OC prosecutors told county HR investigators they refused an effort by DA Todd Spitzer to retaliate against a female employee who came forward about sexual harassment by a friend of Spitzer’s.
The investigation report, which Voice of OC obtained after two months of pressing under the state’s Public Records Act for any documents connected to the investigation, was finalized late last month.
The county’s outside HR investigator concluded that Gary LoGalbo, a former DA executive who was the best man at Spitzer’s wedding, had sexually harassed many female DA employees verbally and physically before he was ousted in late December
In his interview with the HR investigator, Logalbo denied many of the harassment allegations while saying he couldn’t recall whether some of the other alleged harassment incidents occurred.
The attempted retaliation allegations center on conversations in January, after an employee, known as Jane Doe 1 or Witness Nine, became the first of several DA employees to file formal legal claims alleging harassment by Logalbo.
The county investigation, which redacted names, later corroborated her allegations.
After Spitzer learned on Jan. 21 that the victim had filed the harassment claim, investigators wrote that he went on the attack.
According to their report, Spitzer told two DA executives the victim “had lied and was untruthful in her email reporting sexual harassment,” according to the investigation, with one of the executives saying Spitzer “was very unhappy.”
A few days later, on Jan. 29, Spitzer asked the victim’s supervisor to meet him in a law library at the Westminster courthouse.
There, according to the investigation, Spitzer started the conversation by mentioning the victim’s legal claim. He then “instructed” her supervisor to “write up” the victim in her personnel evaluation for allegedly lying in a Jan. 15 email she sent reporting harassment by LoGalbo.
The supervisor, an assistant DA, refused, according to the investigation.
“[The supervisor] informed Spitzer he could not write [the victim] up based on [an] instruction from human resources,” the investigation found.
“When [the supervisor] pushed back, Spitzer told him either he needed to think about it or they needed to discuss it further,” the investigation states.
The supervisor then told a colleague about it, who “immediately instructed [the supervisor] not to retaliate” and immediately reported it to county HR, according to the investigation.
The colleague, who is a senior assistant DA, then directly pushed back on Spitzer in writing, according to the investigation, which cites a photo of the document.
“[The senior assistant DA] later sent a purple folder containing [the victim’s] evaluation with a post-it note to Spitzer that read: ‘Todd, [the assistant DA] told me about your conversation with him and that you wanted [the victim] to be written up in her evaluation. [The assistant DA] and I both disagree with that. Please get back to me,’ ” the investigation found.
Ultimately, DA staff refused Spitzer’s wishes and county attorneys got involved.
Spitzer then backed off and approved the victim’s positive performance evaluation on Feb. 8 without adding in the claim that she lied in her harassment report, according to the investigation.
The investigation didn’t find that any actual retaliation took place, since Spitzer did not order officials to add the lying claim to her evaluation and he later approved the positive evaluation.
Spitzer says he was not trying to retaliate against the employee at all.
In an interview Friday, he told Voice of OC the issues he was raising about untruthfulness had to do with separate issues from before LoGalbo was under investigation.
“The [investigation] report fails to discuss – although I absolutely explained it to the investigator – [is] that there were issues that existed before any complaints [about LoGalbo] were filed with that particular witness,” Spitzer said.
“And the issues I was raising had to do with the prior allegations, not this particular set of circumstances,” he said, adding that the untruthfulness allegations he raised in January were “about her probation [period as an employee] being extended in the past.”
Asked if he was raising those prior issues in January because she was accusing LoGalbo of harassment, Spitzer said absolutely not.
“It had nothing to do with LoGalbo,” Spitzer said.
“That’s why I categorically deny that it has anything to do with that [LoGalbo] situation. During the course and scope of the LoGalbo investigation, I had been informed and so had [Chief Assistant DA] Shawn Nelson, that there were issues with an email.”
Spitzer said that after he followed up with county attorneys on Feb. 5, “it was resolved, which is why she passed probation.”
Spitzer disputed the assistant DA’s account of the law library conversation, telling the county investigator he never had a discussion with that supervisor about the victim’s performance evaluation showing she had lied.
“I never said that to [the assistant DA] because I didn’t want anything about [the victim] to be perceived in any way whatsoever that we were retaliating against her or punishing her for coming forward and making a complaint about LoGalbo,” Spitzer told the investigator, according to the report.
Yet the investigator found Spitzer’s account to be “not credible on this incident.”
“Based on the preponderance of evidence, this Investigator resolves the conflict in favor of [the supervisor and his colleague’s] accounts,” the investigation states.
The county investigation, which was completed late last month, found that LoGalbo physically and verbally harassed women who worked under him after Spitzer’s administration promoted him into senior management.
“Based upon a preponderance of the evidence, the allegation that LoGalbo engaged in a pattern of sexual and gender harassment against multiple female employees who he directly supervised at the OCDA is sustained,” the investigation found.
It found the DA’s office did promptly handle reports of Logalbo’s wrongdoing and showed him to the door in late December, after county human resources and attorneys got involved at the time.
The investigation report was released Friday after weeks of Public Records Act requests from Voice of OC.
County officials have not disputed the claims that Logalbo harassed female employees.
On the contrary, their investigation found the harassment allegations are credible and supported by overwhelming evidence.
“Factual findings corroborate directly and indirectly that LoGalbo created a hostile work environment,” the county investigation found.
That points to potential legal liability for county taxpayers, given that employers have an obligation to ensure a safe working environment that’s not hostile to employees.
LoGalbo couldn’t be reached for comment as he has removed his contact information from his online State Bar profile. Attorneys are required by state regulations to keep current contact information there.
In his HR interview, LoGalbo alleged that two of the female employees made up their harassment claims against him.
“LoGalbo stated he ‘absolutely believe[d]’ that [the two alleged victims] fabricated the present allegations against him as a result of their own work-performance issues. He said: ‘because the question is: ‘why didn’t it all come up sooner?’ ” the investigation states.
“LoGalbo’s explanation that the departed employee and Witness Nine ‘fabricated’ allegations against him does not account for the other detailed statements of his gross sexual harassment and misconduct given by [six other witnesses],” the report adds.
“These witnesses did not have ‘performance’ issues and, some victims and witnesses appeared to this Investigator to be conflicted about reporting LoGalbo’s behavior because he was otherwise considered by them to be a ‘good’ boss who had their backs.”
Since January, at least five prosecutors have filed legal claims alleging harassment by LoGalbo.
The claims, which are a required step before suing the county, don’t allege Spitzer himself engaged in any harassment. But they do say he enabled it by hiring one friend and promoting another – Logalbo – despite being urged not to by the DA’s aides and investigators.
“Two men, each with personal relationships to the District Attorney, acted with apparent impunity when it came to the pervasive sexual harassment of at least four adult women, and one teenage girl,” reads one of the claims.
When the first group of claims became public in February, Spitzer issued a statement condemning the alleged harassment and said his office will not tolerate it.
“I am utterly disgusted by the assertions contained in these claims as well as the stark realization that a few remnants of a culture of harassment that was allowed to thrive under the prior District Attorney have persisted. This is unacceptable,” Spitzer wrote in the Feb. 9 statement.
“Under my leadership, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office does not tolerate harassment of any kind in the workplace and will support anyone who believes he or she has been harassed.”
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.