Judge declares trial quashed in Evaluator Contra Costa misconduct case
MARTINEZ – Although he apparently lost this week’s election for a supervisor seat, Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer could at least keep his current post after a judge said on Friday the quashing of the trial in the misconduct case against him.
Superior Court Judge John Cope’s action came after a jury said it could not unanimously decide whether Kramer was guilty of making sexual comments to his employees and uttering an ethnic insult to a worker, thus creating a hostile work environment.
Trial stems from Contra Costa County Civilian Grand Jury finding that Kramer should be removed from office for “willful or corrupt” misconduct and creation of a hostile working environment.
The the complaint he investigated alleged that from 2013 to 2019, Kramer made sexual comments repeatedly at women working in his office and ethnically insulted a male employee.
But after a trial in which Kramer’s lawyers portrayed him as the victim of a smear campaign by ambitious women and a disgraced employee, the jury could not agree on whether the allegations constituted workplace harassment under state law or whether he should be fired from duty .
The only thing the jurors could agree on was that Kramer did not create a hostile work environment for a young former employee who testified that he told her she looked “hot” on a wedding dress photo and once crouched down next to her and asked her to print some documents from the computer.
Although lawyers did not probe jurors, Cope declared the trial canceled because they could not come to a unanimous conclusion on the allegations of three other witnesses. This is what would have been necessary to revoke it.
The process of removing elected municipal or county officials through a grand jury charge alleging “corrupt or willful misconduct” is rarely used, although permitted by a 1943 state law. was continued as criminal proceedings, although a guilty verdict would have led to impeachment instead of a prison sentence.
“We are disappointed with the verdict,” said Scott Alonso, spokesperson for the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors are assessing whether to retry the case, he added.
A hearing is scheduled for November 17 to determine next steps.
Kramer’s attorney, Michael Rains, said in an interview on Friday that the experience reminded Kramer how comments can be interpreted in the workplace and to be more careful.
“He took it not just as a learning tool – but something that he incorporated or tried to incorporate into his office,” Rains said.
However, he added, “the things that can still make people uncomfortable – in the law – do not reach the level of hostile work environment as defined by the courts or the law. herself”.
Kramer, who was re-elected as assessor in 2018, has two more years to serve. He ran against Federal Supervisor Glover for the District 5 Supervisory Board seat in Tuesday’s election, but early feedback indicates he will lose that contest.
During the trial, witnesses said Kramer bragged to employees about his “conquests” with women, made sexual comments about women’s bodies and sent inappropriate text messages to an employee who sent him a message. texting while on vacation.
Kramer told two workers at the assessor’s office that he gave a female relative a vibrator as a Christmas present, they said. Another employee said Kramer told a graphic story or joke about people having anal sex and made racist comments to another employee, including using an offensive ethnic slur while talking to an employee and telling them that “white men would never vote for af * ***** Mexican.
Kramer did not take a position during the trial, but Rains disputed those allegations in court, saying two of the employees essentially resolved their issues with Kramer in 2015 when their concerns about some comments he made were brought to knowledge of an assistant assessor. After the assistant assessor relayed the complaint, Kramer said he would no longer talk to employees about anything other than business, Rains said.
Kramer confirmed the deal and had almost no contact with the women, Rains said, adding that some of the claims were either exaggerated or fabricated. He brought witnesses to the stand to testify about some of the perceived motivations of the employees who made the allegations against Kramer, calling one of the accusers “manipulative.”
Kramer, who was first elected as a non-partisan assessor in 1994, also has an ongoing civil lawsuit against the county related in part to the misconduct allegations.
In 2018, when a county investigation found “it was more likely than not” that Kramer made “inappropriate” comments to two employees, the supervisory board voted to censure Kramer and fired the matter. to the civil grand jury.
Kramer then sued the county, claiming he failed to hand over the no-confidence vote documents and violated open meeting laws by discussing the matter behind closed doors. The trial remains open.
Kramer declined to comment for this story, relying on Rains.