Former Deputy Reaches Settlement with Yolo County

By Robert J. Hansen

Woodland, CA – Last November, Yolo County and the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay a settlement of $350,000 to a former Yolo County Sheriff’s sergeant who filed a complaint against the sheriff’s office for retaliation, age discrimination, and failure to prevent harassment and retaliation.

Retired Sgt. Dean Nyland was terminated in retaliation for opposing sexual harassment and discrimination in the sheriff’s office and exposing efforts made by current Captain Hernan Oviedo to cover up the harassment and discrimination.

In addition, Nyland claimed he was terminated because of his age, replacing him with a younger, less qualified employee, according to court documents.

“I didn’t want something to happen to these women and then it would come down on me for not doing anything about it,” Nyland said in a phone interview. “I just didn’t like the fact that this was happening to these gals.”

Nyland, 63, was a 14-year veteran with the sheriff’s office and was a detective for five years when he was terminated in September 2020. 

In 2018, a young female Deputy told Nyland that she had been sexually harassed by a Field Training Officer, Sergeant Charles Hoyt, and other members of Hoyt’s patrol team.

Seeing a pattern of sexual harassment by Hoyt, Nyland reported the sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by Sergeant Hoyt to Captain Oviedo.

Rather than hire an unbiased investigator, Captain Oviedo assigned himself to investigate and dismissed the allegations.

“When you’re investigating a Captain it should go to an outside agency like San Francisco or Sacramento,” Nyland said.

Nyland said Hoyt harassed multiple women who worked with the sheriff’s office and was eventually forced to resign but a culture of sexual harassment and people in fear of retaliation still exists in the sheriff’s office. 

“It’s worse than it’s ever been,” Nyland said. “Oviedo just covered it up.”

As many as 50 employees have left the sheriff’s office since 2018, according to Nyland. He says about 8o percent of employees know about 75 percent of the harassment that goes on in the sheriff’s office but are scared of retaliation.

“That’s kind of how it is in that department. Every time you go up a rank, you got a bigger chip on your shoulder,” Nyland said. “That’s just how it’s been run. With that intimidation, that domineering, threatening type.

“I’ll never forget what I said that got me fired,” Nyland said. “I’ll take those words to my grave.”

He said he was terminated for saying, “It doesn’t help that the stupid computer keeps freezing up on me.”

“I say the computer froze, they said it didn’t and that’s why I got fired,” Nyland said. “You got guys around the state, lying on reports and put on a Brady list, but I talk about a computer freezing and I get fired.”

Nyland was eventually assigned to a graveyard shift after a younger and less experienced sergeant was given an assignment Nyland was better suited for.

“When they put me on graveyard shift that was it,” Nyland said.

Nyland immediately complained of the retaliatory efforts to the undersheriff and on or about January 14, 2020, Nyland met with Sheriff Tom Lopez regarding the retaliation and discrimination that he was experiencing.

During the meeting, Nyland released information to Lopez regarding two IA investigations that had been brought against Hoyt and with new information that Oviedo previously failed to disclose, and the sexual harassment in the department.

Nyland was also threatened by Oviedo for answering questions from previous Sheriff Prieto regarding a murder investigation. 

“He came up to me and said ‘I should shoot you in the f****** head,’” Nyland said.

Oviedo told Nyland to never discuss the case with Sheriff Prieto because Oviedo believed Prieto was furnishing Public Defender Tracie Olson information about the case.

“He’s the number one, if he asks me something I’m going to answer him,” Nyland said.

Nyland said he loved being a police officer and wanted to finish his last two years before retirement.

“Let’s say I apply, are they going to a 64-year-old guy who is going to turn around and retire?” Nyland said. “I’d like to maybe work as an investigator part-time in the public defender’s office. But for now, I’m just retired.”

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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