Tuesday, August 20, 2002
County Panel Calls for Settlements in Sexual Harassment, Driving Cases
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
A county claims panel recommended paying nearly a half million dollars to settle six claims, including $88,000 for a clerk in the Public Defender’s Office who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after her male supervisor repeatedly made sexual comments to her and attempted to have sexual conversations with her.
Clerk Lana Stoops was promoted to deputy clerk III and transferred to the Data Systems Division of the Public Defender’s Office in August 1999, where she worked until she was placed on disability stress leave in January 2001. Stoops said she became depressed and suffered anxiety after being sexually harassed by her supervisor, Marcus Leon. She has not returned to work.
In December 1999 Leon told Stoops he had books about sex and could “answer any questions she had about the subject,” according to a County Counsel report prepared for the Claims Board.
In April 2000 Leon began making repeated sexual comments about the way she looked, touched her thigh when she was wearing a skirt, and tried to have conversations about sex with her, according to the county report.
Stoops filed a sexual harassment complaint with the county’s Office of Affirmative Action Compliance and an investigation was initiated.
During the investigation Leon admitted some of the conduct, but he said Stoops welcomed it, according to the county report. Stoops denied it was welcomed.
The investigation found that some, but not all, of Stoops’ allegations were true, and that Leon had violated the county’s sexual harassment policy.
Leon has been disciplined by the Public Defender’s Office, but his discipline is not a matter of public record, Chief Deputy Robert E. Kalunian said. Leon still works for the office, he said.
In addition to the $88,416.12 settlement, the board also approved a total restoration of the vacation and sick time Stoops used while trying to cope with the alleged harassment.
The claims panel also approved an award of $21,954.56 for property damage to a man who was rear-ended while sitting in freeway traffic by a sheriff’s deputy who fell asleep at the wheel of his patrol car.
On June 7, Julio Kollerbohm was stopped in traffic on the I-10 Freeway when the deputy traveling about 50 miles an hour in his patrol car hit him from behind.
The Fire Department had to cut the roof off of Kollerbohm’s 1995 BMW 740i to get him out of the car. Kollerbohm suffered injuries to his neck and back and his car was a total loss, the county report said.
The deputy later discovered he had sleep apnea, a condition that occurs when a person regularly stops breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep and causes the sufferer to sometimes fall asleep at inappropriate times, including while driving, eating or talking.
The deputy was removed from field duty for a medical evaluation, department spokesman Deputy Harry Drucker said.
Kollerbohm’s personal injuries are still being evaluated and the settlement is only for property damage.
A $150,000 settlement for a woman who was injured by a Department of Health Services employee who fell asleep at the wheel of her jeep and hit her head-on was also recommended by the panel.
Doreen Kates was driving southbound on Sepulveda Boulevard on June 1, 2000 when Christie L. Matheson, a health educator, fell asleep and crossed the center line, striking another car traveling southbound and then crashing head-on into Kates’ car at about 40 miles an hour.
According to the county report, Matheson, who was returning to her office from a meeting, claims she fell asleep because she was tired and it was a warm day.
Kates suffered injuries to her neck, back, right wrist, right elbow, and right knee and has been receiving medical treatment continuously since the accident.
Matheson resigned from the department on Jan. 18, 2001.
Settlements over $100,000 must be approved by the county Board of Supervisors.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company