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Investigation: LA County's reported employee sexual misconduct includes 134 cases, $36M in payouts

A KPCC/LAist investigation showed Los Angeles County paid out over $36 million to resolve sexual misconduct claims from July 2004 and June 2017.
Michael Hogue for KPCC
A KPCC/LAist investigation found Los Angeles County paid out over $36 million to resolve sexual misconduct claims from July 2004 and June 2017.

The grim, graphic details are public, but sit silently in case files across Los Angeles County. Some lay out heartbreaking accounts of sexual misconduct by county employees, from verbal abuse to physical assault, including rape.

Few of the allegations have been written about before in news stories.

In response to a KPCC/LAist records request, county officials searched employment, general liability, medical malpractice and law enforcement legal filings to identify cases tied to sexual misconduct allegations. They identified 134 cases that ended with settlements or judgments.

In all, the county paid out more than $36.3 million — including $13.7 million in attorneys' fees — to resolve these misconduct claims between July 2004 and June 2017.

The cases of abusive behavior include allegations of misconduct by county employees against colleagues, contractors and members of the public.

Among the findings:

  • Some employees who filed formal complaints said they never heard back from county authorities. In other cases, the county's response was delayed months and sometimes even years.
  • Staffers for then-Supervisor Michael Antonovich talked about the need to "protect" their boss as they allegedly violated county policies in handling a workplace harassment case involving colleagues.
  • An outsized share of the county's sexual misconduct cases originated within the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
  • In several cases, the amount the county spent on attorneys' fees rivaled or topped the payout to victims.
  • KPCC/LAist reviewed the text of 90 of the settlement agreements provided by L.A. County. Forty-one of them included language regarding nondisclosure or nondisparagement, prohibiting the people who say they suffered sexual misconduct from speaking out.

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