United States Senator for California Kamala Harris speaks at the “Families Belong Together: Freedom for Immigrants” March on Saturday, June 30, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
Kamala Harris must be the most hands-off boss ever, if the statements her office issues after each potentially sticky issue comes to light are true.
After it was discovered that staff attorneys at the California Department of Justice argued in a prison overcrowding case that they needed to keep certain prisoners who were otherwise eligible for parole locked up because their cheap labor was needed in kitchens, gardens, and fighting fires, then-AG Harris claimed that she had no idea such an argument was made by her staff, vowed to find out who allowed it, and directed them to not do it again.
When Don Rosenberg and his wife badgered Harris to explain why her office had allowed Roberto Galo, an illegal alien who repeatedly drove without a license and was suspected of DWI when he plowed down and killed Rosenberg’s son, to plead to misdemeanor charges and serve only 45 days in jail, Harris’s assistant sent a generic sympathy response and claimed to not know what happened in the case.
Most recently, when in response to the Sacramento Bee’s Public Records Act request it was revealed that $400,000 was paid in 2017 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit involving Harris’ senior adviser (and decades-long confidante) Larry Wallace, Harris said she was not aware of the case.
Now, the Los Angeles Times has learned (in response to a Public Records Act request) that the California Department of Justice paid out more than $1.1 million to settle sexual harassment lawsuits while Harris was serving as the state’s Attorney General.
Shockingly (sarcasm alert), Harris claims she was unaware of the settlements, but:
“As the chief executive of a department of nearly 5,000 employees, the buck stopped with me. No one should face harassment or intimidation in the workplace, and victims of sexual misconduct should be listened to, believed and protected. In my Senate office, if a harassment complaint is made, it immediately comes to me,” Harris said Thursday. “No office is immune to misconduct, and there is much more work to do to ensure all are protected.”
Larry Wallace’s settlement wasn’t even the largest.
“The largest settlement from Harris’ time as state attorney general was a $649,500 payment in 2013 to James Rodriguez, who was then a special agent with the DOJ. He claimed that the agency harassed and retaliated against him and failed to take corrective action when he filed complaints about the alleged treatment.”
The most egregious part about Rodriguez’s suit is that the 2013 case was the second lawsuit he’d filed against the DOJ. In 2010 Rodriguez received over $500,000 “after a jury determined that the DOJ had failed to take reasonable steps to prevent retaliation or harassment against him.” In 2013 he filed another case because he had been subjected to continued harassment and retaliation.
After the Rodriguez case, the DOJ paid almost $100,000 to settle a case brought by Anaclato Alviar, who claimed a co-worker had forced him into an empty office, dropped his pants, and asked Alviar to perform sex acts on him. Alviar refused, and when he reported the incident to a supervisor he wasn’t protected; he was simply told to not work with the perpetrator at times when they wouldn’t be alone.
One “expert” told the Los Angeles Times that in the grand scheme of things the dollar amount paid in settlements and the number of cases involved wasn’t that big a deal. If we believe that the only incidents of sexual harassment, retaliation, and intimidation were the ones in which civil actions were brought against the DOJ and settled, that might be true. There are too many similarities, however, in the cases to believe that they don’t represent the CADOJ’s prevailing culture. When victims reported the cases and asked that they not be forced to work with the perpetrators, they were ignored. If victims went beyond the culture of silence power structure, they were retaliated against. If victims were successful in transferring to another division within the department, they were still retaliated against and denied opportunities to promote.
Kamala Harris was the head of that department for more than six years. It’s naivete in the extreme to believe that Harris didn’t understand the type of culture she was perpetuating. She’s either a great hands-off boss with terrible character judgment, or she’s not telling the exact truth.