An Orange County Superior Court judge threw out a lawsuit brought by a high-ranking human resources manager who alleged she had been retaliated against because she reported harassment and other allegations against her former department head, Mike Giancola – who is now County CEO.
Kathleen Tahilramani – a former HR manager at OC Waste & Recycling – argued that she had received harassment complaints along with claims of illegal salvaging at the county landfill that potentially involved Giancola.
Tahilramani’s suit claimed that after she brought forward the allegations, Giancola essentially froze her out from her departmental HR role at OC Waste and Recycling and sought to move her into another job.
While refusing to comment on specifics, Giancola has always maintained that he did nothing improper.
In granting a motion for summary judgment to the county, Judge John Gastelum cited existing case law noting that because Tahilramani was an HR manager, reporting allegations were part of her job – not a protected whistleblower action.
Tahilramani has 60 days to appeal the case.
Regardless of whether she chooses to appeal, Tahilramani’s suit has brought to the fore a series of concerns about how the county is managed, including how political aides to county supervisors are fast-tracked for jobs inside the county bureaucracy.
Her attorney, Steven Dial, was in the midst of depositions early Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson said the judge’s decision “makes sense to me.”
Nelson maintains that Tahilramani had no right to fight Giancola’s decision to move her into a different role. And just because she had reported harassment and other issues didn’t change that, Nelson said.
“A neutral party who is an expert in listening to cases has decided there’s not even a triable fact here,” Nelson said.
He also took issue with the attention given to Tahilramani’s accustations.
“It’s easy for people to make allegations. And if they’re salacious, it’s easy to say where there’s smoke there’s fire,” Nelson said. “Sometimes, people can have perceptions that don’t jibe with the facts.”
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