Warning: This article contains graphic content.
Almost a year and a half after the first of a series of lawsuits was filed against the UC Santa Barbara Police Department by former and current members of the department, another former officer has filed what now makes the sixth active lawsuit against the department.
In the sixth lawsuit, filed in February, former officer Amanda Siegel levies accusations against current UC Police Department (UCPD) Officer Michael Little and Sergeant Gregory Smorodinsky, both of whom are named in nearly all of the other five lawsuits. Michael Little and his wife, Tiffany Little, filed their own lawsuit against the department in March 2019.
Siegel alleges in her lawsuit that she was sexually harassed by Michael Little, Smorodinsky and an unnamed officer and was later denied a promotion after she refused to enter into a relationship with Smorodinsky.
According to the lawsuit, Siegel worked for the department between June 2015 and August 2019; after reporting several instances of harassment, she resigned after being told by UCPD Chief James Brock that she had become a “target” within the department. Brock took over the department as the interim chief in May 2019 after former UCPD Chief of Police Dustin Olson, who is named in the other lawsuits, left the department.
The five other lawsuits — Michael Little and Tiffany Little v. UC Regents, Mark Signa v. UC Regents, John Doe v. UC Regents, Jonathan Lee Reyes v. UC Regents and Matthew Stern v. UC Regents — are currently stalled while the university attempts internal mediation with the officers. Nearly all of the lawsuits allege violations of the California Whistleblower Protection Act, unsafe work practices and a “harassing” environment.
The attorney representing the Littles, Signa, Reyes and Stern did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the status of the internal mediations.
Allegations Against Little:
According to the lawsuit, after Siegel completed field training in spring 2016, Michael Little allegedly “grabbed Siegel’s lower back/buttocks area, pulled her close and tried to kiss her.” After she pulled away, a separate and unnamed UCPD sergeant then “pushed Plaintiff Siegel against a wall and attempted to kiss her.”
In late 2017, Siegel allegedly reported to Lieutenant Rob Romero that the Littles were “causing a hostile workplace,” according to the lawsuit. She then brought up her concerns to Lieutenant David Millard, who allegedly told her that a sergeant within the department, Daniel Wilson, had stated that she “was causing issues in the department and needed to be investigated because of her gender and relationships.”
Furthermore, the lawsuit states that after Siegel received a promotion to corporal and field training officer in October 2018, Michael Little, who “failed to get a position he applied for,” “became angry and began telling coworkers that Siegel only received her promotion because she was sleeping with a supervisor.”
According to a statement provided by Michael Little’s lawyer, Little “categorically denies each and every allegation.”
Allegations Against Smorodinsky:
According to the lawsuit, after Siegel applied for a forensic analyst position within the department in August 2018, Smorodinksy “ordered Siegel to come to his home” and “ordered her to leave her cell phone and radio in the car.”
He then proceeded to tell her that she was the “top candidate for the forensic analyst position, but that he could not trust her because Siegel would not engage in the kind of personal relationship he wanted,” saying that he “wanted to get married and have babies with Siegel.” She told him that she “would not date” him, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that a few days later, Smorodinsky called Siegel and told her that “she was not a good fit for the forensic analyst position.” When Siegel reportedly told him that “sometimes relationships do not work out the way we want them to and that’s just how it is,” he responded, “Well, when things don’t go the way you want them to at work, I’ll be sure to remind you that that’s just how it is.”
Siegel further alleges that she faced discrimination from other officers. In one instance, while responding to a call about an intoxicated person with Wilson and Officer Saray Rubio, Rubio “refused to help” Siegel, stating, “I don’t have to do anything you tell me. You are not a real Corporal.” According to court documents, both Wilson and Rubio have “a close friendship” with Michael Little.
Siegel filed two Title IX complaints with the university during 2018 and 2019, but both were rejected, according to the lawsuit. She also reportedly filed sexual harassment complaints with a whistle-blower hotline, the university’s Office of the Ombuds and human resources. She “never received any resolution regarding her complaints,” according to the lawsuit.
Rosanna Vargas, a representative from the attorney’s office representing Siegel, said in an email that Siegel “hopes to be able to change the culture at the UCSB Police Department for future women in the police department.”
“Ms. Siegel was a devoted police officer for the UCSB Police Department. However, her career was cut short because of the gender bias embedded throughout the police department,” the statement said.
“Though she complained about the harassment, her complaints were never thoroughly investigated by anyone at the police department or the Regents,” Vargas continued.
University spokesperson Andrea Estrada said that the university “cannot comment on pending litigation.”
Updated [April 29, 2:22 p.m.]: This article was updated to include a statement from Little’s lawyer.