DA Officials Say They’ve Addressed Sexual Conduct Issues Within Investigations Unit

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas during his opening statement in the trial of Fullerton police officers involved in the beating death of Kelly Thomas. (Pool photo by the Orange County Register)

Orange County District Attorney officials say they took quick action to correct issues raised in a grand jury investigation that found sex between supervisors and subordinates and sexual harassment may contribute to a hostile work environment within the DA’s investigations bureau.

In its June report, the county grand jury said there was a widespread perception within the investigations bureau that promotions and favorable treatment went to employees who were part of a specific  social circle and as a result of sexual relationships with superiors.

In his official response to the report, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas began by describing the Bureau of Investigation and the many awards received by members of its 220-person staff.

“Against this backdrop of excellence, the OCDA recognizes that some decisions made in the Bureau impacted morale and compromised the professionalism and integrity of the Bureau and the OCDA,” states the DA’s response, which was dated Monday and sent to reporters Tuesday evening.

“When these issues came to light, the OCDA took swift and decisive actions to ensure these issues were corrected before the issuance of this report. Change in leadership, outreach to employees, conducting human resources investigations, and developing policies that go further than one County policy.

“The OCDA believes these changes have helped to restore morale and confidence in the future direction of the Bureau.”

Employees told the grand jury about multiple instances of sexual images sent via text and email; inappropriate sexual and racist jokes; unwelcome sexual behavior and touching between management and subordinates and sexually explicit comments made by coworkers.

According to the report, employees said they didn’t report harassment to the DA’s human resources officials because they believed they would face retaliation, thought the complaint would be reported to their harassers or that nothing would be done.

The Grand Jury said in its report that when asked by grand jurors about the complaints, OCDA management often passed them off “as either false or inaccurate with comments that likened the actors to kids in a candy story when they gained positions of power over female subordinates or the behavior was passed off as just chasing skirts.”

“In interviews with management in the OCDA office there often did not seem to be recognition of the severity of the alleged behavior but rather a discounting and dismissive ‘boys-will-be-boys’ mentality,” the report reads.

Rackauckas said his managers took swift action to address the issues raised in the report.

“To address the stated perceived issues within the Bureau, the [DA’s office] initiated an independent investigation to determine the validity of this perception. Personnel actions have been taken including changes in Bureau leadership,” the DA’s response states.

“The OCDA is committed to determine if any policy violations have occurred and the appropriate actions will be taken. In addition, the Bureau is proactively developing several new policies that prohibit this type of conduct.”

The grand jury report followed allegations by the DA’s former chief investigator, Craig Hunter, that Rackauckas’ second-in-command, Senior Assistant District Attorney Jim Tanizaki, was having an affair with a subordinate employee.

Among other allegations about the DA’s office, Hunter wrote in his legal claim there was no investigation when a supervisor in the DA’s office got his administrative assistant pregnant.

DA officials responded to Hunter’s overall legal claim by saying it was filled with false allegations in an attempt to get money from taxpayers.

As for intimate relationships between supervisors and subordinates, DA officials wrote in their response to the grand jury: “It has always been the policy and practice of the OCDA to prohibit such a relationship.

“The Bureau [of Investigations] is developing a stronger policy against nepotism and conflicting relationships.”

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

  • Laura Gipson

    Amazing Tony Rack crows loud when he is prosecuting the citizens of OC… but when it comes to the inner circle of his DA office they seem to stay perfectly within the law. Maybe the voters of OC are staring to wise up and become aware of the Kool Aid Tony Rack and his DA office serves out and hopefully the investigation will also include which of the OC judges enjoy drinking the Kool Aid Tony Rack spoons out. But by now, it is probably too much to hope for.

  • Ed Romero

    I hope the DA has done a better job then the Orange County Probation Department. There was this Lesbian employee that would follow all the young girls into the Restroom, get down on her knees and TAKE A PEEK under the door. She had so many Sexual Harassment Complaints lodged against her that she had to be REMOVED from her job assignment and sent to our Records Unit, where she continued her nasty behavior, did they FIRE HER?? NO, they promoted her to a SUPERVISOR.

  • Ed Romero

    Isn’t that the same as the Board of Supervisors selecting that former Asst. Chief Probation Officer to represent the County of Orange at the Seminar on Ethics in County Government? She was caught shoplifting 8 times, she use to Smoke so much Marijuana while on duty that my co-workers gave her the AKA/Marijuana Nancy. She had her very own Gang of Drug Dealers, most of them Deputy Probation Officers who would make Drug Deliveries right into her Office while on duty. I believe I made my point.

  • Bill421

    Who is going jail for this ?

    • verifiedsane

      No one….so much for our justice system….from top to bottom, corrupt to the core..

  • LFOldTimer

    Took Quick Action = Pssst. Be careful. Don’t get caught.

  • Jessica Davis

    Sex scandals at the DA’s office dismissed as ‘boys will be boys’! This is outrageous! Tony Rackauckas has run the DA’s office into the ground, he has no control over his prosecutors and staff who have shamed Orange County.

    • LFOldTimer

      Spitzer would be no better.

      • verifiedsane

        Spitzer likes to handcuff preacher boys…that should make a catchy campaign slogan & yard sign.. 🙂

  • RyanCantor

    “The Grand Jury said in its report that when asked by grand jurors about the complaints, OCDA management often passed them off ‘as either false or inaccurate . . . ‘ ”

    This sounds really familiar. Maybe it’s all a myth.

  • David Zenger

    Tony is chalking up quite a record of “fixing” problems before the (expensive) reports come out. But the DA doesn’t quite seem to understand that his lack of managerial oversight is the cause of all the problems in the first place. The culture has his name on it.

    • LFOldTimer

      Tony doesn’t care what you think about him. He’s been DA for how long? 20 years? How old is he? 75? He’s ready to be put out to pasture anyway. I think he’s just going through the motions by running again in 2018. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he’s already worked out a deal with Spitzer behind closed doors.

      But just remember: Spitzer = Rackaucakas.

      Either way you get the same outcome.

      • David Zenger

        I would be very surprised if a deal were worked out. They already tried that and it failed miserably.

        The (only) good thing about Tony is his age. I think the plan is to win in 2018 then quit so the Board can pick a non-Spitzer successor.

        You are right about one thing: Racky is indifferent to public opinion.