Orange County Supervisor, 3rd District Todd Spitzer speaks at OCFA. (Adam Gilles/Lariat)
The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pay Christine Richters $150,000 to settle a lawsuit she filed against her former boss, OC 3rd District Supervisor Todd Spitzer, in which she accused him of wrongful termination based on her disability, overtime wage violations and anger issues that led to her health being damaged on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
Richters, 51, who was the May 1986 Playboy Playmate of the Month, worked for Spitzer’s 2012 supervisory campaign. He later hired her as an executive assistant in February 2013 before firing her in October 2016.
Spitzer’s office declined a request to comment on why he kept Richters employed on his staff for three years even though his office claimed in a March 28 statement that “Despite being counseled numerous times by the Chief of Staff and Supervisor Spitzer to learn basic computer skills that would equip her with the necessary skills to do her job, she refused to do so.”
Richters filed the lawsuit in March alleging that Spitzer had a “raging temper” and required employees to be “on standby 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to respond to any text message” that he sent to them.
Although she did not mention any specific incident of hostile interaction with Spitzer in her lawsuit, as evidence to her claim that he ran his office “by means of fear and aggression,” Richters included a memo from Spitzer to his staff that said his text messages “are to be responded to within 15 minutes of receipt unless there is an overriding excuse.”
Spitzer also warned that “an hour of your pay will be docked” if the policy was violated.
In a news release, Spitzer called Richter’s allegations “disheartening, misleading and simply untrue.”
Todd Spitzer’s office issued a statement on Sept. 26 that said the the county agreed to the settlement “due to a technical issue surrounding overtime exemptions” and that it was “a business decision to settle.”
This is the second lawsuit involving Spitzer that the county has settled in the past two months. In August, the county paid $121,000 to cover the legal fees that the investigative news organization Voice of OC incurred to obtain documents Spitzer wrote regarding an April 2015 incident between him and a Boys Town youth counselor that took place at a Foothill Ranch Wahoo’s restaurant.
Spitzer, a former volunteer reserve officer for the Los Angeles Police Department from 1990 to 2000, made a call to 911 before taking a pair of handcuffs and his licensed concealed carry firearm out of his car to make a citizen’s arrest on Jeovany Castellano, whom Spitzer claimed was harassing him inside of the restaurant.
Castellano was unarmed and reportedly submitted to being handcuffed by Spitzer before police arrived on the scene. Sheriff’s investigators concluded that Spitzer’s actions were legal and no arrests were made regarding the incident.
The bills for the settlements, as with any lawsuit a county official or supervisor loses, will be paid by the taxpayers. Spitzer’s office declined a request for comment when asked about any possible actions by his office or the county to offset the cost of these settlements to the taxpayers.
The two settlements by the county come within months after Spitzer announced that he would be taking on 20-year-incumbent Tony Rackauckas in the June 2018 election for Orange County District Attorney.
Spitzer was a county prosecutor until he was fired by Rackauckas in 2010 and has been considered a probable candidate for the job for some time.