Sheriff’s Office Settles Sexual Harassment Case

A sexual harassment complaint against a top aide to Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary has ended with a $190,000 settlement.

Martha Passiatore, a bookkeeper who resigned in late January, received a cash payment March 5 when she agreed to end her federal sexual harassment lawsuit, according to legal papers. Passiatore accused her boss, Comptroller Brad Hurd, of sexual harassment and damaging her career for rejecting his advances.

The settlement, the largest during Beary’s six years in office and first for sexual harassment, stipulated that neither side criticize the other. The settlement is not an admission of fault. “This was in the best interests of both parties,” Sheriff’s Commander Steve Jones said. Passiatore declined comment. Her husband, Assistant Orange County Attorney Joseph L. Passiatore, was a party in the lawsuit but could not be reached.

Passiatore alleged that Hurd began to sexually harass her after she was hired in 1988 as the agency’s chief payroll officer. In 1993, the agency suspended Hurd for 40 hours after finding he made inappropriate sexual remarks to Passiatore and created a hostile work environment, according to the lawsuit and Sheriff’s records.

Hurd was on vacation and could not be reached.

Passiatore filed a second complaint in 1995, claiming Hurd retaliated by demoting her and cutting her pay by $12,000 to $36,600 a year. She claimed in legal papers that she suffered from “depression, insomnia, anxiety and stress” as a result of her treatment.

The settlement provided Passiatore $22,000 in back wages, $10,000 for loss of reputation and $158,000 to cover legal costs and medical bills. The Sheriff’s office also agreed to pay mediator costs of $2,000. In addition, Passiatore received administrative leave pay and unused vacation and sick time totaling about $4,000.