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San Francisco Examiner
Wednesday, December 6, 1995
Ribera, on stand, denies sex harassment

By Scott Winokur
OF THE EXAMINER STAFF

OAKLAND: San Francisco Police Chief Tony Ribera has flatly denied on the witness stand that he sexually harassed former police Officer Joanne Welsh.

In two hours of testimony Tuesday, Ribera answered "No," "That's not true" and "I don't recall," to allegations that he verbally and physically harassed Welsh in 1989 and 1992-93.

Ribera; composed, well spoken and usually addressing his answers directly to the jury of five women and five men; did acknowledge under questioning by Roderick Bushnell, Welsh's attorney, that he had once asked Welsh to kiss him.

But he said it was a joke.

Bushnell asked Ribera about an incident on Jan. 27, 1993, in which he allegedly sought a kiss from Welsh while she was trying to ask him a question related to her job as the department's public affairs officer.

Asked whether he said, "Kiss me, kiss me, you owe me. I just saved some female officers from getting fired," Ribera replied, "I did make a joke. I didn't see anything offensive about it."

Ribera also admitted passing around a photo of a court reporter, Melissa Lee, at the bar of Moose's restaurant in North Beach in late November 1992. Present were Welsh, then-Capt. John Newlin, Deputy Chief Tom Petrini and then-Supervisor Bill Maher, Welsh's boyfriend.

Welsh has testified that Ribera showed off the photo, boasting, "I've got women sending me their pictures."

Ribera said he may have told Welsh that Lee was attractive. He also admitted taking Lee to lunch on Treasure Island.

But the chief denied speaking of Lee in a sexual way to Walsh.
Ribera's systematic rejection Tuesday of Welsh's allegations sets up what promises to be a battle of secondary witnesses during the remainder of the trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge D. Lowell Jensen.

With Welsh off the stand and Ribera expected to finish his testimony Thursday, the trial's focus will shift to officers, civilian employees and former members of the Police Department who can confirm, or deny; important elements of each side's case.

The trial is not in session Wednesday.

In his testimony, Ribera ripped into Maher, who is now engaged to Welsh. In late 1992, Welsh and Maher supported Ribera's candidacy for chief. But after Welsh and Ribera argued over her position in the Public Affairs Office, and Ribera subsequently learned that she was romantically involved with Maher, they became enemies.

Ribera denied saying to Welsh, in reference to Maher, "You're not serious about that guy?" He also said he didn't remember telling her that Maher wasn't the right man for her.

But he seemed to relish telling the jury how much he disliked Maher. He claimed Maher had bad hygiene and behaved in a bizarre manner. He said he concluded Maher was a buffoon.

Maher has declined to comment, but his money is talking for him. Welsh testified Tuesday that he had lent her large sums to live on and to sue Ribera.

Bushnell methodically covered details of the case that came out in Welsh's testimony last week.

Under questioning, Ribera denied that he discussed his marital problems with Welsh, denied making verbal overtures to her, such as "I can make you happy," denied suggesting they have an affair and denied saying, "Here's our chance," when the lights went out at the Hall of Justice after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The chief also said he had never tried to force a kiss on Welsh or thrust his tongue into her mouth. He denied that he had slipped her a note complimenting her looks or changed his clothes in her presence.
"Sometimes, I'd brush my teeth," in her presence, he said.
Ribera denied discussing with her an act of oral copulation involving a woman and his top aide, Officer Carl Tennenbaum, the chief's occasional driver in 1992-93 and Welsh's rival in the Public Affairs Office.

But Ribera admitted getting angry with Tennenbaum for saying he'd had sex in the chief's official car.

Ribera acknowledged giving Welsh a Christmas gift in 1989, but said his wife had picked it out and that he didn't know what it was.
Welsh has testified that he gave her an unwanted present of expensive gold earrings.

Ribera also denied telling Welsh he had nothing to worry about "unless you turn on me" when an Examiner reporter was investigating in November 1992 alleged sexual harassment in the department. "I wasn't concerned," Ribera said. "I knew if there were such allegations, they were bogus."

Ribera said he not retaliated against Welsh after she went public with her charges in The Examiner in February 1993.

"Isn't it true," Bushnell asked, "that you simply sent her to Taraval Station because you knew she'd have lower seniority there" and difficulty obtaining hours that would allow her to find child care?

"I resent the suggestion," Ribera said. "I have not done anything punitive."

 

     
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