This is the Hard Way to Converse About Sexual Harassment, But Here Goes

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As the brunt of the most recent post on Liberal OC, entitled Theories on Julio Perez Case Stretch Imagination, Suggest Incompetence” quotes directly from me, but I’m not allowed to post there and take part in a conversation, I’m going to largely return the favor.  We’ll just have to converse this way, I guess.  My comments will be in indigo; Dan “Chumley” Chmielewski’s are in walrus-sputum green.

Yes, I know that this is drool — but it might have *some* sputum in it!

Let’s start with my original comment on Matt Coker’s article, which among other things took a swipe at Planned Parenthood for having given Perez an award and suggesting it be retracted:

As for Julio, it’s hard to know what to make of the all the alleged newly uncovered allegations. I do vaguely recall him talking about discipline (of the non sexual variety) in the union movement, *the union* being one’s “master” whose interests one must serve faithfully.  This would have been in the context of my critiquing (or, in his eyes, quibbling over?) some union stance with which I disagreed.  In other words, they term conveyed the message that, even when he was not the one calling the shots, he was an operative who must stand in solidarity with those who do.  That’s *completely consistent* with the text of the reported comment.

Coker here repeats a notion implying that he was informing the intern that she had now unwittingly entered into a “master/slave: relationship with him *personally*. This is *compatible* with the reported words as well – but that construction of them seems far-fetched.  I saw Julio in lots of social and work situations with women, and I *never* recall seeing the sort of shows of dominance towards them that this would suggest.  I can’t rule out that this was *intended* in a malicious way – or more likely that the intern could have taken a comment about fealty to the movement as one regarding sexual submissiveness, it’s just so extraordinarily weird that I’d expect such a kink to have been visible often and elsewhere.

As for “this is porn,” Coker doesn’t consider the obvious question: *what WAS on the CDs*? I get that Julio hasn’t returned his calls (perhaps on a lawyer’s – not me! – advice) but isn’t there eventually SOME journalistic responsibility to note was even the ALLEGED higher-order hearsay evidence SHOWS?

One possible scenario: Julio kept pornographic videos in his office and either coming on to this intern, along the lines of “go home and watch these tonight and contact me when you’re sexually aroused, or keep these in mind when tomorrow morning I take you into my broom closet.” I don’t want to pre-judge anything, but this seems like a REALLY bad pick-up line, especially for an intern he just met. If he really was inclined to try it once, presumably he had tried it multiple times on various women; that should have likely to come out by now. (That or he’d just [been] clonked hard on the head that day and was out of his mind.)

A second: he was just an idiot bully trying to torment her with, say, some old AOL disks as props. Possible, but I’d want some corroboration.  He GOT that award because women liked and respected him.

A final possibility is that – maybe site [sic] down before reading on, Coker — *the word “Porn” is sometimes used in a metaphorical rather than literal sense*. Certain cooking shows or movies are sometimes described as “food porn”; some money flaunting/investment shows are “wealth porn.”   What IS this metaphorical usage? It means roughly “something designed to appeal to the watcher’s animalistic instincts for gratification.”

What CDs might Julio have had in his office that he might call “porn”? How about anti-union videos produced by union-busting firms (at least some of which are in OC) to convince workers to reject unionization efforts by presenting them “enhanced” facts designed to appeal to their greed and (who knows, I don’t watch that stuff) perhaps an enjoyable angry sense of superiority.  In other words, “porn” would be a *negatively* coded term there , for “this is something bad produced by bad people, so I may want you to watch it to see what we’re fighting against, but I’m warning you about it so you don’t get ‘turned on’ by it.”

Julio hasn’t been in contact with me directly or indirectly since this story broke, and I had no idea it was coming up, but – knowing Julio’s politics and his dry sense of humor, I’d certainly want to know from those around him *what CDs he kept in his office*, and from his interns what if any role they had n training. If they came in covers reading “How to Bust a Union in 3 Easy Lessons,” he might have presumed that the joke would be obvious. Regardless, he’d have been negligent there by not recognizing that a young intern might have essentially have gone into a blind panic at his words and not NOTICED that the CDs were NOT actually porn.  That mistake would warrant employee counseling, but it would be the sort of thing that such counseling would likely fix – unlike the salacious inferences we’re here invited to make.

As a friend, I can’t pursue this credibly. But COKER could send a reporter – a woman, maybe? – to OCLF and its former employees to ask such questions. It’s WAY past time to do so. I DO take this VERY seriously Editor – now, YOUR turn!

As for the LibOc story’s title: I’m very glad to have stretched Chumley’s imagination and I hope that he was not injured in the process.  (He should have done more warm-ups first, to be safer.)  As for my suspicions about what may have happened: yes, my version suggests some weakness (which I don’t know that I’d call “incompetence”)  in a particular area at a particular moment — the sort of weakness that might be addressed in informal counseling (along the lines of: “Julio, don’t say that again, some people may not get it.  Any recurrence will lead to a formal warning in your personnel file.”)  Ironically, the inability to distinguish between petty incompetence and gross incompetence itself suggests at least grosser incompetence on the part of the critic.  But given that he doesn’t seem to know that the word “porn” can be used in a non-literal sense, that’s not surprising.

Now let’s consider my comment on OC Weekly about OCYD Chair Danielle Serbin, who was NOT (so far as I can tell) harassed by Julio Perez herself, but was passing along another unidentified woman’s story — it’s not clear to me whether it was with the other woman’s permission — because she thought that this # metoo account should be made public.  The story was a weak excuse for another shot at Perez, and once again repeated the notion — seemingly based on the misconception the Serbin was presenting her own story — that she had shown conspicuously bravery in the press release.

If Danielle Serbin now devotes her efforts to uncovering sexual misconduct going back as many years at Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher – the conservative Republican union-busting law firm at which she is an associate – I’ll be far more impressed and her bravery. Getting the whole real history on OCYD’s past would also be admirable.  Otherwise we’re picking and choosing.

An interlude: Chumley blocked out the name of the law firm where Serbin works, which is not just public information, but WAY public information.  (It’s online on a state database!)  I didn’t redact it, because I think that it’s relevant.  The issue is largely about who will become the target of various allegations and who won’t.  Serbin would face no problems from her employer or its clients for facilitating an attack on a progressive union leader.  Yes, maybe she would gain merit points from them for doing it, but I don’t make that accusation.  The critical thing is the absence of consequences to her in making or publicizing such an accusation.  If she, for example, went after information about any sexual misconduct among her bosses, as I suggest, then she would be endangering her livelihood and I would be impressed with her bravery.  Where she works is directly related to that calculus.  Just in case: folks, do not contact Serbin’s employer.  Even if there were other better ways to proceed — such as conveying this information to the OCYD Board of Directors rather than to everyone on the planet — her error there would have been relatively mild — although Perez might disagree — and came as she faced a difficult situation.  Unlike Chumley’s post, her action does not strike me as having been deliberately malicious.  (Just my opinion.)

In her statement, Serbin acknowledges that OCYD has had its share of problems in the past.  I’m going to surmise that Serbin knows at least as much about them as she does about what supposedly happened at OCYD — and yet she’s NOT divulging those stories.  That may be because doing so would threaten her status within the group or the party, or it may be because she feels that she has some fiduciary duty to OCYD, or some other reason.  Regardless, it strikes me as a double-standard at best or, more likely, hypocritical — and that bothers me more.  (It doesn’t bother Chumley, as he is reliably on the side of those with power who want to wipe out insurgents.)

I can provide a list of former OCLF leaders who would probably be able to advise Serbin on the group’s actual history — some of whom I like, some of whom I dislike, and some of whom I don’t know well — if she’d like to work on the “clearing the air” about # metoos happening there.  And she SHOULD want to do that if — as I expect — she is legitimately concerned about the problem.

Back to my statement:

Chumley preceded my comment with this introduction:

Orange Juice blogger Greg Diamond spent considerable time on a reply to an OC Weekly story about the OCYD #MeToo panel to suggest journalist Matt Coker do some journalism and consider several alterative [sic] facts in regards to a sexual harassment investigation against OC Labor Fed chief Julio Perez.

Chumley — who unlike me has never been before a judge or a jury in any harassment, discrimination, or retaliation proceeding — mixes up “facts” and “theories.”  I have no facts to present, alternative or otherwise, beyond that I think that he’s used the term “master” to me in a similar context in which it was clear that he was talking about the union movement rather than a person.  I’ve never pretended otherwise.  But I’ve tried to convince triers of fact (meaning both judges and juries) of cases a lot stronger than this hearsay evidence, and I have some idea as to how they are defended.  Nothing I mentioned would have been atypical of such a defense — and if there was nothing more to it than the accuser would have been chewed up in a deposition.  As hearsay, of course, this “case” against Perez would never have made it past a demurrer.  And, without knowing who made the claim and allowing defense counsel to confront (including depose) the plaintiff, it wouldn’t go further than that if it did.  That rankles my sense of fair play — but not Chumley’s, as he doesn’t seem to have one.

It’s kind of hard for Coker to follow up since Perez isn’t returning calls and no one is really talking. Diamond start’s [sic] his comment by doxing OCYD president Danielle Serbin’s employer making a subtle suggestion that her #metoo bombshell press release was issued in response to “anti-union” legal work her employer allegedly does.  Classy of Greg, but not true as Serbin acted in her capacity as OCYD president with the approval of her board of directors.

I’ve addressed much of this above.  Reporters are good at getting people to talk; if Chumley doesn’t believe me, I know of someone close to him that he could ask.  I got at least one person talking, so it can be done.  Chumley flat out misunderstands the point about Serbin — he may be unfamiliar with the phrase “pick and choose,” I guess — which is not about doing her employer’s bidding but the fact that slamming an effective union organizer was going to in no way get her in trouble.  (Can you imagine her doing this if the perp was one of her employer’s clients?  If so, good for her!  But….)

Here’s what journalists do — some of which I DID because I was interested if this was a legitimate charge.  (It would make me sad if it turned out to be true — but I’ve dealt with greater sadnesses, and with higher-placed idols that turned out to have feet of clay.  An adult accepts the truth and moves on.  I’ll bet that I did so with Bill Clinton well before Chumley did.)

First, I’ve asked various people who might have been in a position to know if they knew what CDs Julio had in his office and what if any he used in training.  None of my sources knew of any.  If I had Coker’s resources, I’d try to find people who had been trained by Perez but were no longer at the Labr Fed and see whether this was part of the standard routine or was a one-off.  As for “master,” I’ve asked two other people who talked to Julio a fair bit whether they recall him using the term “master” and if so in what sense.  One wasn’t sure.  The other did remember it and it was in the exact same sense than I recall.  Now, give me a budget and a posse of reporters and I’d have the waterfront covered.  (OCLF did have other interns, after all.)

I’ve blocked Diamond on social media but it doesn’t stop friends from forwarding me his crazy commentary and posts on a regular basis.  Here’s what he wrote in response to Coker’s story without addressing the additional women who have come forward to accuse Perez of inappropriate actions or comments.

That’s nothing.  I’ve had to block Chumley’s ability to text me, phone me, and his ability to email me!  Beyond that, I don’t know if there ARE “additional women” accusing Perez and I don’t know the substance of those accusations.  He touched women at parties?  Well, in law, we’d analyze whether that constitute battery in terms of objective reasonableness and subjective reasonableness.  A light tap on the shoulder is not the same as a smack on the butt, and touching someone one knows is not the same as touching a subordinate stranger.  Not commenting on these supposed accusations without knowing more is simple fairness.

Here’s what Diamond wrote as the sole comment on the story (I had to retype and tried to type exactly including his typos). I’m impressed by his knowledge of porn and sexual practices, but his logic fails on so many levels:

Yeah, I’ve been making a lot more typos since my stroke, especially with my affected left hand.  (For example, I keep on typing “Liberal OC” as “Liberal OX,” which I regret because it is unfair to oxen.)   As for my “knowledge of porn,” the knowledge I expressed is that the word “porn” is often used non-literally, which is not something I had to learn on a street corner.  (I’d really worry about this guy if I cared about him.)  As for “knowledge of sexual practices”: I suppose from his vantage point he ought to be impressed, but I don’t think that I mentioned any.  (Sorry to disappoint him.)  I did opine that saying “know who your master is” would be an awful pick-up line if (1) you’re referring to yourself and (2) you’re not the guy from “50 Shades of Gray”; but I’ve neither read nor watched that so I don’t actually have much of an opinion.  (Note to Chumley: pick up lines are not themselves “sexual practices.”  Again, sorry to disappoint.)  Chumley’s understanding of my logic is equally dense.

So let’s accept all of Diamond’s explanations about Perez and assume each choice is true.  What we have is the universal theme of “victim shaming” or “victim blaming.”  Additionally, if any option is true, it demonstrates that Perez is a lousy communicator and a poor manager of people.

I’m somewhat heartened by Jennifer Muir Beuthin’s social media comments regarding the ongoing investigation.  Muir Beuthin wrote:

“OCLF takes all matters involving sexual harassment very seriously. That’s why earlier this year we adopted a policy to handle allegations of discrimination and harassment. And it’s why the Board hired an independent attorney to investigate these allegations.  As you know….it is critical that this process be conducted fairly and thoroughly, and that’s what we are doing.  Please give everyone the space and time necessary to do this thoroughly and appropriately. We will let you know when we have more information to report.”

There are many that doubt OCLF will conduct a fair investigation; Perez is on leave and there are a number of concerns these accusations will be swept under the rug.

I think that Beuthin’s response is entirely on point.  OCLF is proceeding the correct way, with an outside (confidential) attorney investigation and her request should be heeded.  Chumley, by contrast, is simply being a thug and trying to “play the ref” to make sure that OCLF gets rid of Perez, because that’s what the people who tickle his belly want from him.  (Another metaphor there.)  With that “there are many that doubt,” Chumley sounds like Fox News, in which he has invested.  There are many who think that Chumley is a Republican plant, but that’s no proof.  As I’ve mentioned above, if this was simply Julio’s dry and wry humor at work, his bosses on the Board would have been entirely appropriate to tell him to cut it out, because not everyone gets that sort of thing.  Is this good cause (which probably wasn’t needed) for firing him, if it was misunderstood wit?  That seems really unlikely — not when someone’s so good at his job and a recognized advocate of women’s rights.

If the women accusing Perez or former DPOC Executive Director Erik Taylor really want the #metoo campaign to succeed, they need to come forward and share their stories with investigators.  A social media post making an accusation only raises questions that need to be answered, and the answers are not likely found in the wild imagination of Greg Diamond, but the answers are needed for action to happen.

There, actually, we agree: and that’s why the investigation has to be done by an attorney who can shield the identity of witnesses.  As for the clumsy swipe at me: again, I’ve never claimed to have the answers — but I know that if there are benign explanations for ambiguous actions, you had better be able to show that those explanations are unlikely if you want the charge to stick.  That goes for lawyers, police, journalists, whistleblowers — and even large aquatic mammals intent on destruction.

If anyone can explain to me the “failing logic” of my post — ideally under your own name — let me hear it.  My sense is that the real problem is that I’m “conversing” with a dolt.  But Chumley is welcome to comment here, although his white supremacist friends may not be.  (It’s OK, they have little of value to add.)  Or he can let me comment there freely on this item.  Bet on neither happening.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)