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West Des Moines Police Chief, City Sued For Sex Discrimination

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Two employees of the West Des Moines Police Department and one former employee are suing the city and the department, claiming the police chief discriminated against them simply because they're women.

"They have been through not being treated the same as their male counterparts," said Paige Fiedler, an attorney representing the three. "They've been treated with incredibly disrespectful behavior, and their protests about the sex discrimination retaliation that they experienced have been met with deaf ears."

The three were advised by their attorney not to answer any of the media's questions, but the complaint alleges they were denied promotions, or in one case, fired because of their gender. They had complained to the civil rights commission, but now have filed the suit, ending the commission's investigation.

"The employees of the police department chose to file a lawsuit because they believe that that is the only way that justice can be served, and the only way that things will change at the West Des Moines Police Department," Fiedler said.

City Manager Tom Hadden says he had hoped this could be settled out of court.

"We were hoping that they'd let the civil rights commission do it's work and finish their investigation and give their results," Hadden said.

Fiedler countered, "They simply don't have the resources to investigate or to conciliate or do all the things they are supposed to do under the statute."

Fiedler says the city did not properly investigate the allegations, but she falls short of saying the city's policies are anti-women. Instead, she says it appears the city is circling the wagon around the chief.

"It's my impression that the culture is more of a protect around the chief than it is misogyny," Fiedler said.

Hadden says he doesn't see it that way.

"I can tell you the Chief of Police has high expectations and accountability of people, but I just simply don't believe he does so based on a sexual basis," Hadden said.

The lawsuit also points out that the chief doesn't even live in the City of West Des Moines; that he has, since he was hired in 2012, remained a resident of Minnesota.

The city manager says the chief has an apartment in West Des Moines and that his family remains in Minnesota because he has not been able to sell his home and that's not a surprise.

According to Steele County, Minnesota records, his home is assessed at $500,000.  But according to his realtor, he is selling it for $760,000. That's $160,000 more than it's assessed value.