Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes accused of sexually harassing male employee

HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Kings County employee has accused District Attorney Keith Fagundes of sexual harassment.

The allegations are spelled out in a government claim filed against Kings County earlier this month.

The employee, who Action News is not naming, held a high-ranking position in the district attorney's office. Fagundes was his superior.

Attorneys for the employee, who is in the "process of being medically retired," say Fagundes' misconduct began as the employee was going through a divorce in 2018.

At that time, according to the claim, the employee moved into an apartment next to Fagundes' home. He tried to pay Fagundes for the apartment, but Fagundes refused payment.

"Fagundes began to repeatedly and inappropriately make unwanted sexual remarks to Claimant and began to send Claimant numerous unsolicited sexual comments, innuendos, memes, and photographs. (Despite Fagundes' requests/demands that Claimant delete these messages, Claimant has saved approximately 5,000 text messages from Fagundes.)"

The employee's lawyers then go on to list examples of what they describe as "Fagundes' extended pattern and practice of improper and unlawful sexual harassment."

Action News is not describing many of the allegations due to their graphic and/or vulgar nature, but a few follow below.

"Fagundes repeatedly made sexual comments regarding Claimant's body and clothing..."

"Fagundes repeatedly touched Claimant in a sexual manner;"

"Fagundes repeatedly blatantly stared at Claimant's crotch;"

"Fagundes repeatedly discussed his sex life with Claimant (i.e., "My sex life is so much better now that you live here") and "credited" Claimant with this improvement;"

"Fagundes sent text messages with improper emojis (i.e., kissing faces, kissing lips) and then requested that Claimant delete the texts (which a photo of texts to be deleted);"

"Fagundes texted Claimant about swimming nude and about taking a shower afterward;"

"Fagundes purchased underwear for Claimant as a "gift";"

"Fagundes told Claimant that he "loved" him"

Attorneys say the harassment continued after the man moved out of Fagundes' apartment in November of 2019, despite his "many requests for Fagundes to stop."

They add that their client's decision to move out angered Fagundes and caused their relationship to deteriorate.

"Fagundes began to retaliate against Claimant by, inter alia, continually ostracizing him, ignoring/excluding him, attempting to micro-manage him and by violating the chain of command. Fagundes began to have private meetings with Claimant's subordinates and fail to include Claimant in on the information discussed. Fagundes slowly stripped Claimant of his responsibilities/abilities to the point Claimant had a difficult time performing his job."

Attorneys say the employee was also denied a voluntary demotion by Fagundes in March of 2021. The employee then reported Fagundes' behavior to county counsel and the county's risk manager.

The claim states, "As a result of Fagundes' improper/illegal acts, Claimant began to suffer severe anxiety, panic attacks and other physical/psychological ailments and was diagnosed by the County's own Qualified Medical Examiner with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Disorder, directly resulting from Fagundes' actions."

Attorneys argue that the employee was severely damaged by Kings County, stating that, "The County's acts and omissions set forth above have resulted in and/or will result in Complainant suffering general damages and special damages (including, but not limited to, emotional distress and attorneys' fees)."

The employee, they say, will receive a substantially discounted retirement because he was forced to retire at a young age.

"The allegations made there are taken out of context," Fagundes told Action News in an interview this afternoon. "They're largely false. There may be some grain of reality in his mind, but they're largely misconstrued as well."

Fagundes says he has no plans to resign. In fact, he says he plans to run for DA again in 2022.

"There was some crude banter both ways," Maggie Melo, Fagundes' attorney said. "And this is not uncommon...some jokes were exchanged and things of that sort. Certainly not anything you wouldn't see on Facebook or even on television."

On Friday, Kings County issued this statement:
On July 6, 2021, the Law Office of Lawrence J. Lennemann, on the behalf of a current Kings County employee, filed a Government Tort Claim against the County of Kings, which contained allegations of retaliation, sexual harassment/harassment, and constructive termination.

The County has 45 days to respond to the claim.

The County has initiated an investigation into the matter.

At this time, it is premature for the County to comment on or respond to the allegations in the claim as the investigation is ongoing. Further, it is the County's policy to not comment on confidential personnel matters to protect the privacy rights of all involved individuals.

EDITORS NOTE: This story has been updated to include a longer statement from Kings County.
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