It was probably no coincidence that Kings County Personnel Director Henie Ring told the Kings County Board of Supervisors on April 18 that she is resigning and moving out of the county.
Ring, a 15 year Kings County employee, is listed as a witness to “unprecedented abuse” in a complaint filed by former County Administrative Officer (CAO) Rebecca Campbell.
Campbell filed an “injury and/or damage” claim against the Kings County District Attorney’s Office (DA) and the Kings County Board of Supervisors (BOS).
Campbell quit in June of 2021 and submitted her complaint a few months later on September 17 2021. Along with Ring, Campbell listed Lee Burdick and Robert Waggle as eyewitnesses to the abuse she suffered while working for the county.
Under “Description of personal injury” Campbell stated, “As a result of DA Fagundes unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial discretion and his conflict of interest into initiating an entirely unfounded investigation into my performance as County CAO, I suffered traumatic stress caused by an extreme fear of job loss and also caused by public and private ridicule from select members of the Board of Supervisors.”
In Campbell’s claim, she asks for $25,000 in damages to cover attorney’s fees, personal injury damages, and $10,000 in moving costs.
“I had to find employment quickly, and as forced to move in order to find an equivalent job. I am in need of therapy over this and my new insurance does not cover the costs,” said the complaint.
Campbell is currently assistant county administrator of San Luis Obispo County.
Campbell’s complaint also says that she was “informed that a whistleblower came forward disclosing that District Attorney Keith Fagundes was, without any factual or legal basis, initiating an investigation into me and three other highly placed, female county executives for purported ‘public corruption.’”
It is not known if the county paid Campbell. The county had no response to the claim because there is no lawsuit, said County Counsel Dianne Freeman. The claim was administrative in nature she said.
If the county made a financial settlement with Campbell there could have been an agreement requiring her not to discuss the matter publicly. A state Records Request has been filed with the county by the Visalia Hanford Lemoore Future to determine if there was any payout to Campbell in the matter and, if so, how much.
Campbell, 46, became Kings County Administrator in December of 2017 replacing Larry Spikes who retired after 24 years. But Spikes came back after Campbell left in June 2021 until Ed Hill, formerly the county’s public health director, became county administrator on September 6, 2021.
Fear of retaliation ripples through DA’s office
According to a Kings County resident, Ring was witness to many of the squabbles in the DA’s office besides that of Campbell’s.
The resident said that people who worked in District Attorney Keith Fagundes’ office went to Ring about complaints involving their treatment by the DA.
The resident is not being named in this article because they fear retaliation by the DA and the BOS, which includes the DA’s father Richard Fagundes.
Campbell’s complaint repeated the Kings County resident’s unease about the DA and BOS.
“As a result of DA Fagundes’ abuse of prosecutorial discretion and illegal conflict of interest directed toward me, I was compelled to hire an attorney to advise me and potentially defend me in my role as CAO against him. Also, I have suffered severe emotional distress, which my treating therapist has characterized as PTSD, and I continue to suffer every time I think of how I was treated by certain Supervisors and DA Fagundes while I was employed by Kings County as CAO and the permanent impact it has had on me professionally.”
This complaint is on top of Fagundes’ former chief investigator, Robert Waggle, who is suing the county for harassment. Waggle alleged in his suit, which includes sexual text messages from Fagundes, that Fagundes had a homosexual attraction to him. Waggle took early retirement because of alleged stress.
The Visalia Hanford Lemoore Future sent an email during the week of April 3 to Kings County Supervisor Chairman Joe Neves asking whether Campbell’s allegations against the two supervisors were true and who the supervisors she was referring to were. He did not reply.
When questioned on March 26, Fagundes denied any knowledge of the existence of Campbell’s complaint and denied that there was any whistleblower. He said Waggle’s suit is without foundation and that Waggle is merely looking for money from the county.
Neither Ring nor Campbell would comment for this article.
Allegation of high turnover during Fagundes tenure supported in public records request
Hacker wrote in a March 4 press release that under Fagundes’ watch, there has been “a huge rate of turnover,” and “only a handful of people are left since she left.”
Fagundes says that’s not true.
“The percentage of turnover is essentially the same as it has always been for the office dating back to the early 1980’s, and is certainly consistent with the current atmosphere state wide,” he told the Valley Voice.
Information provided in a Public Records Act request supports Hacker’s allegations.
Hacker forwarded to the Valley Voice a report obtained from the county through the Public Request Act documenting how many employees retired, quite, or were terminated during Fagundes two terms as DA.
The county’s report lists approximately 70 District Attorney’s office employees, including 34 attorneys who retired or were “terminated” in a seven year period. The report spans from January 2015, when Fagundes was elected, to December 2021.
“Terminated” is the designation given to those employees who also quit, as was the case for Hacker.
Hacker, who used to work for Fagundes as a deputy district attorney, described him as a “vindictive” manager.
According to the report, during Fagundes’ two terms numerous clerks have left including:
- Bonnie Riddle, clerk supervisor
- Brandi Miranda, clerk supervisor, left during Fagundes’ second term
- Leticia Heafy, support staff, left during Fagundes’ first term.
- Mandy Hansen, left during Fagundes’ second term
- Barbara Blackburn, left during Fagundes’ first term
Investigators who have left include:
- Robert Waggle, chief investigator, long-time Sheriff’s officer, who is suing the county for sexual harassment by Fagundes.
- Arend LaBlue, chief investigator before Waggle also left.
- Andrew Meyer, investigator, left during Fagundes’ first term.
- Karen Rivera, Strickland’s secretary and a long-time employee left. She was forced out by Fagundes, the Kings County resident said.
- Alexandra Smith, replaced Rivera and was later moved by the county to the Human Resources office. At one time she was Waggle’s girlfriend. Her reassignment is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Fagundes against the county.
It cannot be determined at this time the exact reason why these people left or were fired from the district attorney’s office but many, according to the Kings County resident, were dissatisfied with Fagundes’ administration of the office.
Kings County Sheriff said turnover is a problem
Kings County Sheriff David Robinson said turnover in the DA’s office has made it more difficult for his department to handle cases.
With “high turnover (you) lose relations on cases which make it a challenge,” he said. “Detectives develop expertise (they) need same thing with attorneys prosecuting. (You) can’t develop relations. It’s a collaboration. It (turnover) causes longer delays— you don’t have singular points of contact.”
Witnesses leave, move away, he said.
Robinson worked for DA Ron Calhoun in 2009-10. “In Calhoun’s office (there was) minimal turnover—just a few people.”
Robinson has endorsed Hacker for DA.
Fagundes responded to the allegations of creating a hostile work environment and high turnover by saying, “I have been very kind and patient with everyone in our office,” Fagundes said in an email response to the Visalia-Hanford-Lemoore Future. “I have always offered to assist people in any way I can. I never retaliated against anyone with whom I work.”
Fagundes said Hacker left the office and has been absent from criminal law for seven years. “Anyone with good intentions and the community’s best interest at heart would seek to improve perceived problems rather than wait for election cycle to do so.”
Fagundes added, “Any and all claims now coming forward are for political motives, as these people could have/should have voiced these alleged and perceived concerns in the prior two elections where I had wide margins of support.”