Second of three parts. Read part one here.
Among the many issues facing Orange County government brought to the fore in the wake of the Carlos Bustamante sex scandal were the unintended consequences of the county’s decentralized human resources system.
Many say the reason why Bustamante’s alleged criminal behavior was allowed to go on so long was because the HR professionals in charge of investigating him worked for him.
Despite multiple claims of sexual harassment against Bustamante, then a Public Works executive and Santa Ana city councilman, a 2011 HR probe cleared him. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas later filed a dozen felony sex crime charges against Bustamante.
Upon announcing his charges, Rackauckas asked how county officials allowed a “wolf” like Bustamante to be kept in charge of his prey for so long.
Although former HR manager Kathleen Tahilramani left the county two years before Rackauckas filed his charges, she said she knows exactly how that came to be.
In a lawsuit she has filed against the county, Tahilramani alleges that top officials retaliated against her in her capacity as a human resources manager because she not only refused to skirt state selection rules for jobs at the county trash department but insisted that harassment complaints be investigated.
County officials have declined to speak directly to the issues raised by Tahilramani, arguing that an outside law firm examined all of her allegations and reported them to be unfounded. County supervisors, however, have refused to make that report — and others examining the conduct of executives and elected officials — public, citing attorney-client privilege.
Tahilramani’s allegations are similar to those leveled by former Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis and Paula Kitchen, the county’s former equal employment opportunity compliance officer. The allegations from these female executives also mirror an Orange County grand jury report that criticized a “culture of harassment” in county government.
Tahilramani began her career at the county after her graduation from Cal State Long Beach in 1979. After a few years in the Social Services Agency, she rose through the managerial ranks, administering public assistance programs. From there, she moved into Social Services’ human resources department and in 1996 transferred to central Human Resources.
Later, she was the HR representative for the county planning department and then for the library system before being promoted in 2007 to Waste and Recycling. In early 2008, after a short stint as assistant director of HR, she moved back to Waste and Recycling and was there until her departure in 2010.
At Waste & Recycling, she managed about a half-dozen staffers and administered the department’s hiring and promotions. It was during that period that she ran into trouble with then director, now CEO, Mike Giancola. Tahilramani eventually went on a stress leave and filed suit soon afterward.
Tahilramani sat down recently to talk with Voice of OC about her experiences, and we are publishing a three-part series based on the conversation about her lawsuit.
In today’s installment, Tahilramani details how insisting that harassment complaints be investigated ended her career.
Q: What can you tell us about the allegations reported to you involving salvaging allegations against then director and now CEO Mike Giancola mentioned in your lawsuit?
A: There was an incident at our Prima Deshecha Landfill, where an employee’s husband was making very serious allegations. It’s not my job to determine whether an allegation of a sexual assault is true or not. It’s also not my job, nor should it be, to investigate allegations made about my boss, whether I believe it or not.
I knew immediately that I was in over my head with this one, and I turned it over to central Human Resources. They asked me to write a summary of everything that had happened, and I did.
Source: Voice of OC