Click photo to enlarge
Erika Smith is the plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed and announced on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 against the Golden State Warriors, Monta Ellis, Joe Lacob,Peter Gruber, and Larry Riley at the law offices of Burton F. Boltuch in Oakland, Calif. Smith is claiming sexual harassment Monta Ellis and related causes of action by the Warriors franchise. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)

OAKLAND -- The former director of community relations for the Warriors is claiming in a lawsuit that star guard Monta Ellis engaged in a months-long sexual harassment campaign, sending her numerous sexually suggestive texts including a picture of his genitalia.

Erika Smith, a four-year employee, also claims the team's owners and general manager purposely attempted to protect their "franchise" player by "sweeping (the allegations) under the rug," a claim she said was revealed to her by Ellis when he allegedly said G.M. Larry Riley promised to "cover up" the allegations.

As part of that alleged cover-up, according to the lawsuit, Smith was fired after details of Ellis' alleged texts were revealed to Riley and team owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.

Warriors president Rick Welts denied the allegations in a statement he read at a news conference Wednesday. He said the relationship between Ellis and Smith was "consensual."

"We live in a litigious society in which lawsuits too frequently are driven by money and not the pursuit of justice," Welts said. "The Warriors have never taken any action against the plaintiff for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making."

Welts said when the team learned of the "consensual relationship" between Ellis and Smith, "we told both to stop -- promptly, directly and fairly."

Welts declined to answer any questions.

At a charity event in Alameda, Ellis would say only that the team has responded.

"It's a legal matter, we'll let it play its course," Ellis told KTVU-TV. "Y'know, what happens, happens."

Smith is suing the team, Ellis, Lacob, Guber, Riley and other unnamed team representatives. She is seeking unspecified monetary damages for numerous legal causes including emotional distress, lost wages and lost future earnings.

"I was treated unfairly, I was let go," Smith said Wednesday during a news conference held by her attorney, Burton Boltuch. "I love my job, I loved what I did."

Boltuch said the alleged sexual harassment and the organization's reaction to it is a prime example of a new, and improper, atmosphere brought to the Warriors by Lacob and Guber when they purchased the team last year.

Since then, the lawyer said, at least three females have been victimized by sexual harassment, including members of the Warriors Girls dance team who were forced to perform "for the personal enjoyment of Lacob and/or his golfing friends," the lawsuit states.

"We do not believe the new owners are bringing a professional franchise to the Bay Area," Boltuch said.

Smith was hired by the Warriors in 2007 after working for about a decade for two other NBA franchises, the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns. As part of her duties, Smith worked closely with players organizing their contacts with the community.

In November 2010, Smith alleges in her lawsuit, she began receiving sexually suggestive text messages on her Warriors-issued cellphone from Ellis. The messages were sent from a "secret cellphone" with a 601 area code that was kept by the team's equipment manager and registered to Ellis' grandmother, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the messages, about 61 spanning several months, where sent at odd hours and included Ellis telling Smith "i want to be with you" and several that began with "Hey Sexy." They also included questions asking Smith what she was wearing and what she was doing.

Boltuch said his client would respond by saying "what do you want" or "i am sleeping."

Boltuch said Smith, who is single and in her 30s, never had a sexual relationship with Ellis, who is married, and told Ellis that she was not interested in him.

"That was established," she said.

Boltuch said Ellis responded by sending a picture of male genitalia he claimed were his.

Despite her attempts to dissuade Ellis, text messages continued, Boltuch said, as Smith tried her best to ignore them fearing that a revelation that the franchise's star player was harassing her would create more harm for her than Ellis.

"My client was confused," Boltuch said. "As the texts continued, she was embarrassed, she was intimidated, she felt scared and helpless."

Warriors ownership finally became aware of the text messages in January after Ellis' wife, Juanika, accused Smith of stalking her husband and initiating the texts, the lawsuit states.

Juanika Ellis first called Smith and revealed that she knew of the "secret" cellphone and accused Smith of having an affair with her husband. About a week later, according to the lawsuit, Smith was called into a meeting with the organization's human resources director during which she was accused of texting Ellis during "off work hours."

The Warriors ownership blamed Smith for initiating the texts and warned her to stop engaging Ellis, the lawsuit states. Although Smith told the team that Ellis had initiated the texts and that she feared reporting him, no investigation was conducted by the organization, the lawsuit states. Instead, Boltuch said, Smith was encouraged to resign and offered a cash payment.

Smith said she was fired in August after she notified team management that a reporter had called her asking questions about the texts. Smith said she refused to talk to the reporter but was fired soon after.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.