Spitzer “Flagrantly” Violated Anti-Harassment Rules; Engaged In “Beyond Inappropriate” Conduct, County Investigation Finds
OC Watch has obtained the results of a second independent investigation conducted by Orange County stemming from the still unfolding sexual harassment scandal at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
The report, authored by Elisabeth Frater, a partner at the law firm Burke, Williams & Sorensen, concluded that Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, the county’s top law enforcement official, engaged in two separate incidents of misconduct in violation of the county’s Equal Employment Opportunity and Anti-Harassment “abusive conduct” policy.
The county’s independent investigation found that D.A. Spitzer “flagrantly” defied the county’s “abusive conduct” policy when he shared the results of a confidential county investigation into sexual harassment inside the District Attorney’s Office.
Spitzer sent the entire confidential report to over 900 people, including nearly 300 deputy prosecutors, 200 sworn investigators, and “every single person who works in an OCDA building including the clerical staff, the IT personnel and facilities employees[.]”
What makes Spitzer’s conduct so problematic is that employees of the District Attorney's office were told that they were required to participate in the investigation; that they had to be truthful about what they saw, heard, and experienced; and that their failure to be forthcoming with investigators could cost them their jobs.
In exchange for this forced transparency, these witnesses–which included women who were victimized by the sexual harassment in the office–were promised confidentiality.
But Todd Spitzer didn’t live up to his end of the bargain. Instead, he sent the confidential report to the entire office without taking even cursory steps to protect the identities of the women and men, including Gary LoGalbo’s victims, who came forward and spoke honestly during the county’s first independent investigation.
The fallout from Spitzer’s callous actions is best captured by a statement that one of the people who endured LoGalbo’s sexual harassment told the independent investigator: “the release of the report overshadowed the harassment itself.”
Spitzer, according to findings from the county’s independent report, “willfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences to the rights of the witnesses.”
According to Ms. Frater, the county’s independent investigator, one witness described feeling “embarrassment, powerlessness, and disgust” following Spitzer’s sending of the report out to the whole office. That person said that Spitzer’s actions “felt like an attempt to out us” because it “made no effort to hide our identities or release just a summary or redact our genders, ages, workplaces, anything like that” and that “to have it put out there in front of everybody without any control from me has been devastating.”
Now, according to this witness, people inside the office talk about the details of the report all the time, which makes “it feel like I have absolutely no power or control over when I get to think about this because I'm being forced to confront it and think about it, even if I'm not in the conversation with them, all the time.”
Another witness “felt shocked, violated, humiliated and devastated” by Spitzer’s action. Upon seeing that the report had been sent to the whole office, it made the person feel “physically ill to my stomach” and caused them to retreat to their car where they began “sobbing so hard [that they] could not physically drive the car.” The witness also said that as people discerned their identity, they were “publicly mocked.”
Yet another witness described having “a panic attack and cried the entire day” when Spitzer sent out the confidential report. Later, the person had to “choke back tears” during a court proceeding.
Another witness, who still endures “ongoing anxiety at work”, told the investigator that people in the office started “creating lists”, “writing down names of people”, and “crossing it out based on the descriptions” of who could have been the witnesses who came forward to reveal the sexual harassment that they had endured or witnessed.
That person told the investigator that they live in constant fear of retaliation. The confidential report that Spitzer released clearly illustrated that he had called one of the victims a liar and had intended to retaliate against the person. After reading that part of the investigator’s report, this witness said—“The question is, you know, when is that going to happen to me? To me, in my mind, it's just a matter of time.” Another witness said that they remain “terrified that I would somehow be disciplined for insubordination.”
One of the factors that drove the fear of retaliation, the witness told the investigator, is that Spitzer has engaged in “a lot of victim blaming” and “was not supportive of us” when “these allegations” against LoGalbo came to light. Another witness echoed the point, calling Spitzer’s actions a “revictimization of the victims”. Yet another witness described fear of retaliation stemming from Spitzer’s character assassination of the victims of sexual harassment in the office, including calling some of LoGalbo’s victims “terrible workers.”
It’s impossible to read the harrowing statements from these witnesses and not come away with the realization that Spitzer’s actions caused incalculable damage to the mental health—and perhaps the careers—of the people who came forward in order to bring to light the sexual harassment by Gary LoGalbo, a close personal friend of Spitzer’s and a person who Spitzer personally elevated to leadership in the office.
Yet, that accounting significantly understates the devastation that Spitzer’s actions have caused to the broader office culture. When Spitzer released the confidential report, he “had to have known that it would have, at the very least, a stressful effect on the people who were involved and a chilling effect,” on future reporting of harassment in the office, one of the witnesses told the county’s independent investigator.
Another witness made the same point, describing what has become a “hostile work environment” at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office: “I don't think anybody going forward, if they’ve experienced sexual harassment is ever going to come forward because everyone that did come forward [was] thrown under the bus.”
Yet another witness said: “I am so concerned that no one is ever going to report again in our office and what I thought was going to be my participation and contribution to maybe changing some things and the culture in this office has become just a nightmare. I think I've done the opposite. I think I have probably made it so that nobody will report and this kind of stuff will be allowed to go on.”
Taking these factors into account, the independent investigator describes Spitzer’s actions variously as “hostile”, “offensive”, and an “abuse or misuse of power”. Moreover, because Spitzer sent out the report “without any controls on how it was used” it “exposed the attorney-witnesses to gawking and humiliation and had the effect of gratuitous sabotage.” Spitzer’s actions were also “undermining of those attorneys’ work performance” and caused “unjustified embarrassment or indignity” to the staff, many of whom were victims of the very sexual harassment being investigated.
What the independent investigator found to be “beyond inappropriate”, however, was Spitzer’s effort to “deflect the negative evidence about his own actions.” After the county’s initial confidential report had concluded–the same report that he shared with the entire office–Spitzer told everyone who would listen, including the media, that the report had fully exonerated him.
As Ms. Frater explained in the county’s second independent investigative report, however, Spitzer’s claim is false:
We’ll stay on top of this story. And for fuller context on the still unfolding sexual harassment scandal in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, read OC Watch’s last two reports:
Todd Spitzer Has A Long, Documented History Of Problematic Behavior. Now He Faces A New Lawsuit Alleging Illegal Workplace Retaliation.