Outside law firm slams Spitzer in harassment investigation

0

Share this article:

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer’s office committed a ‘hostile and offensive’ act by broadcasting an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations against a retired senior prosecutor – and best man at Spitzer’s wedding — to everyone in the office, according to the report from an outside law firm obtained Wednesday.

The company’s report, prepared by attorney Elisabeth A. Frater, was completed Aug. 2 but was obtained Wednesday through a Public Records Act request from the City News Service. Frater prepared the document as a follow-up to his initial investigation released May 7 into sexual harassment allegations against retired senior prosecutor Gary LoGalbo.

The county requested Frater’s follow-up report in response to complaints from attorneys for several female prosecutors who made harassment allegations, saying Spitzer and the county improperly released the initial investigation.

In the follow-up report, Frater concluded that county officials did nothing wrong in releasing the original investigative report in response to public records requests from the City News Service and other media.

But Frater determined that Spitzer’s subsequent release of the report to every employee in his office, as well as his subsequent comments on the document to a reporter, violated county policies.

Frater noted that the accusers were forced to participate in the initial internal investigation under threat of disciplinary action.

“Thus, the evidence supports a conclusion based on the preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Spitzer’s dissemination of information that the witnesses were compelled to give under threat of administrative discipline or dismissal, constituted abuse or misuse of the power held by Mr. Spitzer, and a reasonable person would find the office-wide release of the report hostile and offensive in these circumstances,” Frater wrote.

Spitzer declined to participate in the follow-up survey, as did his office spokeswoman Kimberly Edds and Spitzer’s top aide Shawn Nelson.

Frater’s original investigative report, completed on April 28, substantiated sexual harassment allegations against LoGalbo, who was accused of making inappropriate racial and sexual remarks to subordinates while bragging about being immune to consequences because he was Spitzer’s best friend.

A more serious allegation was made by a supervisor who said Spitzer pressured him to discipline one of LoGalbo’s accusers. Frater in the April report did not find that Spitzer retaliated against the woman, as he did not follow through on the threat to discipline her and also approved of her move from an intern to a permanent employee. .

But Frater concluded that Spitzer and Edds were not credible in their accounts of Spitzer’s interaction with the supervisor about the employee.


When the original investigation report was released to the media on May 7, Spitzer issued a statement saying the investigation concluded that his office “responded promptly and appropriately and that no employee made the ‘object of reprisal’.

Edds released the following statement on Wednesday:

“The first investigation was accompanied by what we now know to be a blatant false promise of confidentiality, provided both in writing and verbally to all those interviewed by the County Independent Investigator. Many employees who candidly participated at the first investigation naturally felt violated when the investigator’s report was first released by the county and not the district attorney.

“The decision not to participate in the second inquest was made because it was clear there would be no confidentiality the second time around. The district attorney felt it was unfair to the victims. The The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has and continues to fully support the victims of harassment at the hands of Mr. LoGalbo and his behavior in the workplace is simply despicable.

“…The independent investigation has cleared everyone of any wrongdoing except for Mr. LoGalbo. The independent initial investigation emphatically denied any allegation of retaliation by the district attorney or any of his senior staff. Any claim to the contrary is simply false.

“Any allegations of harassment or retaliation in the workplace – regardless of timing, potential motive or interpersonal relationships – have been and will continue to be thoroughly investigated.”

According to Frater’s follow-up report obtained on Wednesday, in a meeting with his office leaders on May 2, Spitzer said he had a copy of Frater’s confidential report and was under the impression that he would be released on May 7.

The supervisor of one of the LoGalbo accusers checked with an administrator in the office to determine if he had a responsibility to tell the employee, Frater wrote. The administrator said that the supervisor should inform the employee.

The woman asked if she would get a copy of the investigation report and grew increasingly anxious as release approached, Frater wrote. When Spitzer released his statement on May 7, the employee was “shaking,” the woman’s supervisor told Frater.

“Because the OCDA supervisor was concerned about the employee, the OCDA supervisor attempted to call Mr. Spitzer, who did not return the call,” Frater wrote.

The supervisor went to Edds and said the prosecutor wanted to see the report, Frater said. Edds said she had a copy and when the supervisor asked for it, she said, “OK, let me see what I can do,” Frater said. About 15 to 20 minutes later, Edds emailed the report to everyone in the office, Frater said.

“The OCDA supervisor said that when he or she saw the employee, that person was ‘absolutely shaken by it…physically shaken by it…because it was broadcast all over the office before (the person) as a victim had the opportunity to read it,” Frater wrote.

Frater interviewed seven accusers involved in the original review who expressed shock at the internal release of the report. One of the accusers said the report was written in such a way that it could easily identify all of the prosecutors involved from their colleagues.

One of the accusers said news stories generated by the county’s release of the report in response to requests for public record, meanwhile, were written in a way that did not identify them.

“None of them (news articles) named any of us or came close to giving away the amount of information the report provided,” one of the accusers told Frater.

The accusers said they believed the inquest would keep their identities confidential. One of the accusers said he felt the release of the report “had a chilling effect on others who might file complaints with the prosecutor’s office,” Frater said.

Some of the accusers said they cried when the report was released via mass email and continued to struggle with anxiety, Frater said.

A woman who alleged Spitzer called her a ‘liar’ and wanted her to be disciplined says she lost her appetite, lost weight and had to be ‘forced to eat and sleep’ “, said Frater. That prosecutor said she heard the judges read the report and commented on it, Frater said.

She said she was “extremely afraid of making mistakes at work because it could lead to dismissal,” so she finds herself doing “quadruple” checks on her work, Frater said.

The woman said she didn’t believe she could “leave this office even if I wanted to because who would hire me if I wanted to go to another prosecutor’s office knowing all this about me and knowing the situation I’m in, and the fact that the prosecutor-elect literally gave an interview to… a reporter about how I’m a liar and quoting something about my probation status that was… actually supposed to be kept confidential” , according to Frater.

Spitzer told a reporter his allegation of lying related to something outside of the LoGalbo investigation, Frater said.

Frater said county officials could have alerted accusers that they had the right to file a ‘reverse’ public records law request to block the release of the report to the media, but they were not required to. to do. Otherwise, county officials were correct in their legal analysis that the report should be released to the media, Frater determined.

Frater said she could not draw any conclusions about whether the internal release of the report was retaliation, saying the evidence was “inconclusive”.

She wrote, however, that emailing the report to everyone in the office allowed it to be passed on to defense attorneys and judges and others to expose the accusers to “gape and gasp.” humiliation, and had the effect of gratuitously sabotaging or undermining the professional performance of these lawyers.

Spitzer had no obligation to send the entire investigative document to all of its employees, and the county’s compliance with media requests for the Public Records Act did nothing to affect Spitzer’s obligations. Spitzer, Frater wrote in his report.

Outside law firm slams Spitzer in harassment investigation was last modified: January 19, 2022 through Contributing Editor

>> Want to read more stories like this? Receive our free daily newsletters here!

Follow us:

Twitter

Share.

Comments are closed.