MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A group of Mesa police officers has filed a notice of claim against the City of Mesa and the Mesa Police Department for allowing a sergeant to keep his job even after they came forward with allegations of sexual harassment.
The notice of claim was filed on behalf of six female officers, all of who filed complaints against former Sgt. Jeffrey Neese, and one male officer who says Neese sexually harassed his wife. A notice of claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.
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Hours before filing Thursday, the group held a news conference during which one of the officers explained why she broke her silence.
“I came forward to our human resources department when I found out Sgt. Neese drove a brand new police recruit home after a graduation party and sent her messages about wanting more,” says Officer Elisha Gibbs.
Gibbs says Neese sent her text messages describing masturbation and told her he fantasized about her making out with her wife. She also said that in 2015, Neese drew a sexually explicit picture of her and two female colleagues together naked.
“I think a lot of women in the Mesa Police Department know that those messages are inappropriate,” Gibbs said.
The notice of claim details alleged sexual harassment as far back as 2014. The women blame shoddy investigative work from the city’s human resources department.
“As the victim, I was interviewed three separate times while Sgt. Neese was only interviewed once,” said Officer Amanda Cook, who filed the most recent complaint against Neese in March 2019.
“I was personally told to let the dust settle,” said Detective Ashley Elliff. She said she worked with Neese for years before she received inappropriate messages from him in 2017.
The group says Neese was demoted last week and stripped of his authority. The Mesa Police Department confirmed his title is now officer.
Some of the women have said they want Neese to be fired. Others have expressed fears Neese will someday have the opportunity to earn back his title of sergeant.
Each one of the seven officers named in the notice of claim is seeking $150,000. The City has 60 days to respond. A City spokesman told Arizona’s Family it does not comment on pending litigation.
Arizona Family tried to reach Neese by phone Thursday after the notice of claim was announced. He did not return our calls.