County Settles With Voice of OC, Yields Documents

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Voice of OC resolved its long-running public records lawsuit with the county of Orange Friday and received hundreds of pages of documents that detail aspects of the “culture of fear” that many workers report inside county government.

The suit successfully challenged official denials of numerous public records in connection with allegations of harassment against county government workers, including documents relating to the investigation into former county Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante, who was charged in 2012 with committing multiple sex crimes against women who worked for him.

Numerous other public records sought by Voice of OC that are related to the Bustamante matter remain sealed as part of a protective order successfully sought by county officials in criminal court.

The central document sought by Voice of OC is the claim letter sent by fired Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis in the summer of 2012, which alleged a host of complaints against county officials and the Board of Supervisors.

Other relevant documents released to media outlets Friday cut across several county departments and reveal other instances of harassment, employee claims of “a culture of fear” in the county workplace, especially in Public Works, and a lack of trust in the county Human Resources.

The records show substantiated claims against high-ranking Public Works officials, including mismanagement and preferential treatment of select executives and workers.

Other immediate insights include:

  • Bustamante promoted one of the women he is alleged to have harassed.
  • Many of the records focus on the management of Public Works by fired department head Jess Carbajal. One investigator wrote: “The investigator noted specific acts of favoritism, disproportionate discipline, nepotism, unprofessional conduct and preferential and unfair hiring and promotional practices as having occurred in [Public Works] over the past few years under the previous [Public Works] administration.”
  • Human Resources Director Steve Danley himself, not Bustamante, had soundproofing installed in the Public Works office which later became Bustamante’s and the site of many of his alleged crimes. Danley said he had the office soundproofed because it was originally used as a conference room and other workers could hear sensitive human resources discussions and employee reviews.
  • Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson was himself accused of bullying an executive in closed session over real estate asset management, according to a July 12, 2012, email sent by Drakodaidis.
  • Just as investigators from the Orange County district attorney’s office were working on the Bustamante case, additional employees kept coming forward with new complaints.
  • County officials substantiated another case of harassment in July 2012 against a worker who had heart issues and was retaliated against when he returned from a medical leave.

Voice of OC invites the public to review the raw documents. Click here to access the documents.  (Large, 177-page file.)

As Voice of OC reporters continuing reviewing the documents, more articles will follow.

Please contact Norberto Santana Jr. directly at nsantana@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/norbertosanana.

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