Suit: Reports didn’t jibe

Regular annual evaluations didn’t match those given when sergeant was up for a promotion, attorneys say.

March 03, 2009|By Joseph Serna

If you were to look at Newport Beach Police Department Sgt. Neil Harvey’s personnel file, his most recent job evaluation would be chock full of glowing praise and his superior leadership, his lawyers argue.

The only problem: It’s more than six years old.

That fact is at the center of Harvey’s lawsuit against Newport Beach and its former police chief, Bob McDonell, as Harvey claims he was repeatedly denied promotion to lieutenant because of false rumors that he is gay. Newport Beach’s defense attorneys claim he was passed over repeatedly because he is not a good leader.

In the lawsuit’s third day of trial, Harvey’s attorneys looked to debunk the city’s case, showing jurors several Employee Performance Evaluations that illustrate Harvey’s superiors apparently not only considered him a competent leader, but a superior one.


“I appreciate his strong work ethic and open communication style. Neil is a good team player,” wrote then-Lt. Tim Newman in a 1995 evaluation of Harvey.

The comment takes aim at one of the city’s central cases in defending itself, years’ worth of promotional reviews from superiors that Harvey does not heed criticism and in fact, takes it personally. They also maintain Harvey cannot make timely decisions because he gets caught up in the small stuff. Promotions are based on three parts — an oral exam by neutral, outside parties, a written exam and peer-reviews by the candidate’s superiors.

How Harvey was judged during his regular, annual employee evaluations and when up for a promotion do not jibe, his attorneys said.

In a 1998 annual evaluation, Lt. Rich Long said Harvey’s leadership ability needed improvement, the second lowest grade possible, giving credence to the defense’s case.

“Over the last few years, Sgt. Harvey has been experiencing some interpersonal problems with people in the department,” Long wrote.

But a year later, after Harvey attended a leadership seminar, it was a 180-degree turn.

“It may have seemed like a long journey back, it wasn’t,” Long wrote. “And [Harvey] has quickly addressed each area of concern.”

McDonell was not at all familiar with many of Harvey’s reviews, some glowing, some not so much, he testified.

He admitted that many he rubber-stamped because he was busy doing other things.

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