Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Facts Behind Planned $300,000 Pay-Out to DDA Withheld
Item on Today’s Board of Supervisors’ Agenda Is Cloaked in Secrecy as to Basis of Sexual Harassment Claim; Nature of Alleged Conduct and Culprit Are Unknown
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The County of Los Angeles appears to be on the verge of handing over $300,000 to Deputy District Attorney Karen K. Nishita to settle a sexual harassment claim, but the county won’t discuss what alleged conduct is at the root of the looming pay-out.
A spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said:
“Our office politely declines to comment.”
Recommendations for settlements are routinely approved by the Board of Supervisors, without discussion. The only information publicly available concerning Nishita’s claim is that which is included with the board’s agenda for today’s meeting.
A June 5 letter from Adrienne B. Byer, litigation cost manager in the board’s Executive Office, to Executive Officer Celia Zavala says:
“Attached is the Agenda entry for the Los Angeles County Claims Board’s recommendation regarding the above-referenced matter.
“It is requested that this recommendation be placed on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda.”
The attachment advises:
“Los Angeles County Claims Board’s recommendation: Authorize settlement of the matter entitled Claim of Karen Nishita, in the amount of $300,000 and instruct the Auditor-Controller to draw a warrant to implement this settlement from the Office of the District Attorney’s budget.
“This claim concerns allegations that an employee from the Office of the District Attorney was subjected to sexual harassment.”
No supporting documents are included.
The May 20 agenda for a closed-door session of the Los Angeles County Claims Board also provides no clue as to who in the District Attorney’s Office allegedly did what to Nishita.
Neither the statement of proceedings for that meeting nor the statement for a public session on June 5 reflects a justification for a $300,000 payment. The statements merely report a “yes” vote on the proposed settlement being cast by Byer, County Risk Manager Steve Robles, and Acting Auditor-Controller Arlene Barrera.
Settlements in excess of $100,000, except those entailing medical liability, require approval by the Board of Supervisors.
SB 820, signed into law last Sept. 30, will, effective next Jan. 1, ban secrecy as to factual allegations relating to settlements of workplace harassment actions but will apply only in the context of court or administrative law proceedings, not to the early-in-the-process resolution of claims filed pursuant to the Government Claims Act.
Member of Coterie
Nishita was a member of an erstwhile group of women described by one knowledgeable person as “a merry band of traveling judges and DDAs.” (Also admitted to the circle were a few criminal defense attorneys.)
Dozens of participants journeyed to Boston a few years ago to celebrate Nishita’s birthday.
A schism developed within the clique, however, when two members of it, both deputy district attorneys, competed last year in a race for a Los Angeles Superior Court open seat. Nishita backed Mary Ann Escalante, who lost to now-Judge Wendy Segall.
Nishita is a board member of the Southern California chapter of the National Asian Pacific Islander Prosecutors Association.
The attorney, 54, was admitted to the State Bar in 1993. Her law degree is from Western State in Fullerton.
She has not responded to emails seeking information on her claim, nor have others in county government to whom inquires were sent, other than the District Attorney’s Office spokesperson.
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company