A veteran Orange County executive who ran the government's Equal Employment Opportunity office is suing the county for gender discrimination and whistleblower retaliation because more powerful, male bureaucrats wanted her to help cover up widespread corruption.
Paula Kitchen, a highly praised county employee since 1996 and holder of a master's degree, this week filed her lawsuit, in which she claimed that a March 2012 promotion to EEO Compliance Officer did not come with a pay increase because of two men: Assistant CEO Rob Richardson and Steven Danley, head of human resources.
In a 35-page complaint, Kitchen–who was hired prior to Danley's arrival–claims she was not paid fairly and demoted five months into the job by Danley because of his gender bias and her “aggressive discharge of her EEO duties.”
According to the lawsuit, Kitchen became EEO officer “at a very critical time in Orange County” because of the grotesque Carlos Bustamante sex/power scandal.
During that period, female workers “were treated like second-class citizens, often harassed and not protected by their managers,” according to the lawsuit.
Kitchen describes the upper levels of OC government as a cesspool of corruption.
“Nepotism abounded,” according to the lawsuit. “Male employees made more money than similarly situated female employees. Members of the Board of Supervisors played favorites and ensured that former staff, primarily male, received plum assignments [when they left political jobs]. And the Republican Party ensured that [its] candidates, again primarily male, were accorded better treatment when job assignments were handed down.”
The plaintiff noted that her $49-per-hour pay did not increase after her promotion, but it was advertised as a $63-per-hour position after she was removed.
Kitchen claims Danley forced her out when she was conducting interviews into claims by another female county executive, Alisa Drakodaidis, about gender discrimination and two male Waste & Recycling department managers who allegedly regularly play golf games on county property during work hours.
Joel W. Baruch, Kitchen's Irvine-based attorney, is demanding a jury trial, damages and ultimately his client's reinstatement into the EEO job.
The lawsuit has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz.
County lawyers have not yet filed a response.