SF parking supervisor keeps job despite lawsuits

August 17, 2012 12:04:00 AM PDT
You have to be battle ready to take on San Francisco's parking wars. But one parking supervisor likes it that way -- he has a long record of picking fights and when he loses, you pay. The ABC7 News I-Team has been following one parking supervisor for years as the lawsuits continue to pile up -- assault, sexual harassment, restraining orders. But somehow, he keeps his job. He writes tickets while the city writes checks.

San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority Parking Supervisor Elias Georgopoulos is in court again. This time he's trying to get the court of appeals to lift a restraining order against him. It was filed by a fellow parking officer who says Georgopoulos assaulted him in a rage in 2011. Georgopoulos is his supervisor.

"How is it that an employee has to get a restraining order against a manager in the department? I really want to hear your side Elias," Dan Noyes said to Georgopoulos.

Georgopoulos isn't talking, but the court record speaks for itself. In an audio file of the proceedings, Georgopoulos plays the victim, but the judge doesn't buy it.

Georgopoulos: "They dislike me as a, because I'm a sergeant for parking and traffic, and have been since 2005."
Judge: "That may not be the only reason they don't like you."

The judge is blunt.

Judge: "People have testified...who say you have a pattern of unpredictable violent behavior."

The court will rule on this in about a month, but that case is just one of many.

In February 2008, surveillance cameras outside a city tow lot show Georgopoulos following a tow truck driver who dated his ex-wife. Out of the cameras view, Georgopoulos attacks, hitting the driver with pepper spray, throwing him to the ground and breaking his wrist. Georgopoulos says it was self defense. A jury disagreed and ordered the city pay out $64,000 to the driver. The city's cost to defend this case was an additional $735,000.

Parking Officer Bertha Lathrop also sued for sexual harassment. She says Georgopoulos touched her repeatedly at a Christmas party, followed her on her ticket route and used his authority as her supervisor to access personal information, often calling her cell in the middle of the night

"When I told him I wasn't interested he became upset and that's when the suspensions and the threats started happening," Lathrop said.

Again, the city paid out. Lathrop reached a settlement and the city paid her $127,000. Add to that the city's cost of defending Georgopoulos and the bill to the taxpayers comes to $282,000.

Lathrop is surprised Georgopoulos still has a job

Dan Noyes: "What do you think about that?"
Bertha Lathrop: "I think that it's disgusting, It's not fair, it's not right, it's morally incorrect, it's very unprofessional and it makes the department look horrible."

As part of that settlement, Lathrop is banned from working for the MTA.

"I wasn't allowed to come back but he is allowed to keep his job," she said. "After harassing a coworker and losing a lawsuit you still get to keep your job?"

Dan Noyes: "How do you still have a job?"
Georgopoulos: "I can't comment at this time. I'd like to, but I can't comment."
Dan Noyes: "At what point then?"
Georgopoulos: "Cannot comment."
Dan Noyes: "Why?"
Georgopoulos: "Thank you."

And in yet another case, Parking Supervisor Bebe Pubill says the city terminated her for speaking publicly about problems with Georgopoulos in a 2011 ABC7 News I-Team report. But she appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and won. She got her job back and is negotiating a settlement with the city right now.

So what would it take for Georgopoulos to lose his job? MTA Director Ed Reiskin says he cannot comment on personnel issues, but that taxpayers can expect change in the department he took over last year.

"Most of the people who work for the MTA are good, hard working, honest people and we just need to make sure that we manage the entire workforce so more of them are that way and the folks who aren't that way we manage up or manage out," he said.

There's another case now in federal court by a limo driver who says Georgopoulos hit him with pepper spray and punched him in the head. The city has spent about $1,200,000 so far defending and settling these cases. The I-Team will let you know what happens next.

Load Comments