Former Spitzer Aide Alleges Hostile Treatment of Staff

A former aide to Supervisor Todd Spitzer has filed a lawsuit alleging he ran his office through “fear and aggression,” forced his staff to be on-call at all hours of the night, and required them to work shifts of up to 24 hours at a time.

The suit was filed Friday against Spitzer and the county government by Christine Richters, a former executive aide who worked for Spitzer for three and a half years, until this past October. She also is a former Spitzer law client and a paid staffer on his 2012 campaign for supervisor.

Spitzer didn’t return calls Monday for comment. County spokeswoman Carrie Braun declined to comment, citing a county policy not to talk about pending litigation.

(Click here to read the lawsuit.)

In her suit, Richters alleged Spitzer required his employees, including hourly workers like she was, “to be on stand-by 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to respond to any text message” he sent them.

As evidence of the on-call requirements, she included what she described as a memo Spitzer sent his staff saying his text messages “are to be responded to within 15 minutes of receipt unless there is an overriding excuse.”

If this policy is violated, Spitzer warned, “an hour of your pay will be docked.”

“The work environment in [Spitzer’s] office was extremely stressful due to the unrealistic demands [Spitzer] placed upon the employees, as well as [Spitzer’s] raging temper that he often directed at the employees,” according to Richters’ law suit.

“[Spitzer’s] temper caused [Richters] to suffer from severe health issues including, but not limited to, weight loss, hair loss, sleepless nights, stress, anxiety, and depression.”

Richters said she sought a transfer to another county job for over two months, and was helped with that by the human resources department. But, she said, Spitzer directed his chief of staff not to help her with the transfer, and told Richter “No one leaves Spitzer unless they’re fired.”

Richters said she wasn’t hired for another county position, and Spitzer fired her in October.

At the core of Richters’ case is her claim that Spitzer and the county illegally discriminated against her and fired her based on the stress and anxiety he caused.

Given all the hours Richters said employees were required to work, she also claims the county failed to pay her and other county employees the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and violated federal requirements that overtime be compensated at time-and-a-half.

Spitzer, who is widely believed to be planning to run for district attorney in the June 2018 election, has had a high staff turnover.

He has had five chiefs of staff in the last five years, more than any other supervisor. His most recent chief of staff to leave, Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway, resigned just four months after he took the job.

Richters was one of the longest-serving members of Spitzer’s original staff he brought on after taking office in January 2013. She worked for Spitzer for about three and a half years, from February 2013 to October 2016.

Before that, she was one of Spitzer’s legal clients in a case against District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

In December 2011, Spitzer filed a public records lawsuit on behalf of Richters against Rackauckas, centered around the prosecution of an Orange High School teacher for having a sexual relationship with Richters’ then-17-year-old daughter. The teacher, Scott Adrian Peterson, was later convicted and sentenced to 16 months in jail.

In her suit against the DA, Richters said she supported the prosecution and had given written consent for Orange city police to search her daughter’s phone after her daughter objected. The search revealed explicit photos that were important for the criminal case.

During the prosecution, the teacher’s attorney was seeking to have the evidence thrown out, claiming it was obtained in an illegal search.

Richters filed a Public Records Act request with the DA’s office for records that can be disclosed to victims, later saying she wanted to know if police accurately documented her actions and performed their search legally.

The DA opposed the request, arguing Richters was not a victim under the records law. Her request was denied by Judge Jamoa A. Moberly in a ruling on March 12, 2012.

Soon after losing that case, Spitzer began to pay Richters for campaign work in his June 2012 run for supervisor, according to campaign finance filings.

The records show Spitzer paid Richters $1,500 in campaign funds between March 18 and June 15, 2012, plus a $1,500 “bonus” after winning the election. He labeled the payments in the category “campaign paraphernalia/misc.”

After taking office in January 2013, Spitzer hired Richters as an executive aide.

Richters is represented in her lawsuit against Spitzer by attorneys Devon M. Lyon and Jennifer F. Hooshmand, who are based in the Los Angeles County town of Signal Hill.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • Ed Romero

    Spitzer knew better then to OVER WORK, Big Maggie and her Gang of Drug Dealers, Marijuana Smokers, Cocaine Snorting Racist Lesbians that ran the County of Orange and the Orange County Probation Department. Big Maggie used her positions of power such as: Chairperson of the O C GOP, West Court Judge, Chief Probation Officer and finally Director of Health (she accomplished all of this with a HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION) to Hire and Promote her numerous Drug Dealing, Drug Abusing Lesbian friends to positions that should of gone to more qualified applicants. Everyone knew that Big Maggie was nothing but a GOP Puppet and the real Chief Probation Officer was her Lesbian Lover. They use to Smoke so much Marijuana at their residence in the City of Anaheim that he neighbors would call our Probation Records Unit complaining about all the Marijuana fumes floating over to their houses. Everyone knew what was going 2 former O C Sheriff’s looked the other way, one of them joined in saying to Marijuana Nancy “Marijuana Nancy chop up a line of Cocaine for Debbie and me”. What a disgrace to the County of Orange Taxpayers, they wasted MILLIONS of Dollars of the Taxpayers money covering up the messes that these UNQUALIFIED Racist Drug Abusing Lesbian made. To this day I remember the reaction of my co-workers when it was announced that the Board of Supervisor’s selected Marijuana Nancy to represent the County of Orange at the Seminar in Ethics in County Government. That dirty crook was caught shoplifting 8 Times, she use to Smoke Marijuana all day long and well into the night while on duty, she had her very own Gang of Drug Dealers making Drug Deliveries right into her Officer while on duty, she would come to the rescue of her Immoral Lesbian friends that couldn’t keep their hands to themselves, including that Lesbian that use to follow the young Female Clerks into the Restroom and them get down on her knees and PEEK under the locked door.

    • LFOldTimer

      Your posts always get a chuckle out of me, Ed. It’s almost like Virgil giving me a guided tour through Dante’s Inferno. lol. Either you have the splendid imagination of a Kurt Vonnegut or our county is so far past the point of no return that it’s futile to hold out any hope for positive change.

      The pain these people caused you must be incredible. It just oozes from your every sentence. Maybe it would be a good idea to redirect your energy into a more worthwhile endeavor that would give you a far better return for your efforts. I think I detect some hidden talent. I believe in you.

  • LFOldTimer

    Why do government workers believe that they deserve another job in government when they have a falling out with the boss?

    In the private sector if you can’t adapt to your boss or his standards it’s time to move on and find another job in a different company. That’s just life. If you don’t voluntarily move on you are almost always eventually fired, with no recourse I might add.

    This is just one reason government is so screwed up. Everything is an entitlement.

    “At the core of Richters’ case is her claim that Spitzer and the county illegally discriminated against her and fired her based on the stress and anxiety he caused.”

    I don’t understand. If someone can’t handle the stessors of a particular job or the standards set by the boss that constitutes illegal discrimination and a wrongful termination case?

    The older I get the more new things I learn.

  • verifiedsane

    is anyone really surprised….appears to be business as usual for the BoS….

  • Dwight Smith

    God forbid the taxpayers find about the campaign finance violations which will surface as soon as today. Writing aids/interns/temps checks and having them return with cash is an old and intemperate trick. If fact, Spitzer has been mean to all of us, especially the taxpayers that trusted him to govern wisely.

  • LFOldTimer

    Toddy was mean to me so the taxpayers of Orange owe me. wah wah.

    Just one more reason why Spitzer should not be our next DA. Piss poor judgement. His entanglements always come back to bite us.

    This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Todd.

  • OCservant_Leader

    EAs are at-will employees to be used and abused until they prove their loyalty and only THEN do they get dealt to the bureaucracy -to work (run campaigns) in high paying jobs they aren’t qualified for.

    Let’s she is a former Playmate? I’m thinking she would of done well Managing Road Construction at Public Works. Too bad.

    I don’t think she really has a case but I got the popcorn ready to hear all about Spitzer’s tirades.

    • David Zenger

      “Let’s see she is a former Playmate? I’m thinking she would of done well Managing Road Construction at Public Works. Too bad.”

      She would not have done well, but it would have mattered.

      • LFOldTimer

        At the very least the County could’ve assigned her to be Peggi Buff’s assistant.

        • verifiedsane

          This is obviously just another very sad case of gravity ruining an ex-bunny’s business attributes… no wonder there is stress ;(

      • OCservant_Leader

        True.

  • David Zenger

    Apparently the County has decided that there is a legal concept called “privileged deliberation” that pertains to Supervisors’ offices. This fiction was cooked up to protect Spitzer from revealing embarrassing communications with Jean Pasco over the BibleBoygate incident.

    They are going to keep rolling out this nonsense to dodge legitimate PRA requests until a judge tell them to stick it.

    • OCservant_Leader

      Yea – they think because they are attorneys, or know attorneys or the County has 100’s on retainer, everything they do is privileged communication.

      It’s not. They are not acting in a role as an attorney but rather a public servant – so no protection exists.

      Hopefully Norberto’s current CPRA case can make this concept crystal clear.

      • David Zenger

        This “privileged deliberation” BS is indicative of a rather twisted sense of grandiosity. Can they really believe that their communcations are sacrosanct – sort of like a priest in the confessional? The BoS has started to turn over embarrassing documents to County Counsel – such as Peter’s Hughes’s Dana Point report – so they can claim a phony attorney-client privilege; but, pretending their communications with their own staff and the County bureaucrats is privileged borders on nutsy-cuckoo.

        • LFOldTimer

          Even if the judge ruled completely in favor of VOC’s requests – and ordered the county to turn over all internal communications re: the Wahoo incident – do you really believe all the information would be forthcoming?

          So let’s put this all in proper perspective.