SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) – The Orange County Grand Jury has determined that a high number of allegations of favoritism linked to sexual relationships between employees of the Orange County District Attorney Bureau of Investigation is “problematic,” according to a report released Tuesday.
After conducting almost 100 interviews, the grand jury found that “the sheer volume and pervasiveness of the perception of favoritism and retaliation based on sexual relationships is problematic as that perception alone can create a hostile work environment.”
The grand jury stated that during its investigation, it heard “numerous complaints” that sexual relationships had led to “preferential treatment and retaliation” within the DA’s investigation bureau.
Several employees told the grand jury they believed that promotions and job assignments in the bureau over the past two years may have resulted from “sexual encounters.”
In its 19-page report, however, the grand jury emphasized that it could not confirm the veracity of any of the allegations.
The grand jury found that several of the alleged relationships involved bureau supervisors and subordinates that could “hurt morale” by leading to “claims of favoritism or cause other coworkers to feel uncomfortable and create a hostile work environment.”
The DA’s current policy does not prohibit relationships between supervisors and subordinates. The grand jury recommended that such relationships be forbidden.
In its findings, the grand jury stated that the bureau’s sexual harassment training isn’t adequate and that its process for assigning jobs needs to be transparent. It also determined that the bureau is run more like a police department than a law firm. This prompts a “code of silence” from employees.
OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas released a statement that read, in part:
“The OCDA takes this issue seriously and has been conducting its own internal personnel investigation for the last seven months, taking appropriate actions as necessary. I have requested that the OCGJ turn over any specific information on actionable items so we can bolster the current investigation; I eagerly await their response.”
The Orange County legal system has been under fire in recent years over claims of misconduct and corruption. The DA and Orange County Sheriff’s Department faced allegations of a large-scale jailhouse informant program. However, earlier this month, the grand jury determined that those allegations were “unfounded.”
While it found violations in a small number of cases, the grand jury blamed “significant media coverage, finger pointing, and speculative rhetoric” for heightening the issue.
The report was in response to a scandal in Orange County over how authorities used jailhouse informants to chat up suspects. Once suspects have lawyers, authorities can’t use informants to extract information from them.