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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
Welsh has testified that he gave her an unwanted present of expensive
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."