The grim, graphic details are public, but sit silently in case files across Los Angeles County. Some lay out heartbreaking accounts of sexual misconduct by county employees, from verbal abuse to physical assault, including rape.

Few of the allegations have been written about before in news stories.

In response to a KPCC/LAist records request, county officials searched employment, general liability, medical malpractice and law enforcement legal filings to identify cases tied to sexual misconduct allegations. They identified 134 cases that ended with settlements or judgments.

In all, the county paid out more than $36.3 million — including $13.7 million in attorneys’ fees — to resolve these misconduct claims between July 2004 and June 2017.

L.A. County employs 108,000 workers across the sprawl of America’s most populous county. Its workforce is spread over 4,000 square miles and 34 departments.

To better manage and protect employees, the county adopted new workplace policies in 2011 and now describes them as a national gold standard. Among the program’s goals: shield government employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

Extensive public records from the county and local courts reviewed by KPCC/LAist show a giant government enterprise at times falling short of that mission.

The cases of abusive behavior include allegations of misconduct by county employees against colleagues, contractors and members of the public.

Among our findings:

A Pattern of Harassment

LAC + USC Medical Center is a public hospital that serves some of the poorest residents in the region. It was where county employee Gilbert Montejo worked, most recently supervising ultrasound technicians.

In the fall of 2010, one young woman was just weeks into her new job when her ordeal with Montejo began.

Montejo called her into his office, locked the door, switched off the lights and began making unwanted advances, she said in a legal claim that he responded to by denying wrongdoing. She was 23. He was 53.

The case resulted in a settlement. In her claim, the woman said Montejo touched her all over her body, in sexual abuse that eventually escalated into forced oral sex.

Three other female ultrasound technicians supervised by Montejo made similar allegations in their claims. Each described Montejo calling her into his office, repeatedly grabbing and kissing her against her wishes, and later asking her to keep his conduct a secret. (KPCC/LAist is not identifying people who alleged sexual assault by name in this article.)

The county ultimately spent nearly $870,000 in taxpayer funds to pay for attorneys and resolve sexual abuse claims against Montejo made by the four women.

The allegations made by the woman who began working for Montejo when she was 23 were graphic.

She alleged in documents filed in L.A. County Superior Court that while she was pregnant, “Montejo would call her into his office and, while putting his finger inside of plaintiff’s vagina, he would pull down his pants or take out his penis and masturbate. When he finished, he would wipe his penis with a tissue.” Montejo denied the allegation in a court filing. Attempts to interview Montejo were unsuccessful.

The woman’s attorney said her client, who was employed through a staffing agency, didn’t initially report the abuse because she feared losing her job at the county-run hospital.

Her case alone cost county taxpayers more than $500,000. She reported Montejo’s conduct on June 7, 2013, more than two years after she said it began.

And her attorney wrote in her claim that Montejo “was sexually harassing employees that he supervised as early as 2007.”

Five days after she filed her complaint, Montejo was suspended without pay for 30 days. A letter from the county’s resources division addressed him: “It is alleged you demanded, on multiple occasions, [the woman] to perform sexual favors for preferential treatment.”

Montejo initially contested the suspension. A letter written on his behalf states that he “specifically and categorically denies any and all allegations.” But he quickly dropped his challenge and retired.

Around that same time, complaints filed on behalf of other victims also claimed that Montejo, who controlled the schedules of ultrasound technicians, warned the women not to report his actions.

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