O.C. grand jury calls out D.A.’s office culture
Report describes sexual misconduct, favoritism in ‘hostile work environment.’
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.