LOS ANGELES — An executive hired to overhaul California’s troubled state mental hospitals is under investigation for alleged sexual harassment, it was reported.
Two subordinates filed complaints of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination against Kathy Gaither last month, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/12u6Akw ) Thursday, citing two independent persons with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
They asked not to be identified because they said they feared retribution, the Times said.
According to them, Gaither is under investigation by Shaw Valenza, a Northern California law firm that says it has conducted probes for state agencies in the past.
Gaither was hired two years ago as chief deputy director of the Department of State Hospitals. She was placed on paid administrative leave on July 15, shortly after the state Senate confirmed her permanent appointment.
The department’s acting director, Cliff Allenby, has said only that the extended leave was prompted by “unforeseen circumstances.”
Department spokesman Ken Paglia had no immediate comment Friday but said one might be issued later.
A call to a phone number listed for a Kathryn Gaither in suburban Sacramento was not immediately returned.
The paper said that shortly after her Senate confirmation, the hospital department relayed a subordinate’s complaint to the Health and Human Services Agency. The second complaint followed soon after, the Times said.
Gaither handled day-to-day operations of the state’s mental hospitals at a time when employee morale was low because of attacks by patients, one of them fatal. The department also is dealing with budget problems and emerging from years of federal oversight of some hospitals.
She slashed jobs and programs to deal with a nearly $200 million budget gap and has been criticized for an aggressive management style, the Times said.
A high-level staff member filed a complaint to Allenby and other officials last December contending that Gaither had “disrespectful bullying communication” with key department leaders and had a pattern of rude, disrespectful and punitive treatment of subordinates, according to a copy reviewed by the Times.
More than a dozen members of Gaither’s management team have left since Gaither arrived, the paper said.