throw out Harvey’s claim because at least 50% of the scoring is subjective, Polos ruled last week.

The jury will also hear Harvey’s claim that he was singled out because he filed complaints with the state, according to the ruling.

Efforts to reach Harvey’s attorney, Lawrence Lennemann, were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Harvey’s complaint also claims that when superiors were notified of harassment, they did nothing to stop it and maintained a hostile work environment. Most of Harvey’s claims were looked into by an outside investigator hired by the city in 2006. The city concluded his complaints were unfounded.

Harvey is suing for an unspecified amount of money, including damages for loss of earnings, earning capacity and a loss of benefits.

JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at

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