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The sexual harassment allegations against Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson

On April 17, 2015 Estrellita Ilee Muller, a former employee in the Sacramento city manager’s office, filed a sexual harassment complaint against Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

This is not the first time that Johnson has faced sexual harassment accusations.

During Johnson’s 2008 mayoral campaign, the Sacramento Bee reported that Johnson agreed to pay a $230,000 settlement to a 16-year-old Phoenix girl that he had mentored in the mid-1990s. She girl complained to the police that he fondled her, but Johnson denied her allegations.

According to the LA Times, “A federal inspector general’s report cited other allegations of sexual misconduct. One case alleged that Johnson had inappropriately touched a Sacramento high school senior. Although the girl later denied the story, the federal report detailed similar allegations about advances toward two young women involved in an inner-city program.”

The following are the allegations that Muller made against Mayor Kevin Johnson in her April 17, 2015 complaint:

Initial Incident on or about December 26, 2013: Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento (“Mr. Johnson”), had inappropriate and unwelcomed physical contact with the claimant in the Mayor’s private library at the City Hall of Sacramento. The incident included, without limitation, that Mr. Johnson’s security officer, Tom Sugawara, told claimant that Mr. Johnson was looking for her. When she went to him, Mr. Johnson asked claimant into his library, then closed the door. He gave claimant an unwelcome and close hug, pressing his body against claimant, then felt her along her torso. He pressed his body against hers and asked her if she “felt it.” He then attempted to kiss claimant. Claimant was forced to push herself away. He asked her to sit on the couch, which she did, felling coerced. He sat in front of her and continued to make advances. Mr. Johnson informed claimant that he had “had a thing” for her for the past four years. Claimant informed him she was married. Mr. Johnson proposed that claimant enter into a sexual relationship with him, asking claimant if she was “game.” When claimant responded in the negative, Mr. Johnson persisted; he requested that claimant not give him an immedicate answer but think about it. He stated that he would swing by her desk in the next few weeks and if the answer was “yes” claimant was to give him a thumbs up and if the answer was “no,” a thumbs down.

The City failed to take appropriate action to protect claimant from this incident or the subsequent incidents of harassment referred to below.

After the December 2013 incident described above, claimant experienced significant anxiety at the prospect of continued interactions with Mr. Johnson. She attempted to avoid all interactions with Mr. Johnson but was not able to. Mr. Johnson commonly visited the office of her supervisor, the City Manager. On these occasions, claimant would try to leave her desk or make a phone call or put her head down. Claimant was extremely anxious and uncomfortable in Mr. Johnson’s presence. On several occasions subsequent to the December incident Mr. Johnson made, or attempted to make, eye contact with claimant and shook his head or smirked.

Claimant complained to several representatives of the City regarding the conduct of Mr. Johnson on several separate occasions. She informed City representatives that she was experiencing a hostile work environment and that she feared she would be the subject of retaliation and further harassment. These City representatives offered no helpful advice and took no action in response to receiving the information. Plaintiff alleges on information and belief that Mr. Johnson had acted inappropriately with respect to other City employees and representatives in the past and that representatives of the City knew, or had reason to know, of facts establishing this. Notwithstanding this, City representatives did nothing to effectively deal with the situation or to protect Plaintiff and similarly situated employees.

The harassment continued. On or about July 8, 2014, Mr. Johnson stated to claimant “Hey lady … you are avoiding me.” On or about August 1, 2014 as claimant was seated at her desk, Mr. Johnson asked to see claimant’s hands. He then took both claimants’ hands in his and pulled them over her desk. He then manipulated her hands so her thumbs would go up and then down and said that he wanted to see if her thumbs woroked saying “some people’s thumbs are funny.” Claimant told Mr. Johnson that her thumbs worked fine but that they would never go up. After each of these incidents, claimant informed her superiors of the interaction.

On September 24, 2014, claimant complained to City Attorney, Jim Sanchez, regarding Mr. Johnson’s conduct. Mr. Sanchez sent her the City’s internal discrimination complaint resolution guide and sexual harassment policy.

On or about October 1, 2014, claimant was required to attend a meeting with Mr. Johnson, during which time he made a point of establishing eye contact with her.

On October 10, 2014, claimant filed a formal discrimination complaint with the City of Sacramento. Upon information and belief, City Human Resources Manager Kenneth Fleming investigated the complaint. Mr. Fleming informed claimant on October 15, 2014 or December 22, 2014 that he had never lost a case in his career with the City and implied that if his investigation resulted in a negative finding claimant would not have a chance of prevailing in her case. He never informed claimant that she was required to file a claim with the City to preserve her right to proceed in this matter. He treated claimant like the aggressor not the victim. Claimant felt attacked. Claimant cried uncontrollably at their December 22, 2014 meeting.

On January 2015, claimant was informed in writing that her complaint was denied as it was determined there was insufficient evidence to establish “probable cause.”

The sexual harassment allegations against Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson
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