Orange County supervisors Tuesday voted to pay out $1 million to settle two civil lawsuits filed by victims of former county executive Carlos Bustamante, who is serving time for sexual misconduct involving five women with whom he worked.
Lorena Martinez and Jackelyne Mora will each receive $500,000 to settle their cases against the county. None of the other victims sued the county, according to county spokeswoman Jean Pasco.
Two other Bustamante-related lawsuits are pending. Former Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alisa Drakodaidis and former Public Works Director Jess Carbajal have claimed wrongful termination.
The former Santa Ana city councilman, who was sentenced in January to 364 days in jail and ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, is doing his time behind bars in a city jail.
He must serve at least 182 days of the sentence stemming from his guilty plea to felony counts of attempted sexual battery and stalking, and misdemeanor counts of attempted sexual battery, simple assault, grand theft and false imprisonment.
Bustamante will have a chance to ask a judge in three years to reduce the felonies to misdemeanors, and, ultimately, he may also seek to have the convictions expunged from his record.
The county was seeking $8,498 in restitution, but it was unclear if that issue has been settled.
Bustamante, who was arrested in July 2012 while on his way to a Santa Ana City Council meeting, was ultimately charged with sexually assaulting six women with whom he worked between 2003 and 2012 while he was an Orange County Public Works executive. He was convicted of victimizing five of the women.
Prosecutors said he also stole up to $4,029 in county funds by misleading co-workers into thinking he could use tuition reimbursement funds and expenses for meals to cover part of the costs of Harvard’s Kennedy School training program. He admitted stealing $3,150.
The Bustamante scandal led former county CEO Tom Mauk to get pushed out of his job in May 2013. It also prompted officials to reform the way sexual harassment claims are reported and investigated.
“It’s very frustrating that we ever had to deal with this,” Supervisor Shawn Nelson said. “It’s really frustrating that this kind of thing goes on in the workplace. I would think the world would be pretty much up to speed now on sexual harassment and how inappropriate it is in the workplace. It’s just ridiculous — like there’s no one else left in the world you need to have this explained to.”
Nelson, who was on the county board at the time the scandal broke, said the supervisors moved quickly to discipline Mauk, whose job was placed on the agenda for discussion days after Bustamante’s arrest.
“I just wish as an individual I could have done something earlier,” Nelson said.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer issued a statement saying that while the board’s action “cannot erase the damage caused to his innocent victims, we hope the monetary settlement will ease the pain of the damage he caused.”
“We offer our sincerest sympathies to those who suffered at the hands of this former county manager’s criminal conduct,” he said.
–City News Service
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