Moments before the Orange County Board of Supervisors entered closed session Tuesday to consider the fate of CEO Tom Mauk, an attorney representing Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis unleashed a new set of allegations against supervisors and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
It was the latest dramatic turn in what is increasingly becoming a housecleaning at the county Hall of Administration in the wake of charges by Rackauckas this month that Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante committed multiple sex crimes against women who worked for him while he was an executive at county Public Works.
In a three-page letter that was made public during the meeting, attorney Joel Baruch took issue with the recent release of the county’s scathing report on the operations of Public Works, which was one of the departments Drakodaidis oversaw.
Rackauckas also has an ongoing probe into the county bureaucracy to determine why Bustamante’s actions — which include 12 felony charges of sex crimes against at least seven women over an eight-year period — went on so long without official action.
In his letter, Baruch alleged a pattern of harassment against female workers and executives at the county. The letter took direct aim at the Public Works internal investigation, saying it was a character assassination of Drakodaidis.
“The political and disparaging attacks made against Alisa are examples of why witnesses, women, and other members of protected classes in the County of Orange workforce were and continue to be fearful to come forward,” the letter asserts.
In addition, Baruch took direct aim at the Board of Supervisors, saying their penchant for placing friends and colleagues in top jobs triggered Drakodaidis’ whistle-blowing complaint.
“Your organization’s incompetency and disregard in following Equal Employment Opportunity laws has enabled rampant cronyism to permeate the work environment of Orange County,” the letter declared.
Baruch confirmed that Drakodaidis is on a stress-related leave until Aug. 30, noting further that “Alisa has been put in the uncomfortable position of being a whistle blower in challenging and reporting planned and implemented actions that were not consistent with county policy.”
The letter goes on to contend that a state investigation is warranted. “It is obvious that a truly independent review of the county’s compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity law is needed,” the letter read.
Outside the hearing room, Baruch intensified his attacks against supervisors and Rackauckas.
“Here’s the problem in this county,” Baruch said. “We have a DA where law takes a backseat to politics. And that’s what happened here.”
Baruch called the Bustamante matter a “garden variety sexual harassment case” that had been criminalized by Rackauckas for political gain.
As an example, Baruch noted that Rackauckas conducted a very media-friendly unveiling of his case against Bustamante. Then when Baruch sent a letter to county supervisors detailing Drakodaidis’ claims, Rackauckas collaborated with county supervisors to keep the letter secret in violation of the state’s Public Records Act, Baruch said.
“He gets his salvo and nobody else does,” Baruch said.
Voice of OC has filed a lawsuit against the county under the California Public Records Act, seeking access to the Drakodaidis letter. When asked Tuesday for the letter, Baruch, who was for the first time publicly identified as Drakodaidis’ attorney, declined to release it, saying he had to consult his client.
Baruch said that Drakodaidis’ whistle-blowing activities predate any actions in the Bustamante case. That can be proven, he said, by a complaint in May that he filed with state agencies that handle workplace harassment.
That complaint came after supervisors took away a controversial raise that Drakodaidis had received. The raise was brought to light by a critical audit of county Human Resources.
Baruch on Tuesday also said that Drakodaidis was never “in the loop” on decisions about Public Works, saying that top officials “bypassed her because she was a women.”
In fact, Baruch said, Drakodaidis had tried to take action against Public Works Director Jess Carbajal, who was fired with cause earlier this month.
“She recommended on many occasions that Carbajal be fired,” Baruch said.
Baruch also repeated his allegation in an earlier letter to county supervisors that Rackauckas targeted Mauk because of Mauk’s role in the action against Public Administrator John Williams.
“He did the dirty work and pulled the trigger on John Williams,” Baruch said.
Supervisors remained in closed session early Tuesday afternoon, discussing Mauk’s status. Observers close to the issue expect that Mauk’s time as CEO is coming to a close.
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