Santa Ana Councilman Carlos Bustamante was charged this week with 12 felonies related to criminal sexual harassment. In his role as an administrator for the Public Works Department of Orange County, Bustamonte allegedly used his position of authority to sexually harass and assault females employed by the County.
Investigators believe that over the course of eight years, Bustamonte may have illegally propositioned 19 women – all of whom were his subordinates – inviting them to his office where he would corner them, then kiss and fondle them. There are reports that Bustamonte also masturbated in front of some of the women and that the encounters were not limited to his office, but included cars, parking lots and elevators.
Criminally, Bustamonte has been charged with sexual assault against seven women. The remaining 12 women who were also allegedly assaulted by the administrator fall outside of the statute of limitations, barring prosecutors from pursuing convictions on those claims.
Among the many concerns the sexual assault charges raise for the County are how Bustamonte was able to keep things quiet for so long. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas noted that many female employees who’d been victimized by Bustamonte believed that his office was sound proof and no one would hear them if they screamed.
Also of concern for the female employees was Bustamonte’s apparent connections within the County. There was a fear that nothing could be done to stop him and that complaining of the sexual harassment and assaults would be career suicide for the women rather than for Bustamonte himself.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Sex-harassment scandal could lead to firing of top O.C. official,” July 6, 2012