A wave of lawsuits from Orange County prosecutors against their own boss over his handling of workplace harassment issues continues to mount.
This week, three more prosecutors stepped forward, with one adding fuel to previous claims by another prosecutor that DA Todd Spitzer used racially-charged language that complicates criminal prosecutions.
To date, eight lawsuits have been filed by DA prosecutors – represented by two different attorneys, one of whom is a former prosecutor himself – alleging Spitzer enabled his friend Gary LoGalbo to harass female subordinates at the DA’s Office.
Two separate prosecutors allege in those lawsuits that Spitzer made racially inappropriate remarks.
Spitzer has denied the allegations, saying his racial comments were appropriate and that he acted immediately to protect LoGalbo’s victims.
Yet prosecutors told county HR investigators that Spitzer initially tried to retaliate against a victim who had come forward, and the HR investigator found Spitzer to be “not credible” in his denial.
This week, three more of LoGalbo’s alleged victims filed lawsuits saying Spitzer promoted LoGalbo – who had been the best man at Spitzer’s wedding – into powerful DA positions three times in one year despite warnings from his executives.
In one of those suits, a high-ranking 20-year DA prosecutor says LoGalbo and Spitzer both made “racially harassing” comments when handling cases.
“Mr. LoGalbo made statements to Plaintiff that cases should be assigned based on the race of the defense attorney, prosecutor, and defendant,” states the lawsuit by the prosecutor, who is identified as “Jane Roe Three” and served as a high-ranking leader on the DA’s Special Prosecutions Unit.
“Mr. Spitzer also accused Plaintiff of being afraid to prosecute a defendant simply because of the defendant’s race,” the new lawsuit adds.
In response, Spitzer’s office provided a statement defending his handling of the LoGalbo harassment allegations, but not addressing the new racial comment claim.
“The allegations of harassment were sustained against Gary LoGalbo,” said the statement from Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Kimberly Edds.
“The allegations that District Attorney Spitzer protected LoGalbo in any way or retaliated against anyone who reported harassment was completely unfounded by the outside investigator,” she added.
“In fact he did everything he could do to not only support the victims of LoGalbo and encourage any and all victims of harassment to come forward.”
The outside investigator, however, did not clear Spitzer of attempting to retaliate against one of LoGalbo’s harassment victims, noting testimony from DA staff who said they refused to go along with Spitzer’s wishes.
The allegations add to a string of allegations of racial bias by Spitzer – including remarks he made during in a death penalty meeting that drew red flags from proscutors in the room.
In mid-February, documents emerged showing Spitzer ignited a firestorm of concern from prosecutors and a lead detective after he made racial remarks about Black men dating White women when deciding whether to seek the death penalty against a Black defendant.
Voice of OC was the first news agency to report on the concerns and the memos at the center of it.
Spitzer ultiamtely acknowledged that at the Oct. 1 death penalty meeting, he asked prosecutors about the race of the defendant’s former girlfriends and said he had “seen Black men date White women in certain circles in order to have others around them be more accepting.”
In a scathing letter to the judge, the lead detective in the Buggs case wrote Spitzer ruined the death penalty case by making the racial remarks and then trying to cover them up by removing all the existing prosecutors from the case and dropping the death penalty effort.
Newport Beach Detective Court Depweg wrote to the judge that he had been told by multiple current and former DA officials that Spitzer “made an unsolicited, derogatory, and racist comment about Black men/persons” at the Oct. 1 meeting.
As for LoGalbo’s alleged harassment, a county HR investigation confirmed he preyed on multiple female subordinates at the DA’s office.
That county probe found Spitzer was “not credible” when denying he had attempted to retaliate against the first female prosecutor who had come forward about LoGalbo.
The ongoing storm of lawsuits allege Spitzer’s actions enabled sexual harassment by promoting the best man from his wedding into a senior position overseeing the DA’s branch court staff, despite knowing LoGalbo was a “pervert” in his personal life.
Spitzer has called those statements “untrue” in a text message to Voice of OC, but wouldn’t elaborate in response to further questions.
The new lawsuits note a second county HR investigation found Spitzer violated workplace policies by sending the original harassment investigation – which contained details that can identify the victims – to every employee in his office, and by trashing one of the victims in an interview with Voice of OC.
“The investigator concluded that Mr. Spitzer ‘flagrantly’ violated County [equal employment opportunity] and Abusive Conduct policies and acted with ‘malice’ towards Plaintiff and the other victims of Mr. LoGalbo, which created a hostile and offensive work environment, and ‘caused unjustified embarrassment and indignity to [Plaintiff],’ ” states the new lawsuits.
“Mr. Spitzer, himself, admitted the release of the report will create a ‘chilling effect’ on future victims of harassment within the OCDA,” the suits adds.
While the county’s independent investigator confirmed in two separate probes that women were subjected to harassment by men at the top of the DA’s office, the county Board of Supervisors has failed to take action, the lawsuit states.
“The Board has not taken a single corrective or preventative action towards Mr. Spitzer, their former colleague,” states the new lawsuits.
“The Board’s inaction has sent a clear message to Plaintiff, to County employees, and to all citizens of Orange County that harassment, discrimination, and retaliation when engaged in by politically well-connected men will be tolerated by the current members of the Board of Supervisors,” they continue.
“The Board’s inaction also has real work consequences to the employees in the OCDA. Some managers within OCDA, who now believe there are no consequences for their workplace behavior, have felt emboldened to publicly accuse Mr. LoGalbo’s victims of lying about their experiences, despite the clear findings of a third-party investigator.”
The five county supervisors either declined to comment or did not respond – citing the pending litigation – while Supervisor Katrina Foley added that she is “deeply concerned” about the new allegations.
Spitzer has touted his influence with county supervisors when talking with DA staff, according to the new lawsuits.
“He recently told OCDA employees that because of his prior tenure on the Board, he has a close personal relationship with, and ‘access’ to, all current Board members, intimating he can influence how they vote and how they govern,” the new lawsuits state.
Days before Spitzer was elected DA in 2018, one of his supervisor colleagues publicly warned him that they have a host of disparaging information about each other they could use against each other if they wanted.
Pointing to what he alleged was an effort by Spitzer to extort a county contractor for campaign money, Supervisor Andrew Do cautioned Spitzer that more of that type of information could come to light if he upsets his colleagues again.
“Now, I knew that information. I could have called out the maybe alleged hypocrisy, if not extortionary tactics performed on the dais right here. But I didn’t,” Do said at an October 2018 supervisors’ meeting, after expressing frustration at Spitzer for distributing a memo to reporters that upset Do.
“I just wanted to make sure that people don’t think that just because we don’t say things up here, that we don’t have information that we can use every day, in every meeting, to smear each other. Okay?” Do added.
The new lawsuits by DA prosecutors also allege Spitzer’s No. 2 executive at the DA’s office Shawn Nelson – who is running for judge – minimized LoGalbo’s harassment in order to protect Spitzer.
“Shawn Nelson, Mr. Spitzer’s second-in-command, declared to managers, in front of Mr. Spitzer, that ‘Gary doesn’t have any real victims,’ ” states one of the new lawsuits.
“Mr. Nelson also referred to Mr. LoGalbo’s female victims as ‘chicken’ for not coming forward earlier, even though everyone knew of Mr. Spitzer’s close relationship with Mr. LoGalbo.”
Nelson, who was a supervisor with Spitzer and Do until he was termed out in 2018, is considered the frontrunner in the judge seat he’s running for in the June election, having raised over $200,000 for the race and running with a “Chief Assistant District Attorney” job title on the ballot.
Nelson didn’t respond to a message for comment.
He is the only judicial candidate endorsed so far by the Orange County Republican Party.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.