Former Clovis officer Audra Carter settles discrimination suit for $50,000

The Fresno BeeJuly 23, 2013 

A former Clovis police officer who says she fought off a sergeant's sexual advances and was fired in November 2010 after she began dating a black police officer has settled a lawsuit against the city for $50,000.

Audra Carter, who is white, sued the city for sexual harassment and race discrimination. A Fresno County Superior Court judge threw out the sexual harassment claim last month.

Without the sexual harassment claim, the lawsuit was "essentially gutted" because that claim had the strongest evidence, said attorney Charles Manock, who represents Carter.

"We took our best shot and had them scared, but we took less than what we wanted," Manock said Tuesday.

Clovis City Attorney David Wolfe denied the allegations and said the settlement was in the best interest of the city. "It's a standard settlement agreement with no admission of liability," he said.

Carter, 29, filed her suit in November 2011.

In an interview last year, Carter said she wanted to be a police officer since second grade and had set her sights on joining the Clovis force because it was considered "an elite place to work."

She went on ride-alongs with Clovis police officers in high school and college, where she was a star athlete at Central High and Fresno Pacific. She studied pre-law and criminal justice, and in 2007 got her foot in the door by becoming a Clovis community service officer. A year later, she began field training as a police recruit.

According to her lawsuit, her career turned sour in 2009, when she said her supervisor began asking her to lunch nearly every day and to dinner at his home when his wife and children were away.

Carter said she met with her supervisors many times because she felt pressured and believed it would hurt her career if she didn't. (The meetings never developed into a sexual relationship, she said.)

The lawsuit said Carter's supervisor and other officers started to shun her in May 2010 when she began dating a black Clovis police officer. She accused her supervisor of berating her performance in front of others and giving her a bad evaluation.

In her lawsuit, Carter contended she was fired when she didn't end her relationship with the black officer.

In his June 10 ruling, Judge Mark Snauffer said there was no evidence of sexual harassment by way of quid pro quo. Though Carter accused her supervisor of inappropriate behavior, Snauffer wrote that "none of these incidents involved any express or implied request to have sex, nor was there any evidence that the (supervisor's) behavior was in any way connected with the plaintiff's work benefits or change in employment status."

The judge also said there was conflicting evidence regarding race discrimination, so he could not dismiss that claim against the city.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

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