OC Public Works Director Will Likely Be Put on Leave

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Orange County Public Works Director Jess Carbajal will likely be placed on administrative leave this week as the Orange County Board of Supervisors continues to deal with the fallout of revelations allegations that high-level county officials did not adequately handle sexual harassment allegations against Carlos Bustamante.

Bustamante, a Santa Ana City Councilman, was a top executive in OC Public Works and a rising star in local GOP circles until last October when he abruptly resigned his post after an anonymous letter sent to supervisors and the media alleged, among other things, that he traded sex for promotions with females in his department.

Bustamante, a married father of three, resigned his $178,277-a-year post immediately after being confronted by county officials with the results of an internal investigation. Since then, he has consistently denied the allegations.

This month, a county internal audit found that top officials ignored complaints against Bustamante. Topping that list is Carbajal, who oversaw Bustamante at OC Public Works.

County CEO Tom Mauk is under pressure from supervisors to take action because the internal audit, which is being kept secret, apparently notes that officials were alerted to potential problems with Bustamante but didn’t follow established protocols.

County officials have referred the allegations uncovered in the internal audit to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Sources close to the situation indicate that an administrative leave for Carbajal is likely because a full review of OC Public Works promotions and staffing is on its way.

A report on the county’s human resources department by the performance auditor last year revealed a pattern of lax oversight regarding promotions and raises throughout the county bureaucracy.

Supervisors today will continue to discuss the situation during the closed-session portion of their weekly public meeting.

— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

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