Bustamante Victims’ Settlements OK’d by County Supervisors

Former Santa Ana City Councilman and ex-Orange County executive Carlos Bustamante in court in May 2014.

Pool photo by Michael Goulding

Former Santa Ana City Councilman and ex-Orange County executive Carlos Bustamante in court in May 2014.

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The Carlos Bustamante sex abuse scandal took another step toward its closure Tuesday as Orange County supervisors approved settlements with two female county workers who accused the former county executive and Santa Ana councilman of sexually assaulting them.

The two employees will each receive $500,000 from the county under the settlement deals, which were approved on unanimous 4-0 votes. Supervisor Andrew Do was absent.

Bustamante was a high-ranking executive in OC Public Works and a rising star in the county Republican Party when female county workers started reporting sexual misconduct against him in 2011. The claims were initially referred to an underling of Bustamante’s to investigate — who reportedly joked with Bustamante about the allegations — and the issue was buried until the women later contacted the news media.

“This closes a really dark chapter in our county’s history,” said Supervisor Todd Spitzer after Tuesday’s meeting.

“We have to really publicly apologize to [the victims], because clearly he was not supervised and he was allowed to get away with this type of behavior,” Spitzer said.

He added that Bustamante’s direct supervisor, former Public Works Director Jess Carbajal, was later fired by the county and then-CEO Tom Mauk was scheduled for termination and resigned. Carbajal later filed a wrongful termination suit that’s still unresolved.

In 2012, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas charged Bustamante with 12 felonies and four misdemeanors for sexual assault and other allegations involving at least seven women who worked for him at OC Public Works. Those charges were reduced twice by different judges before the case was set to go to trial.

Bustamante ultimately accepted a plea deal from the DA’s office late last year. Under the deal, he pled guilty to felony counts of stalking, attempted sexual battery by restraint, and grand theft by false pretense; as well as misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment, assault and attempted sexual battery.

He was sentenced to one year behind bars, which he is currently serving at Montebello City Jail, a privately operated facility where inmates pay to serve their sentence away from the general prison population. Bustamante is also a registered sex offender for the rest of his life.

During court hearings in the criminal case, several women testified Bustamante’s influential political connections kept them from complaining or filing accusations against him because they believed nothing would happen and feared jeopardizing their jobs.

One female worker testified that Bustamante exposed his penis to her in his office, cornered her against the door and groped her breasts against her will. A different employee testified that he came into her office without invitation, exposed his penis and touched himself until he ejaculated.

Bustamante’s defense attorney, meanwhile, focused on apparent contradictions in some key witness testimony and questioned whether Bustamante’s behavior was consensual.

The Bustamante case revealed a stark lack of accountability among the county’s executive class, so much so that a subordinate was tasked with investigating misconduct allegations against a superior. It is something, Spitzer said, that “will never happen again.”

The victims’ attorney in their civil case, Rosemary Amezcua-Moll, said Bustamante’s actions have taken a major toll on her clients.

“Naturally, no amount of money solves this problem,” she said.

“[But] we are happy to see that the allegations were taken seriously from our perspective by the county, and they did at least recognize their exposure such that they sought to resolve this.”

While Tuesday’s action finishes the county’s role in the victims’ lawsuits, the plaintiffs are still suing Bustamante himself.

And like Carbajal, former Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis, has claimed in an ongoing lawsuit that she was wrongfully terminated in the wake of the scandal.

The $1 million for the victims’ settlements is slated to come out of taxpayer money from the county’s “property and casualty risk” fund, which is expected to pay out a total of $24 million in judgements and damages this fiscal year.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. He can be reached at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • OCservant_Leader

    Sexual harassment is about abuse of POWER. It is tool used to control employees and it is rampant in Orange County government.

    All appointees- (nepotism or cronyism)- abuse their power. Employees have no protection from them.

    Appointees let their underlings know they are protected by their relatives, HR and the BOS.

    You get the OC 411 as they close the door and unzip their pants. Females give the same threat – quit or be fired. It’s your choice.

    Busty was an effective operative. A Million dollar payout is just the cost of doing business in the OC.

  • Debby Bodkin

    Per the article,”The $1 million for the victims’ settlements is slated to come out of taxpayer money from the county’s “property and casualty risk” fund, which is expected to pay out a total of $24 million in judgements and damages this fiscal year.” Will some one please do the math? Is anyone getting a percentage of the $24 million via a secret quid pro quo? What liability/casualty provider would continue to insure the County of Orange based on the ongoing scandals, deaths and destroyed lives?

    • Jacki Livingston

      From my dealings with York and the previous company, they are not happy with this at all. York shells out a lot, and they are ready to dump the County, asap.

      • Mick Miles

        Duh, York doesn’t shell out their own cash. Quit making stuff up and passing it as fact. Interestingly enough, York just had their contract renewed this year. Do you even pay attention? Why would York dump the County when they are paid to ONLY administer workers’ comp claims? You are such a liar acting like you have inside information!

        • Jacki Livingston

          York paid for my doctors, my medical reports, gathering all documentation. I have the bills, because they sent me copies when they protested the amounts that doctors were charging for records. You know absolutely nothing about my case, or me. Clearly you are one of the county’s sad little trolls who go around trying to discredit anyone critical. But, hey, we have a hearing on the ninth, so show up. I have six boxes of documents, and they have been shown to VoC. Besides, I don’t have to prove anything to county trolls.

  • Jacki Livingston

    Spitzie says it will never happen again? Has anyone gone to the Worker’s Comp website and looked up the number of stress related claims still pending against the county? What has he or the BoS done to change anything? Nothing, that is what. I had a superior who verbally assaulted me, threatened me, stalked my home, threw items and hit me in the chest…please! He has had more affairs with subordinates than Leonardo DiCaprio has had supermodels. The running joke there is that if you want to invest in your career, don’t go to college, buy some kneepads and a good mouthwash. Puhleeeeze, Todd, give us all a break.

    • Debby Bodkin

      Jacki, as you are well aware, the County of Orange operates as a self-insured in workers comp cases. That fact alone should explain struggles many have had in seeking the fair administration of justice and the challenges all Whistleblowers have publicly endured.
      What I would like to know if the County of Orange’s legal malpractice and liability insurance funds are also self-insured. If so, then the FBI should have no problem diving into the criminal charges against elected County of Orange officials and attorneys who are part of this intentional self-insured and most likely, for profit criminal enterprise.
      Someone posted once the FBI was not interested in cases unless there was a worth of $10 million. Well, IMO, potential fraud in the County’s workers comp and liability lawsuits would far surpass $10 million, not to mention the fraud issues you have documented in writing.

      • Mick Miles

        Most government entities in California and most large corporations are self-insured. Most insurance carriers left California along time ago with the crazy, liberal workers’ comp system in place. Take your antenna off your head. There is no conspiracy!

        • Jacki Livingston

          Maybe you should take out whatever is jamming up your reception. The county is not self insured. The County of Orange is now insured by York, a huge corporation based out of Roseville. That entity, York Insurance, was represented by Wogee and Cyprian, in court with me. Typical, crazy regressive “conservative” blather, to criticize about something you know absolutely nothing about. Want to see the paperwork? I have boxes of it.

          • Mick Miles

            Once again take off your antenna. York is not an insurer as a quick internet search will show you. Duh. York is a claims administrator and a simple internet search shows York administers the workers’ comp claims for the County and gets paid handsomely for it. Most cities and counties have a claims administrator. This just shows all the crap you post has no basis in facts. So once again, the County IS self insured.

          • Jacki Livingston

            York Risk Management. I don’t know the fine points of who pays what, but I know that they protest a lot of the bills that doctors and medical file management people send them. Some of them are really outrageous, actually, like four grand for copying medical reports. Pretty crazy, and they keep billing, then York keeps protesting. Mostly I deal with the attorneys, but I do get copies of all of the bills sent to York. If York only administers, then why did the attorney say that the County was going to pay, and that it was unusual, but they were making an exception? I know what I am told by these entities, because I have had to act as my own attorney. Why so hostile, sugarlips? I’m not suing you. And, I am saying that it is outrageous, what they pay out. Jeez, get a life.

      • Jacki Livingston

        They are not self insured. York Risk Management out of Roseville provides insurance on Worker’s Comp for the county.

  • homeydclown

    Why did not the first employee speak up and go to the police right after the very first incident? Why is the tax payer being made to pay for decisions that these women made – in the interest of protecting their own employment? Have they not the ability to speak?

    Given that Santa Ana Councilmember Bustamante just a few years earlier voted to ban 290 registrants from public parks and places in Santa Ana I have little sympathy for him, and he is paying the price – and will do so for the rest of his life – for his transgressions. But can someone please explain to me how the tax payer needs to pay for any of this.

    • Mick Miles

      California law requires strict liability of the employer in sexual harassment. So it doesn’t matter what the employer does (including firing perps), the employer pays.

      • homeydclown

        I am sure you are right, but what you are saying that if an employee misbehaves towards me I really should keep silent in the interest of keeping my current job and a 7 figure payout in the future. When I should have been, perhaps, obligated to report such misconduct immediately – in order to prevent further misconduct. How am I not an accomplice in such a situation? Should there be no strict liability for my conduct?

        And how do they come up with this settlement amount? Are these monies required to be spent on therapy? And why not 10 million? 1 billion? 10 thousand?

        • Jacki Livingston

          Greeeeeeat. Clearly you are a male. Because no thinking woman would say that. Predators prey on those they think will not speak. No one will listen, so why should they? But, hey, thanks for perpetuating the “blame the victim” mindset.

          • homeydclown

            Greeeeeeat. Clearly I am not male. Why would you jump to that conclusion? Based on my on-line user name? Ha!

            Clearly you jump to conclusions based on your agenda. There is not a more overused and tired word than “predator”. Look up its definition.

            I am “blaming the victim” ooh ooh ooh – yes!!! as long as the “victim” and its silence (why????) is a major part in the process.

            What if the first woman had said something after the very first incident? This whole disaster would have been averted. No? If we want to feel sorry for the victims – to the tune of millions of tax payer dollars – we must hold the victims accountable for trying to stop these occurrences.

            But hey, thanks for perpetuation the “perpetual victim: mindset.

          • Jacki Livingston

            I don’t know what would have happened. My guess, judging by my own experience and previous cases, is that she would have been forced out of her job. She would have been branded as a traitor, a liar, hysterical, deluded…the old boys club is like that. You are making an assumption that she actually was the first. In my experience, sexual predators have had dozens of victims, long before they are caught. If I were a female relative of his, I would be talking to my kids, to see if Unkie Carlos had been out of line with them. The pathology of a male sexual predator is pretty dark and long term. They don’t quit, just because they are reported.

            And, who would she have gone to? HR? The people running HR are the looniest of the lot! People think that a company’s HR is there to protect the employee. WRONG! It is there to protect the powers that be, namely upper management. No, they would not have helped her. They would have taken the complaint, and then gotten some County hump like Bartlett or Monge to come and talk to her. They drag it out a few months, then they tell you it is all good, and he will be a good boy, and they transfer her to keep her quiet, put another trusting woman in her place and he has a new victim. No…people like Bustamante have a lot of dirt on the bigwigs, and they protected him a long time. I had heard rumblings about ‘Hands on Carlos’ over a decade ago. And, to be honest, he is pretty tame. There are guys much worse than him. Smarter…but worse.

            I was a victim of the County machine. But I was not their biggest victims. I don’t lie awake at night and worry about myself. I will survive. I do worry about my clients, because they have no one to protect them and no voice. I worry about the way overtaxed taxpayers of the County of Orange, because these criminals are wasting your hard earned money. But, frankly, you taxpayers are voters, and you have a voice. So, tell me something, what are YOU going to do about it? You hear about it, you read the paper or website, you see it…when are you going to say something, while they victimize YOU? Hmmmm? You have power I don’t have. You can write to the Board, petition, recall and best of all, VOTE. You want better government? Demand it. Stop the perpetual victimhood of the taxpayers.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Are you kidding? Do you think anyone listened? That is the whole point, is that the bigwigs knew and covered up for him. I spent six years…SIX YEARS…trying to get just one bigwig to listen to embezzling going on in SSA. Maybe if the taxpayers start screaming, something might change.

      • homeydclown

        I am not kidding. I doubt you are listening over your shrill “the victims, the victims, lets pay the victims millions” rhetoric.

        Please expound on your efforts. Until then, you are nothing but a shrill hysteric.

        Signed – Unhappy Tax Payer

        • Jacki Livingston

          Oh, I would be very happy to expound, sweets, so have a seat.

          I found out that not only were unscrupulous medical providers (mostly nursing homes) stealing patient trust accounts from my clients, but also that they were double and triple billing the state (ie: YOU, the taxpayer) for patients because someone used the new computer system to rig each provider with up to six different billing identification numbers. Each provider should only have one.

          I took that information to the state investigators, and to my superiors at SSA. Thus began a six year campaign of harassment, assault, abuse, and the complete destruction of my career, one that I had entered into because I was once a single mom on welfare. I pulled myself up, put myself through school and I wanted to give back, because I was grateful for what was given to me. During the recession, I was always trying to find ways we could save the taxpayers money, from cost saving methods to fighting fraud. The response I got? Hmmm, what did my boss put in the email? Oh, right, “we couldn’t begin to care less about the taxpayers…in fact, the more they pay, the better off we are”.

          The harassment worsened by life threatening disability, I have lupus. I was taken by ambulance from work after I passed out and had to spend four days there. I filed a worker’s comp claim for eight hundred dollars. $800…that the county spent over three hundred thousand to fight. I appeared three times before the Grand Jury, who asked me the most inane questions and never once wanted to see the real evidence. I gave testimony to the FBI, Garden Grove Police, OC Sheriffs, the District Attorney…I fought hard for the clients and for my bosses…the taxpayers…because this was so wrong. I found out, along the way, how much corrupt money was being donated into the war chests of OC politicians, like Janet Nguyen, Spitzer and Moorlach. I sent emails and letters to the BoS. I begged for someone, anyone to look at this. Instead, I was assaulted, written up for false allegations, harassed, and my career and professional reputation destroyed.

          I know what you think…this could not happen, not for real. But it does. I have found the links, and let me tell you, these people are as corrupt and as dirty as any mafia. They have lawyers and judges. Spitzer’s wife was the presiding judge on my case, and her hubby was a named defendant and witness. They bring in Eric Holder, and others, to cover up for the money trail.

          I owed the taxpayers of this county who were good to me. I tried to do right. What I got was no support, no one willing to take on the giant criminal enterprise. My own congressman, from Riverside County, tried to help, by calling Shawn Nelson, his friend. Nothing. He told me later that this was way too deep, and I would be better off running away from the County. Imagine that.

          I could tell you stories about senior management at SSA that would turn your hair white. These people didn’t get to the top by hard work. They got there by making the money for the big fish. The money trail is clear, and it leads right to the BoS. They stalked my home, sent deputies there to threaten me. My boss physically intimidated and assaulted me. My career had been right on track, till the day I reported the embezzlement. Now, I have nothing. Not only that, but they blackballed me, so I cannot get a job anywhere. I was made an example of, and believe me, none of my colleagues would dare to defy them now. I may be shrill, and hysteria goes with the Complex PTSD I was diagnosed with, after the six year war. But I am telling the truth, and I have boxes of internal documents, forged signatures, emails and testimony to prove that every, single word is the truth.

          You may laugh…I don’t blame you. I would never have dreamed that something this vile, corrupt and filthy could flourish here. This is stuff you hear about in Russia or something. But it is true. You shouldn’t be an unhappy taxpayer. You should be an angry one. By my estimates? These providers are bilking you out of about a million…a MONTH. Over six years? It added up. They spent a fortune fighting my eight hundred dollar claim and used Spitzer’s wife and client to protect him. Why would any sane person do that? I was fighting for clients and the taxpayers who I believed were being ripped off. They were fighting to protect their money making enterprise. I don’t think the victims should be paid millions. I asked for four days pay. So ask yourself…why would they do that?

        • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

          I believe her.
          I too am an Unhappy Taxpayer, in a sea of gazillions.
          We should not be treated as serfs.

    • Diego Vega

      In a sane workplace that’s what a harassed employee would do. But the County is not sane, and employees are directed to discuss their workplace situation with HR. However, HR and County Counsel are tasked by the Board of Supervisors with retaliating against whistle blowers and employees with grievances. There are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of whistle blower’s and “problem” employee’s bodies piled up in plain sight for all to see what happens to trouble makers. The victims are prosecuted and the attackers laugh. County Counsel Leon Page has destroyed more careers and lives than anyone can count. And any Board of Supervisors member who claims ignorance of this process is lying. Spitzer’s promises of a new day are empty.

      Your two alternatives are to leave your job or shut up and endure. The only reason Bustamante’s victims are receiving this settlement is because the media got wind of this case despite Mauk’s, Crown’s, and many other co-conspirators best efforts to keep it hidden.

      • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

        Disturbing to read. Shameful. Integrity out the door.
        We must get politicos that fight for doing the right thing.
        We are becoming a banana republic on so many levels.

      • homeydclown

        “Your two alternatives are to leave your job or shut up and endure.” No. They are being heard now. To the tune of millions of dollars. What makes you believe they would not be heard a year, two years ago?

        • Jacki Livingston

          They are only heard, now, because there is millions of dollars at stake. Are there people who abuse the system? No question. But there are people who genuinely try to do the right thing, only to get completely chewed up and spit out by these elected officials who are making money hand over fist through this corruption.

          • John Claxton

            Todd Spitzer himself got chewed up and spit out to the curb. He then bought his way onto the BOS where he did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the corruption that got him illegally fired. Speaks volumes what he would do as DA.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Absolutely true, Diego. I went to the Garden Grove Police Department when I first found corruption and embezzlement going on. My first concern was for my clients, the second was for the taxpayers who are my ultimate bosses. GGPD said that it wasn’t worth them coming in to take a report, and that I needed to report it to the agency, and I did. I then spent 6 years fighting to get someone to do something. No one would.

  • David Zenger

    Lat’s not gloss over history, Todd. Mauk was kept afloat for almost six months in 2012 AFTER Peter Hughes found the damning outside report that had been commissioned the previous Fall. It had been stashed in Carl Crown’s safe. Mauk knew all about what had happened. So did Crown. So did Alisa Drakodaidas. So did Carbajal (who also occupied the office next to Busty, as I recall). And very few people doubted Bill Cambell knew what was in the report, too. And yet Busty was permiited to quit and got himself a nice little $45,000 check as a going away present.

    Mauk should have been fired for cause in February 2012 but hung around until the end of July, supported by Nguyen, Campbell, and Bates who still saw some useful purpose in his existence.

    Our tough-guy DA was doing his tough-guy routine, but what happened to all of Busty’s enablers and helpers and sweeper-uppers?

    Nada.

    • Paul Lucas

      Didnt he also get to keep his pension from the County?

      • David Zenger

        Of course. So did Carona.

    • Debby Bodkin

      DA Rackauckas filed criminal charges against Bustamante to SILENCE him. Rackauckas did the same to Haidl, Jaramillo and Carvallo. They are knew too much about the County of Orange, the DA and the OC Sheriff’s self-serving and the for profit enterprises that have destroyed the lives of honest and hard working County employees and private citizens. IMO, Rackauckas has some major dirt on someone…. in the real world, no elected government official/public prosecutor would be allowed to continue its day to day business like Rackauckas and escape federal charges.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    Disgusting.
    And taxpayers foot the bill … 1 million here, 24 million total there.
    So wrong. Shameful

    • Jacki Livingston

      I had a worker’s comp claim for eight hundred dollars. Four days pay being in the hospital, from stress and harassment. The county spent hundreds of thousands fighting it. Yeah, these people could not begin to care about the taxpayer. In fact, I have internal docs and emails where I asked about fraud and how we owe it to the taxpayers to be vigilant, and their exact response was that they don’t have any time or energy to worry about taxpayers. Shameful is that these mistreated taxpayers keep electing these doofuses.

      • Debby Bodkin

        Just think, former OC Sheriff Mike Carona easily obtained a $20,000 plus workers comp settlement from the County of Orange and as a felon, still collects a $200,000 a year pension. So typical of OC’s elected government officials — take care of the “men” that are members of the good ‘ol boys network. Spitzer NEVER called for Carona’s pension to be revoked…. but somehow, he allegedly is going after Bustamante’s pension.