Settlement in sexual harassment suit against Kings County $1.1 million

Editors note: According to a letter sent Friday afternoon to the Valley Voice by a reader who received it from the Diane Freeman, County Counsel for Kings County,

“Per Government Code §6254(b), records pertaining to pending litigation to which the public agency is a party, or to claims made pursuant to Division 3.6, are not disclosable until the pending litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled. The “Waggle lawsuit” remains pending litigation. Consequently, any documents pertaining thereto are exempt from disclosure.”

This most likely means that the two sides in the lawsuit have agreed to settle, but that the Kings County Supervisors have not yet voted to approve the settlement.

Kings County agreed to settle the sexual harassment filed by the former top DA investigator in the District Attorney’s office for $1.1 million, Visalia-Hanford-Lemoore Future has learned.

The county will not confirm a settlement was reached. The case stems from alleged behavior by District Attorney Keith Fagundes. Waggle worked in the DA’s office starting in 2010, according to the suit.

Visalia-Hanford-Lemoore Future made multiple attempts to reach county spokesperson Kyria Martinez by telephone. She was either not in her office or not at her desk, according to receptionists. Martinez is assistant Kings County Administrative Officer.

Further, County Counsel Diane Freeman, in response to a state Public Records Act request seeking a copy of the settlement agreement said in a November 21 letter “…the county has no responsive records.”

A check of the court calendar in San Bernardino County where the case was filed showed the case was still active. However, this is not unusual because some courts are behind in updating their records.

Waggle who came to the DA’s office after working at the sheriff’s department was promoted to senior investigator in the DA’s office in 2015, according to the suit.

Waggle is represented by Larry Lennemann of Los Angeles.

The county hired an outside attorney from Fresno to defend the case.

There was nothing in the Board of Supervisors’ agenda at their November 28 meeting to indicate that the settlement was discussed in closed or open session.

The case was originally filed in Kings County Superior Court but later moved to San Bernardino County to avoid conflicts of interest.

The core of the suit alleges that because of the harassment Waggle was forced to take an early medical leave on March 24, 2021 and that being unable to pursue his career until the normal retirement age, he lost both pay and benefits.

The suit claimed Fagundes touched Waggle in a sexual manner, sent inappropriate sexually explicit text messages, blatantly stared at his crotch and compared the size of his penis to various objects.

The suit alleged that Fagundes, would retaliate against anyone who opposed him. And when Waggle did not respond favorably to Fagundes’ advances, Waggle was stripped of his responsibilities and accordingly, Waggle had a difficult time performing his job, according to the suit. Fagundes began to retaliate against Waggle continually ostracizing him, ignoring him, excluding him, attempting to micromanage him by violating the chain of command.

In February/March 2021 there was a serious allegation involving a sitting member of the board of supervisors, according to the suit.

Then County Counsel Lee Burdick arranged to have an outside law firm investigate. She wanted the state Attorney General’s office to become involved but the state AG’s office refused unless the DA removed himself, according to the suit. Fagundes’ father Richard is a county supervisor representing District 5 which encompasses Hanford.

Waggle, according to the suit, made Fagundes aware of the conflict and that the state AG’s office should be investigating.

Fagundes refused to allow this and assigned the investigation to Waggle’s subordinate. Fagundes then altered the focus of the investigation to focus not on a county supervisor but on two women for supposed collusion, according to the suit.

Waggle said the DA’s office should not be conducting the investigation as Fagundes had personal animosities towards not only the two women but to women in power in general. Fagundes wanted to send a message, according to the suit, to those women that he—and not them—has the power and control.

In March 2021 Waggle voluntarily requested a demotion to ‘computer forensics specialist’ for which Waggle was indisputably qualified.

Fagundes denied Waggle’s request smirking and tilting his head, “It’s not good for the office. If I did allow it, it would have only been because of our personal relationship and that’s not there,” according to the suit.

Fagundes made clear his denial of a work benefit to Waggle was the result of Waggle’s refusal to remain in a personal relationship demanded by Fagundes.

The suit alleges that as a result of Fagundes’ improper and illegal acts Waggle began to suffer severe anxiety and panic attacks and other physical/psychological ailments.

Waggle was diagnosed by the county’s own qualified medical examiner with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Disorder directly resulting from Fagundes’ actions.

On March 24, 2021 Waggle was in the process of being medically retired at the age of 40 because of the severity of the distress and placed on leave.

The suit said Waggle had planned to work until age 55.  Because of his early retirement Waggle will get 60 percent of his salary rather than 90 percent.

If the lawsuit had proceeded to trial Waggle expected attorney’s fees predicted to be $650,000 – $800,000.

In a separate sexual harassment claimed filed against the county on July 6, 2021, Waggle said he was touched in a sexual manner by Fagundes, received inappropriate sexual text messages from Fagundes, and had sexually explicit conversations with Fagundes.

During Waggle’s divorce in 2018, Fagundes allowed him to move into an apartment owned by Fagundes. When Waggle offered to pay rent, Fagundes told Waggle “just being here was enough for (him).”

One of Fagundes’ text messages referred to by Waggle compared the size of Waggle’s penis to various objects and stated, “wow, I just can’t get it out of my mind.”

Fagundes texted a photo of statue of a man with a broken tennis racket with a caption: “When the racket on your tennis trophy breaks and now it looks like you won the award for masturbation.” Beneath this Fagundes wrote, “Why did I think of you when I saw this????”

Fagundes repeatedly discussed eating pineapples with Waggle. Fagundes stated that eating pineapple would make male ejaculation (“cum”) taste sweeter.

In another instance, when a package arrived for Waggle, Fagundes texted Waggle “cum over and see it.”

Fagundes also told Waggle that he “loved” him.

Fagundes has previously said the text messages Waggle is referring to represent a reality that is different from what Waggle is describing.

Fagundes dismissed the texts as “crude guy banter” adding that if the claims were true “…why did he let it go for so long.”

​Fagundes’ attorney said the timing of the suit, which was filed in July 2021, was aimed at Fagundes’ reelection campaign. Fagundes was running for his third term when he was defeated by Sarah Hacker, a former deputy district attorney in his office.

Prior to the suit and other controversies involving Fagundes, he was secure in his post and considered politically unassailable.

Reprinted with the permission of the Visalia-Hanford-Lemoore Future

2 thoughts on “Settlement in sexual harassment suit against Kings County $1.1 million

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  1. The Fagundes DA tenure will go down in history as the most perverse and shameful DA in kings county history. He will take his tainted legacy with him to the grave. He has shrouded his family’s name in a dark cloud that will remain. Mr. Waggle was brave enough to bring out this nightmare of a man for all to see. So scary that he was in a position of power such as an elected DA and fooled so many citizens. I can’t imagine Fagundes will be successful anywhere as an attorney after this settlement. I’m sure Fagundes will continue to spew excuse after excuse but this is proof that his perversion, conduct, indiscretions, and narcissism caused Kings County over 1 million dollars. Shameful.

  2. Thank goodness for the courage of Dave Robinson and Sarah Hacker. There were few people willing to openly stand up against the corruption in the DA’s office.

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