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Culture of "abuse" continues after Bustamante arrest, women say

August 7, 2012 |  5:25 pm

Carlos Bustamante
In the wake of the Carlos Bustamante sex scandal, a group of women is calling on the state attorney general to conduct an independent investigation into what they allege is Orange County’s continuing failure to protect employees.

The allegations were contained in a letter  sent Tuesday to Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris.

The group, which included members of Orange County’s largest public employee union and the California National Organization for Women, said that since charges were filed against Bustamante, the county has failed to take any action to make sure that county employees feel safe.

Attorney General Letter

“They go to work every day and nothing has changed,” said Jennifer Muir, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn. “They deserve to know that the culture that allowed these abuses to go on for so long will change.”

Bustamante, a Santa Ana city councilman, was arrested last month before a council meeting and charged with 12 felonies and four misdemeanors in connection with the false imprisonment and sexual assault of more than seven women over eight years.

Bustamante, who had been an executive in the county's public works department, allegedly assaulted the women in his county offices. 

Following the arrest, several high-ranking officials with the county have left , resigned or have taken a leave. Several top county administrators were aware that women had complained about Bustamante but delayed for nearly a year before asking the district attorney to investigate.

Kim Salter, a member of the California National Organization for Women, said the county should have strict guidelines to regulate complaints and issues that employees may be facing.

She said 16 months--the time it took between the first complaint and when charges were actually filed against Bustamante --was too long.

“When you find a victim, many times, there’s more,” she said. “There’s a pattern.”

Supervisor John Moorlach said that so far, there hasn’t been any policy changes in light of the Bustamante case, but said changes were “forthcoming.”

“We’ve certainly made some personnel changes, and we’re certainly in process to improve our training,” he said.

A spokesman for Harris said her office would review the letter once it was received.

--Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: Carlos Bustamante, right, in court with attorney James Riddet. Credit: Associated Press