Powered by Max Banner Ads
In the late 1990’s, as Orange County was working its way out of its 1994 bankruptcy filing, a media firestorm erupted regarding alleged sexual harassment and other “inappropriate behavior” involving a high level official in the Sheriff’s Department. The allegations involved Assistant Sheriff Dennis LaDucer. A recent article by John Seller of Cal Watchdog about disgraced officials receiving pensions provides this description: “Former Assistant Sheriff Dennis LaDucer was fired in 1997 amid allegations that he sexually harassed and groped female sheriff’s employees. The County paid more than $1 million to settle five harassment lawsuits against him, according to a 1999 report in the Los Angeles Times. As one of the top retirees, LaDucer got $10,251 in May, for a projected annual $123,012.”
Following that situation the County launched a training for all managers in all departments and agencies on the topic of a hostile work place, what it is, how to avoid it, and liabilities if you don’t. Attendees learned that sex is but one element of a menu of bad behaviors that create a hostile work environment. All kinds of bad behavior, including demeaning employees in the presence of other employees, angry outbursts, favoritism and retaliation can lead to a finding that a hostile work environment exists. The result can be personal liability of the person displaying such behavior and of course liability for the employer.
If you have been following the news about Orange County government and the sexually charged atmosphere that has been reported as swarming around Carlos Bustamante and now a fellow who heads the county dump operations, you may be thinking that all of County government is a hostile work environment. Especially when you read reports that the County Supervisors have been aware of some the inappropriate activity and may not have acted with diligent determination to investigate and root out any hostile environment creators.
So, it seems some 15 years after the LaDucer situation and the following effort to improve the culture within Orange County government we have history repeating itself, perhaps in a more wide-spread way. Sexual harassment is apparently alive and well in at least some parts of Orange County government, and other indicators of a hostile work environment seem to abound. It is time to dust off the County’s files from the late 1990’s training on a hostile work environment, update that material as necessary and train all current county executives, managers and supervisors. The elected officials should be required to attend as well. Above all, this training should start with the Board of Supervisors and their personal taxpayer paid staff because it is they who, through leadership or lack thereof, determine the organizational and operational culture of our County government. What they have allowed to occur on their watch is unacceptable.