Wednesday, October 3, 2001
Supervisors Approve $2.3 Million for Sheriff’s Department Anti-Bias Training
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The county Board of Supervisors yesterday voted to add nearly $2.3 million to an already hefty price tag to satisfy a federal court order that came out of a 20-year- old sexual discrimination lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department.
The board voted 4-0 to approve the spending to fund two equality education programs to allow the department to comply with the court order stemming out of the 1980 sexual discrimination suit Bouman v. Baca.
The programs, which will be developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Public Interest Investigations, Inc., will educate the department’s nearly 20,000 employees on aspects of all types of discrimination and seek to change the department’s culture to favor a more “equity-based and respect-based culture,” Sheriff Lee Baca wrote in a Sept. 6 letter to the board.
“Our goal is to ensure the department’s culture is in line with the Sheriff’s core values,” Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton partner Doug Hart said, adding that Baca wants everyone in the department to be treated fairly regardless of their sex or other characteristics.
Hart has served as outside counsel for the department on the education programs for the past two years.
The department has already spent nearly $19 million in awards, fees, and court costs in dealing with the suit.
Susan Bouman Palomino, a sheriff’s deputy, filed a class-action civil rights suit against the department accusing the department of discriminating against her and other female deputies.
Seven years later a federal judge agreed, concluding that women in the department had been routinely denied equal opportunity when seeking promotion to the rank of sergeant.
After an unsuccessful appeal to the state Supreme Court, the department was forced to operate under a negotiated settlement—a consent decree—along with a set of judgments and federal court orders.
The education programs are a requirement of one of the orders, enacted in 1993, which also requires the department to have a lawful sexual harassment policy.
Yesterday’s vote authorizes the department to spend $2,273,136 on two contracts to develop the programs.
The department awarded a $1,988,000 contract to PWC and a second contract for $285,136 to PII.
Representatives from a PWC consulting division based in Chicago will handle the development and management of an equality education program for the department’s employees while PII will develop a program to train the department’s Equity Unit to effectively investigate and report on claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
Hart said the education programs far exceed the strict requirements of the court order, extending beyond harassment to include all forms of discrimination.
The board’s approval comes at a time when the department has come under fire for exceeding its $1.6-billion budget by $25 million, while continuing to spend money.
Baca riled the supervisors last week by purchasing a $2.4 million plane at the same time the department says it does not have enough money to ensure adequate medical care for jail inmates.
Sheriff’s officials have informed the Board of Supervisors that the department may be cited by the federal government for civil rights violations unless it spends more money to improve its medical treatment for inmates. Baca sent the supervisors a letter two weeks ago asking for $5.5 million more to pay for health care for the nearly 20,000 jail inmates in the department’s care.
The agency also settled a $27-million class-action suit last month over illegally holding inmates in jails. The sum of the settlement will be paid out over two years.
But Hart said the expenditure on the education programs is not only required, it comes at a good price.
“I think it’s reasonable for what’s being done,” Hart said. “We went out and found the best people to do this.”
The education programs are expected to be in place by the first of the year or sometime shortly after, Hart said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company