Keith Fagundes, the Kings County District Attorney, filed a Writ of Mandate on October 4 demanding the county cease a pattern of allegedly retaliatory behavior against him. He claims in the petition that the behavior has been ongoing since the county was threatened with a lawsuit in July.
Robert Waggle has alleged that Fagundes repeatedly sexually harassed him over the course of two years and retaliated against him professionally. He also claims that the county knew it was happening, but failed to act to protect him.
He filed a claim against Kings County on July 6 and a formal lawsuit on September 8.
Waggle, who has since taken medical leave, was the chief investigator at the Kings County District Attorney’s office under Fagundes. He is being represented by the Law Offices of Lawrence J. Lennemann, a Los Angeles area firm.
As a result of Waggle’s claim and lawsuit, Fagundes alleged the Kings County Board of Supervisors and County Counsel have engaged in a series of retaliatory actions against him — one of which was a demand that he vacate his office.
“The County does not consider itself in a position hostile to Mr. Fagundes. The County is merely fulfilling its legal duty to investigate and respond to allegations of discrimination and retaliation […] Until the time that the investigation is completed, the County takes no position as to the truthfulness of the allegations Mr. Waggle has asserted,” a letter from Diane Freeman, Interim County Counsel, reads.
County Counsel advises the Board of Supervisors and it is the board that makes the final decisions concerning legal matters facing the county.
Only three members of the board can vote concerning Waggle’s lawsuit: Fagundes’ father, Richard Fagundes represents District 5, and a conflict of interest exists between Supervisor Richard Valle and Fagundes. Both supervisors have to recuse themselves.
Waggle lodged a government claim for damages on July 6 that accused Fagundes of “an extended pattern and practice of improper and unlawful sexual harassment.”
Waggle describes being repeatedly touched in a sexual manner, inappropriate text messages, and sexually explicit conversations with Fagundes.
He also claims Fagundes retaliated against him while working in the District Attorney’s office.
On September 8, Waggle filed a formal complaint for a hostile work environment, harassment, retaliation, and a failure by the county to take corrective action against Fagundes.
Waggle states he was diagnosed with severe anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder by the county’s medical examiner, who he claims states his ailments were a direct result of Fagundes’ actions.
Although Waggle’s legal filings contains a laundry list of what Fagundes claims is defamatory accusations about his former boss, Fagundes isn’t a named party in the suit.
Because of the seriousness of the accusations, Fagundes is considering intervening in the lawsuit against Kings County to defend his office and his reputation.
County’s alleged retaliation against Fagundes
Fagundes claims that the most egregious retaliatory action against him by the county was an alleged statement by county officials that his legal fees would not be reimbursed if he did not vacate his office.
A letter from County Counsel to Fagundes reads:
“The County of Kings, through its designee, will conduct an investigation of Mr. Waggle’s allegations. During the pendency of that investigation you shall physically vacate the premises of the District Attorney’s Office. You will not contact or approach any employees of the District Attorney’s Office about Mr. Waggle’s allegations from the present and through the course of the investigation and/or any subsequent litigation. You may however choose a designee from the District Attorney’s office whom you will communicate with for the purposes of the day to day management of the Office.”
The bottom of the letter, to be signed by Fagundes, stated, “I Keith Fagundes have read and understand the above information. Subject to the above conditions, I am requesting that the County of Kings pay for attorney’s fees and reasonable cost of my defense.”
Fagundes did not sign the letter.
The law firm of Melo and Sarsfield is representing Fagundes and stated the county can’t force Fagundes to vacate his office.
Melo told the Valley Voice that County Counsel serves at the pleasure of the Board of Supervisors, that the county is on its third County Counsel in six months, and that the board does not have the legal authority to vacate Fagundes’ office.
District Attorneys are state officers, not county officers, Melo said.
Kings County Supervisor Chair Craig Pedersen agreed.
“The Attorney General is the only person who can remove Fagundes,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen clarified that County Counsel did not request Fagundes to vacate his office but asked him to relocate and “work at a remote location.”
Fagundes has an office about a half-mile from the county office, he said.
In other alleged retaliatory actions taken by the county, Alexandria Smith, Fagundes’ personal secretary was moved from the district attorney’s office to the human resources office. In his claim Waggle stated he is currently in a relationship with Smith.
Fagundes’ suit says that Smith’s absence negatively impacted the ability of the office to process criminal prosecutions.
According to Fagundes’ suit, a precedent setting court decision states that “a county board of supervisors is not authorized to govern the actions of a sheriff or district attorney concerning the manner in which their respective budget allotments are expended or the manner in which personnel are assigned.”
Freeman sent Fagundes a memo stating that Smith was transferred after she “alleged she was being subject to retaliation and harassment by [Fagundes] due to issues related to a pending investigation.” Freeman, in another memo, told Fagundes that he was prohibited from entering the County Human Resources Department.
Freeman then sent a letter to Fagundes, forwarding an accusation by Smith that she was retaliated against by Fagundes when he showed up to eat at a local restaurant where she was also dining.
Smith, in the letter, said Fagundes knew that she and Waggle have a long standing tradition of eating lunch at this restaurant and that Fagundes refused to eat there because he had previously found a hair in his food.
Fagundes responded by saying he was with a professional group having lunch and did not have a say in which restaurant they ate.
Fagundes’ suit filed on Monday requests that the court tells “The County of Kings to cease its illegal interference with the operations of the District Attorney’s Office […] including asking him to vacate his office and attempting to make personnel assignments within the Office of the District Attorney over the objection of the District Attorney.”
His suit claims that the county is obligated, without making conditions, to pay his legal expenses.
The suit also states that the “District Attorney […] is the Real Party in Interest, (in Waggle’s lawsuit and is) otherwise entitled to intervene.”
“We were anticipating that if they did file a lawsuit, that certainly, they would’ve named Keith, but we were prepared to defend this and bring to light how many lies have been put in the complaint,” Melo told the Hanford Sentinel.
Melo said that Waggle is suing for workman’s compensation and hopes that Fagundes does not get involved.
“Then Waggle will receive a large payment, out of public funds, without Keith having the opportunity to defend himself. Then the public record of Waggle’s allegations stand and give the illusion that Keith lost the case.
This legal filing is putting the county on notice that Keith is thinking about intervening,” she said.
The Voice asked Melo why she believes Fagundes was not named in the suit.
“I don’t know, maybe they don’t want to deal with lawyers who will defend their client. But I look forward to discussing Mr. Waggle’s sex life in detail and all his sources of stress in his life,” Melo said.
“In today’s world it’s the deep pockets that get sued,” Pederson said.