Former Santa Barbara County Public Defender James Egar recently filed a lawsuit with the Santa Barbara Superior Court against County Administrator Michael Brown, alleging that he suffered discrimination, harassment, retaliation and assault at the hands of the executive.
The 51-page suit filed last Thursday names both Brown and the County of Santa Barbara as defendants, alleging that during Egar’s six years as public defender for the county, Brown repeatedly subjected him to “hostile and abusive tirades in which he became visibly angry and red-faced, yelled, screamed, and swore.” The suit further accuses Brown of allegedly insulting, threatening and spitting at Egar, who now seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
According to the complaint, the alleged feud between the two spawned from Egar’s efforts to improve the allegedly unsafe and unhealthy working conditions at the district attorney’s office, which he said represents mostly poor clientele. The suit states that the work overload was causing health problems for his overworked employees and potentially “adverse immigration consequences” for his clientele.
Egar’s attorney, Janean Daniels, could not be reached for comment. Egar also declined to comment on the case and Brown could not be reached. Brown has stated in past interviews with separate publications, however, that the claims are “false and malicious” and denies any wrongdoing.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who serves as chairman of the board, declined to comment in depth on the case, but said the county is conducting its own investigation into the allegations to determine if there is any validity in the accusations against Brown.
Firestone called the allegations “without merit and unfortunate,” and pledged that the county would “vigorously defend itself against this suit.” He also said he had the “utmost confidence in the professionalism” of Brown.
“In my opinion, from what I’ve seen, there is simply no basis for the allegations,” Firestone said. “But that is just my personal opinion. As far as I know, he left the county and now he’s suing us.”
This is not the first time Brown, a county administrator since 1996, has come under fire for alleged controversial statements and behavior. In 2001, he took a two-week unpaid leave of absence after making allegedly inflammatory comments about Islam at an annual state of the county address in Buellton, according to reports at the time.
A few years later in 2004, Santa Barbara County agreed to a $925,000 settlement with former Personnel Director Ann Goodrich, who had filed a suit against Brown alleged she was “harassed, subjected to a hostile work environment and…[that she was] discriminated against.” In news reports at the time, Goodrich also alleged that Brown had made inappropriate comments about women and minorities, but did not elaborate on those accusations.
The County Administrator is a member of the Santa Barbara County Executive Office. The administrator is appointed by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and manages the county’s government.