Former county executive Carlos Bustamante and the county human resources manager overseeing an internal investigation into sexual misconduct charges against him joked together about the allegations during the investigation, Bustamante’s former secretary testified at his preliminary hearing Tuesday.
Meanwhile, then-county CEO Tom Mauk, who had a close relationship with Bustamante, told him “not to worry” as a separate outside investigation commissioned by the county got underway, said the secretary, identified as Jane Doe A, in her second day of testimony in Orange County Superior Court.
Mauk also sarcastically told Bustmante to “make sure that he had the door open…when he had sex,” said the secretary.
Several allegations against Bustamante, which later led to criminal charges, involve claims that he would close his office door and inappropriately touch female subordinates against their will.
The testimony came on the second day of a preliminary hearing in the criminal case against Bustamante, who is accused of committing more than a dozen sex crimes against female county employees.
He is charged with 12 felonies and four misdemeanors, which include false imprisonment, attempted sexual battery and stalking.
Political Connections Made Him Untouchable
One theme throughout the testimony has been that Bustamante’s political associations made him untouchable within the county bureaucracy. He was an up-and-coming figure in the Republican party and a member of the Santa Ana city council at the time he is accused of sexually assaulting women who worked for him.
Bustamante’s secretary continued her testimony Tuesday, saying Bustamante trapped her in a bear hug in his office on a second occasion and kissed her against her will.
She was “fighting for him not to do that” and pushing him away, said the secretary, whose voice broke while relaying her account of events.
During that incident, she said, the public works executive grabbed one of her breasts and, after she pushed his hand away, touched her buttocks.
All of this happened, she said, despite her repeated pleas for him to stop.
The secretary said she told Bustamante she would “shout, scream to get somebody’s attention.”
But in response, she said, her boss told her “nobody was going to be able to hear you.” His office had been soundproofed by a previous executive.
Bustamante’s defense attorney, meanwhile, cross-examined the alleged victims by drilling into the specific details of their claims and the DA’s investigation and noting apparent inconsistencies in testimony.
Among those inconsistencies, attorney James Riddet zeroed in on what he said was contradictory testimony about the forced hugging and kissing incidents alleged by the secretary.
Riddet said the secretary contradicted herself by telling a district attorney investigator she couldn’t feel Bustamante’s “body” during the second office incident and then telling the court Tuesday that she could feel he had an erection.
Asked about the contradiction, the secretary said she in fact didn’t tell the investigator that she couldn’t feel his body, in spite of its appearance in a transcript of the interview.
“I didn’t say it, no,” she said, while acknowledging that she had previously reviewed the interview’s audio and transcript for errors.
She then changed her testimony after the prosecution argued that the full interview transcript shows she was in fact referring to Bustamante’s penis when she made the “body” reference.
“I did say it on there,” the secretary said.
“You were wrong, you actually did give that statement in the interview, didn’t you?” said Riddet
“Yes,” the secretary replied.
A second alleged victim took the stand Tuesday, saying Bustamante closed the door to his office and hugged her against her will.
“He pretty much wrapped his arms around my body,” said the second alleged victim, a female public works clerical employee identified as Jane Doe B.
“He was asking for a kiss…he said, ‘Can I have a kiss?’ ” she testified.
“I told him I wasn’t going to give him a kiss,” Jane Doe B said she replied while pushing Bustamante away.
Another time, she said, Bustamante came over to her cubicle and touched her leg, moving his hand up her thigh.
“I took his hand off and I asked him what he was doing,” she said.
But, she said, Bustamante “tried to go for a kiss.”
“He was trying to kiss my cheek,” the woman said. “I pushed him off.”
He also touched her leg again in that incident, she added, despite her opposition.
Riddet, meanwhile, focused on the second alleged victim’s decision to take a job working under Bustamante’s supervision after the office incident.
Additionally, Riddet pointed out the second alleged victim acknowledged going to lunch in Laguna Beach alone with Bustamante after the office incident.
On the way to the restaurant, she said, Bustamante asked that they get out of the car at Crescent Bay Point Park and look at the view.
When they did, she said, Bustamante came from behind and wrapped his arms around her.
Riddet asked if she gave him a kiss.
“No,” she replied. “Not at all.”
Joking About Sex Abuse
As for management’s handling of the abuse claims, Jane Doe A testified that Patricia Daniels, the Public Works Department’s human resources manager, worked for Bustamante at the same time her staff was investigating him in March and April 2011.
“They would joke around about (the sex abuse), like it was not true,” the secretary testified.
For example, the secretary said when Daniels and Bustamante went into his office and were closing the door, they said “but we’re not going to have sex.”
“Nothing was ever done” from that investigation, the secretary testified, saying she knew that was the case because Bustamante continued his inappropriate behavior toward her.
Witnessing that exchange, the secretary said, further reinforced her fears about reporting Bustamante’s mistreatment of her, which she claims includes forcing her to be hugged and kissed in his office.
Daniels was in charge of human resources at Public Works, and was supervised by Bustamante.
“If it had already came to her, who else was I going to talk to?” the secretary testified, adding she felt like “they weren’t gonna care” if she reported her own abuse incidents to them.
Additionally, the secretary testified, a few weeks before Bustamante’s October 2011 resignation, he approached her about a separate pending county investigation.
Bustmante told her “[county CEO] Tom Mauk told him there would be a private investigation but not to worry about it,” she said in court.
The preliminary hearing before Judge Kazuharu Makino is expected to last five to nine days and include testimony from all of the women Bustamante is accused of sexually assaulting. Makino will determine if there’s enough evidence for Bustamante to stand trial.
The hearing is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning with testimony from a third alleged victim.
You can reach Nick Gerda at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.