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O.C. Board of Supervisors rejects proposed settlement of harassment claims

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer speaks during a news conference.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer speaks during a news conference for the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force 2021 Victim Report earlier this year at the Anaheim Police Department. He has downplayed his association with Gary LoGalbo, a retired senior prosecutor accused of harassment.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a proposed settlement and voted to hire an outside law firm to defend the county against sexual and racial harassment claims lodged against Gary LoGalbo, a retired senior prosecutor for the Orange County district attorney’s office.

The supervisors met in closed session on the proposed settlement put forth by the county’s risk assessment team, as they did at the Aug. 10 meeting, then announced that they have directed the county counsel’s office to hire Sheppard Mullin, with attorney Tracey Kennedy assigned to lead the defense of anticipated litigation.

Eight claims of harassment were previously filed regarding LoGalbo, who was best man at the wedding of Orange County District Atty. Todd Spitzer, who has downplayed his friendship with LoGalbo since the scandal. The county counsel’s office released a 162-page report in May on the claims.

The internal probe ordered by the county counsel’s office in December was prompted when a district attorney’s office employee who was leaving his job made a remark the first week of November about alleged inappropriate behavior by LoGalbo and whether anything would be done about it.

Then, the Orange County Attorneys Assn., which represents prosecutors and public defenders, made a formal request on Nov. 10 as to whether there had been any sexual harassment claims made regarding LoGalbo, who
was Spitzer’s roommate for a time.

The first public report by the Office of Independent Review states the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s use of force policies lack clarity and that deputies are filing late or incomplete force reports, and training instructors have spread bias and endorsed violence.

The internal report, which was prepared by attorney Elisabeth A. Frater, concluded that “the allegations of discrimination against LoGalbo are sustained” and that “derogatory comments made by LoGalbo were motivated by racial, ethnic or national origin animus and bias, and also constituted harassing conduct as defined by” the county’s policy.

Frater, however, rejected allegations that the district attorney’s office failed to promptly investigate and remedy LoGalbo’s act of harassment.

It took 35 days from when the departing employee made the remark about LoGalbo on the way out the door and when he was placed on administrative leave, Frater said. LoGalbo immediately announced his retirement.

The report ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence to substantiate a claim that Spitzer retaliated against one of the women who complained of harassment because Spitzer ultimately signed off on a positive
review of her employment, which allowed her to clear probation and become a permanent employee.

Frater, however, doubted Spitzer’s and his public information officer’s account of a meeting with one top prosecutor regarding whether the employee should be “written up” for an email she sent to human resources
about fear of participating in an inquiry because she thought it left her vulnerable to dismissal.

The report provides numerous accounts from multiple witnesses regarding lewd and inappropriate sexual and racial comments allegedly made by LoGalbo.

Some of the more explosive allegations involve claims that LoGalbo had a “foot fetish” and had hung up in the office of another prosecutor a stress-ball that resembled a “sperm.” The object was produced as an
advertisement by a company the office was doing business with regarding DNA testing.

In one instance, when a discussion occurred in the office about several prosecutors going on maternity leave, LoGalbo allegedly said, “You ladies need to duct tape it up,” according to the report.

In another discussion about an attorney who is Muslim, LoGalbo allegedly referred to him as a “terrorist,” and also, on other occasions, said how it was appropriate that an Asian prosecutor would be taking a case regarding an Asian defendant, according to the report.

LoGalbo was also accused of joking he would put a men’s pornographic magazine on the desk of Assistant Dist. Atty. Shawn Nelson.

Some alleged he inappropriately touched them, and one employee said he would ask her to sit in his lap, according to the report, which said several of the women said they were warned about LoGalbo being “a perv,” with some telling investigators they tried to laugh off the outrageous comments or would roll their eyes in a way to let him know it was not acceptable behavior.

One woman broke down in an interview with a human resources executive in the D.A.'s office because she felt ashamed for not coming forward sooner, according to Frater.

In a Dec. 30 interview with Frater about the harassment claims, LoGalbo said he first met Spitzer in 1990, but then refused to discuss his relationship between the two, the attorney wrote.

LoGalbo said, “I had to deal with a difficult, a couple of difficult employees unfortunately, which is what led to this whole thing,” according to Frater’s report, which also says he claimed two accusers fabricated the
present allegations against him as a result of their own work-performance issues.”

Many of the women said LoGalbo was a good boss otherwise, according to Frater’s report.

Spitzer insisted in his interview with Frater that if he had known about the allegations, he would have gotten rid of LoGalbo as soon as possible.

One accuser sent a letter to Frater on Jan. 15 in response to a request for an interview, saying she was afraid to participate because she feared losing her job. She was on probation at the time as a new hire.

The man visiting this harassment upon us is not only a friend of the elected district attorney, but he was actually the “best man” at his wedding,” she wrote in the email to Frater. “Imagine how stressed the female prosecutors in this office must be. So who determines if we are telling the truth?”

The probationary employee’s boss accused Spitzer of demanding that she be “written up” because the county’s top prosecutor was angered by the email she sent to Frater and believed she made “untruthful” claims in the
complaint, according to the report.

Frater found the allegation unsubstantiated but only because the employee was not written up and was granted a permanent position.

An Orange County Superior Court judge has approved a request by state prosecutors to drop a host of rape charges against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend.

Frater found Spitzer’s account of his meeting with the unnamed top prosecutor not credible and also doubted a claim from his public information officer, who was present for the impromptu meeting at the West Justice Center in Westminster, that she was not paying attention and did not hear the exchange.

Frater concluded “any allegations that Spitzer would have either ignored reported sexual harassment or would have retaliated against a victim or witness who reported sexual harassment prior to this investigation is
speculative.”

The whistleblower’s evaluation was marked “exceeded expectations” by her supervisor, and the supervisor’s boss left a Post-it note on it for Spitzer saying she should not be written up, according to the report.

On Feb. 8, Spitzer told the supervisor that he signed off on the positive evaluation, and on March 31 the employee cleared probation.

Spitzer told Frater that he recalls having a conversation at the courthouse with the woman’s supervisor and just asking “how she was doing,” according to the report. He emphasized that he didn’t want her to feel she was
being retaliated against.

Frater found that Spitzer’s and his public information officer’s accounts of the discussion with the supervisor were “not credible on this incident.”

Frater added that the public information officer is “a former reporter and was presumably trained to accurately observe and recall events. In addition, her responses about even being in the room during the discussion
Spitzer had with [the supervisor] were markedly inconsistent and evasive.”

Frater concluded that the supervisor had no motive to “lie or fabricate” the discussion about the woman’s job evaluation and that his account was “indirectly corroborated by his immediate discussion” with another executive about the meeting. Also, the supervisor immediately reported the incident to the county EEO office, Frater said.

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