O.C. grand jury calls out D.A.’s of­fice cul­ture

Re­port de­scribes sex­ual mis­con­duct, fa­voritism in ‘hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment.’

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Anh Do

A cul­ture of sex­ual mis­con­duct in­side the bureau of in­ves­ti­ga­tion at the Or­ange County dis­trict attorney’s of­fice has cre­ated a per­cep­tion of “a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment,” ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased Tues­day by the county’s grand jury.

Ju­rors in­ter­viewed nearly 100 peo­ple — deputy dis­trict at­tor­neys, par­ale­gals, in­ves­ti­ga­tors, hu­man re­sources per­son­nel, com­man­ders and ex­ec­u­tive staff — after hear­ing com­plaints about mis­con­duct and re­tal­i­a­tion by bureau man­age­ment as a re­sult of sex­ual relationships be­tween su­per­vi­sors and sub­or­di­nates.

The al­le­ga­tions in­clude sex­ual en­coun­ters at train­ing con­fer­ences, sex­u­ally ex­plicit com­ments about co­work­ers, and the trans­mis­sion of sex­u­ally sug­ges­tive pic­tures and racial jokes in email and text mes­sages.

Those in­ter­viewed told the ju­rors about un­wel­come touch­ing and sex­ual be­hav­ior be­tween man­age­ment and sub­or­di­nates within the in­ves­ti­ga­tion bureau, a unit that in­cludes more than 250 staff mem­bers, most of them sworn peace of­fi­cers.

“Even if con­sent is agreed upon, su­per­vi­sor-sub­or­di­nate relationships can hurt morale as the re­la­tion­ship can lead to claims of fa­voritism or cause other co-work­ers to feel un­com­fort­able,” the re­port says.

The ju­rors did not doc­u­ment proof of the al­le­ga­tions and the re­port did not de­tail any in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the panel.

In a state­ment, Dist. Atty. Tony Rack­auckas said he emailed his en­tire staff Tues­day, re­mind­ing them of

the county’s anti-ha­rass­ment pol­icy and en­cour­ag­ing any­one with con­cerns to fol­low the of­fi­cial com­plaint process.

His of­fice “takes this is­sue se­ri­ously and has been con­duct­ing its own in­ter­nal per­son­nel in­ves­ti­ga­tion for the last seven months, tak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tions as nec­es­sary,” he said.

Rack­auckas said he has re­quested that ju­rors “turn over any spe­cific in­for­ma­tion on ac­tion­able items so we can bol­ster the cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The grand jury said it is “un­able to con­firm the ac­cu­racy of any spe­cific al­le­ga­tion,” say­ing that “the sheer vol­ume and per­va­sive­ness of the per­cep­tion of fa­voritism and re­tal­i­a­tion based on sex­ual relationships is prob­lem­atic as it can sug­gest the ex­is­tence of a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment.”

The find­ings prompted county Su­per­vi­sor Todd Spitzer to urge his col­leagues to adopt the ju­rors’ rec­om­men­da­tion to ap­point an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor and re­search why the county’s hu­man re­source ser­vices are not be­ing used to re­port mis­con­duct in the dis­trict attorney’s of­fice.

“The re­port ex­em­pli­fies an un­ac­cept­able abuse of power, abuse of po­si­tion, abuse of women and abuse of trust,” Spitzer said. He also urged em­ploy­ees in the dis­trict attorney’s of­fice to use the county’s fraud hot­line to re­port any com­plaints.

The dis­trict attorney’s bureau of in­ves­ti­ga­tions “is run much more like a po­lice de­part­ment than a sup­port unit for a law firm,” the re­port said, “and this has led sev­eral em­ploy­ees to in­voke the law en­force­ment code of si­lence about al­leged in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior.”

The re­port comes a month after two dis­trict attorney in­ves­ti­ga­tors filed claims ac­cus­ing Rack­auckas and other of­fi­cials of in­ter­fer­ing in mul­ti­ple probes and cover­ing up crim­i­nal conduct by po­lice.

Tom Con­klin and Abra­ham San­tos said they had been tar­geted for ter­mi­na­tion be­cause they spoke out against the dis­trict attorney and al­leged that three ma­jor cases were sup­pressed by Rack­auckas’ of­fice. One of the cases con­cerned the al­leged coverup by Fullerton po­lice of a for­mer city man­ager’s drunk driv­ing.

Ear­lier in May, Craig Hunter, for­mer chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the dis­trict attorney’s of­fice, filed a claim al­leg­ing that Rack­auckas had in­ter­fered in po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­volv­ing his supporters.

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