Orange County’s chief prosecutor, who came into office promising a new era of reform and victims’ rights, is now at the center of storm of lawsuits from his own prosecutors alleging his actions enabled sexual harassment by promoting the best man from his wedding into a senior position despite knowing he was a “pervert” in his personal life.
An outside investigation by the county has confirmed many of the lawsuit allegations that former District Attorney executive Gary LoGalbo harassed female subordinates and made racially discriminatory comments.
The county is expecting eight lawsuits over LoGalbo’s alleged harassment, the first of which was filed last month by a female prosecutor.
County attorneys are not disputing that LoGalbo harassed his subordinates.
LoGalbo declined to comment when reached by phone.
Yet in an interview with the county HR investigator, which was referenced in the final report on the scandal, LoGalbo denied many of the harassment allegations while saying he couldn’t recall whether some of the other alleged harassment occurred.
Indeed, the county’s own HR investigation – by outside attorney Elisabeth A. Frater – has become central to the scandal because it corroborated much of what the ensuing legal action is alleging.
DA Spitzer says he took action as soon as the harassment was pointed out, highlighting that the HR investigation eventually cleared everyone of wrongdoing except LoGalbo.
Yet Spitzer also disputes some of the report’s findings, especially those involving his own actions.
A central claim in the first lawsuit – rooted in testimony to the county’s own investigator – is that DA Todd Spitzer promoted LoGalbo despite knowing he was a “pervert” in his personal life.
The county investigation quotes an assistant DA who had worked directly under LoGalbo and confronted Spitzer in a February phone call about what he knew about LoGalbo.
The assistant DA later described the conversation to a colleague who relayed it in an email to the county’s outside HR investigator, who then quoted from it in their final report to the county.
“[The assistant DA] stated that she told DA Spitzer that Gary was his best friend; he knew he was a pervert and he promoted him twice anyway. DA Spitzer responded to [the assistant DA] that he knew Gary was a pervert in his personal life, but did not know he was one in his professional life”A colleague, testifying in their email to Frater, who quoted it in her final report
Both quotes are now featured prominently in the latest lawsuit filed against the County of Orange.
Spitzer called the statements attributed to him “untrue” in a text message to Voice of OC, but wouldn’t elaborate in response to further questions.
“I’m offended by that statement [in the investigation]. It’s untrue,” Spitzer texted.
“No one complained” about LoGalbo’s behavior, Spitzer added, saying he “knew nothing about those allegations.”
Asked to elaborate, Spitzer declined.
“That was my last answer,” he said. “Come watch the trial.”
The county investigation also cites testimony from DA managers concerned that Spitzer and his top executives didn’t take the harassment allegations seriously when they were reported up the chain last November.
After the harassment was reported, LoGalbo was allowed to return to work, and Spitzer was friendly with him at a Nov. 30, 2020 executive meeting..
“Todd and [Chief Assistant DA] Shawn [Nelson] spent 10 minutes talking about how [LoGalbo’s] vacation was, how great that he got to go fishing,” the senior assistant DA later told the county’s outside investigators.
The senior assistant DA “stated she and the other [colleagues] were concerned that there would be nothing further done about LoGalbo’s conduct so they arranged a meeting with [DA human resources manager Matthew] Pettit,” according to the county investigation report.
Pettit himself “had concerns that perhaps executive leadership was not taking the LoGalbo misconduct revelations as seriously as he perceived the situation,” according to the county investigation report.
Those concerns were corroborated by six other DA officials, “who became concerned with the lack of action taken against LoGalbo” after the first harassment report last November, the county investigation report states.
While Pettit thought the harassment allegations warranted at least being placed on leave – if not fired – he testified that it “seems like my leadership here is more inclined to do some trainings and awareness issues.”
After Pettit went outside the DA’s office to raise his concerns with the county’s central HR office, LoGalbo was put on admin leave and retired, and a county investigation was launched.
“As a result of Mr. Spitzer’s choices, Plaintiff, and many others under Mr. Spitzer’s charge, were exposed daily to Mr. LoGalbo’s sexual harassment and racist remarks,” alleges the lawsuit, filed Thursday by Jane Doe 3’s attorney Matt Murphy, a former homicide prosecutor at the DA’s office.
In response to the lawsuit, Spitzer said he acted swiftly as soon as he learned of the allegations, and that he stands with LoGalbo’s victims.
“We fully support the victims of harassment by this manager. The behavior he engaged in at the workplace is nothing short of vile,” Spitzer said in a statement provided by his spokeswoman.
“I took immediate action as soon as I was made aware of these accusations and the breakdown in the system that resulted in this behavior going unreported,” he added.
“I have ensured that all attorneys and employees have been trained and are encouraged to report misconduct at multiple levels.”
Chief Assistant DA Shawn Nelson didn’t return a phone message for comment.
Spitzer said the county’s HR investigation “flatly rejected any allegation of retaliation by me or any of my executive managers.”
The investigation, however, did not clear Spitzer of attempting to retaliate against the first female prosecutor who had come forward to allege LoGalbo had harassed her.
After Spitzer learned on Jan. 21 that the victim had filed the harassment claim, investigators wrote that he went on the attack.
Spitzer instructed the prosecutor’s supervisor to “write up” the victim in her performance evaluation for lying in her email reporting the harassment.
But the supervisor refused to do so, amid concerns that such an action would be tantamount to retaliation, according to the county HR investigation, and contacted county human resources.
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 county investigation, which redacted names, later corroborated that same prosecutor’s harassment allegations against LoGalbo.
The county’s outside HR investigator also found Spitzer to be “not credible” when he denied that he directed the supervisor to “write-up” the victim for allegedly lying in her harassment report.
In response, Spitzer said in a statement that the county HR investigator had “left pertinent information out of the report and that information is contained on the tape recording of his interview,” which the DA said he will address in court.
“I have spent the last 30 years championing the rights of victims – including Marsy’s Law and Megan’s Law – and I am continuing to fight for the rights of any and all victims while doing everything I can to provide a safe and respectful environment for my employees.”OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer
Several of the prosecutors filing lawsuits are being represented by one of the office’s former top homicide prosecutors, Matt Murphy, who has become one of Spitzer’s fiercest public critics.
Murphy says Spitzer’s stated support for victims is just “empty words.”
“The District Attorney created the circumstances that led to all this, my clients have been horribly mistreated, and Mr. Spitzer continues to oppose them at every turn.”One of the office’s former top homicide prosecutors Matt Murphy, in a statement
He pointed to the county investigation’s findings that Spitzer was not credible in his denial of attempted retaliation.
The county investigation ultimately concluded that LoGalbo harassed numerous DA employees and engaged in racially discriminatory comments and actions.
After the HR investigation sustained the harassment allegations, the new lawsuit alleges, “Mr. Spitzer has embarked on a campaign of retaliation against Plaintiff and others for blowing the whistle on his ‘best’ friend, and has subjected Plaintiff to conduct that has undermined her job performance and ability for advancement within the OCDA.”
The new lawsuit comes after settlement talks between the county and employees apparently collapsed over the summer, with county supervisors giving direction in August to hire attorneys to defend the county.
DA Exec Called Attorney a Terrorist Just for Having Muslim Name, Per Testimony
The first lawsuit was filed by a Muslim woman prosecutor identified as Jane Doe 3, who says she was sexually harassed by LoGalbo and was present when he called a public defender with an Islamic name a “terrorist” to DA colleagues.
LoGalbo later acknowledged the “terrorist” remarks when asked about it by county HR investigators.
“This made Plaintiff feel very uncomfortable and singled out, especially since Mr. LoGalbo was subjectively aware of her background and religion, and he had labeled the Deputy Public Defender ‘a terrorist’ for no apparent reason other than his Islamic name,” the lawsuit states.
Later, in January 2020, when the prosecutor was walking to her car after work, she heard a car approaching slowly from behind, according to the lawsuit.
A man’s voice asked, “Hey baby, how much do you charge?” according to the suit.
“When she looked over, she saw that it was Mr. LoGalbo. He then blew several kisses to her in an exaggerated fashion and drove away,” the suit adds.
In the months that followed, LoGalbo told Jane Doe 3 that he may “have to spank you,” referred to her underwear, and would call her late at night and start the conversion by asking what she was wearing, according to the lawsuit
LoGalbo, who was Jane Doe 3’s direct supervisor, “continued to remind her of his close bonds with the elected District Attorney, telling her, as well as others in North Court, that he was ‘Todd’s best friend,’” the lawsuit states.
“He called individuals terrorists, for no other [reason] than they were Muslim or had a Muslim-sounding name,” said Amr Shabaik, the civil rights managing attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Los Angeles chapter, which is based in Anaheim.
“This is unacceptable. It shouldn’t be happening in any workplace, nonetheless the District Attorney’s office that is supposed to serve the public. [This] erodes the trust the public has in these public-serving institutions.”Amr Shabaik, the civil rights managing attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Los Angeles chapter
LoGalbo’s alleged harassment of Jane Doe 3 was reported to county human resources on Nov. 10, 2020, according to the lawsuit.
But DA leaders kept LoGalbo participating in day-to-day operations at the DA’s office for another five weeks, the suit states.
On Dec. 15, after the county’s central HR officials got involved, Nelson announced via email to all DA attorneys that LoGalbo “has elected to retire” following “more than 30 years of public service,” without stating why, according to the suit.
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 occurred.
Prior DA Administration Grappled With Sex Misconduct by Managers, Per Grand Jury
The previous DA administration, under Tony Rackauckas, also faced concerns about workplace culture, with a grand jury investigation finding widespread perception within the DA’s investigations bureau that promotions and favorable treatment goes to employees based on sexual relationships with superiors.
The former head of the DA’s investigations bureau, Craig Hunter, also leveled accusations that Rackauckas’ second-in-command was having an affair with a subordinate employee, and that there was no investigation after a DA supervisor got his administrative assistant pregnant.
Settlement Talks Collapsed
When it comes to the LoGalbo lawsuits, county and DA employees were heading toward a potential settlement without going to court.
But about six months after they filed legal claims – which are precursors to lawsuits – county supervisors directed that outside lawyers be hired in preparation for the cases turning into lawsuits. The first suit was filed last Thursday.
Janine Madera, a prosecutor at the DA’s office who leads a network of dozens of female prosecutors known as DAWN, said she’s disappointed that the county didn’t follow through on the settlement agreement put forward by the county’s risk assessment team and agreed to by all parties.
“The settlement would have acknowledged that these women were wronged and allowed them to move on,” Madera said.
“Litigation will be difficult not only for these women, who will have to re-live all of this in a public forum, but for the witnesses and for the entire district attorney’s office.”
The county’s attorneys do not deny that LoGalbo sexually harassed DA employees – harassment that was substantiated by the county’s own HR investigation by an outside attorney.
On the contrary, the county’s Aug. 24 report-out from closed session states that supervisors hired legal counsel to defend against lawsuits “arising from the sexual harassment of subordinate district attorney employees by former Senior Assistant District Attorney Gary LoGalbo.”
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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