Pregnant Pause

According to San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross, an employee has lodged a complaint that her supervisor retaliated against her because she would not act as a surrogate and carry a fetus for her supervisor. The kick is this allegedly took place at the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board! And the employee making the complaint is the daughter of the agency’s presiding judge!

From SF Gate:

Normally, the state’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board — a favorite roost for out-of-work politicos — is about as exciting as its name.

But a secretary’s allegations that the board chairwoman tried to pay her $10,000 to have a baby for her — and then punished her when she wouldn’t — set off a charge that had everybody from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to state Senate leader Don Perata scrambling for cover this past week.

The lawyer representing chairwoman Ann Richardson says there’s nothing to former secretary Claire Connelly’s allegations of harassment and workplace retaliation, or to her assertion that Richardson asked her to be a surrogate mom. And this past week, the state Senate confirmed Richardson to a second four-year term — but not before the governor’s office did a little clipping of her wings.

Connelly, whose father, Tim McArdle, is the agency’s presiding administrative law judge, lodged a sex harassment and retaliation complaint against Richardson with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission two weeks ago.

As Connelly tells it, Richardson called her into her office in September and explained that she wanted to have a child, but was already in her 50s. So she asked whether Connelly, a 31-year-old single mom, would be interested in being paid $10,000 to become a surrogate mother — although it would have to wait until Richardson was done with her board term so it wouldn’t conflict with her job as Connelly’s boss.

“Obviously, I was stunned,” Connelly said in an interview. “I told her I needed time to think about it.”

Connelly thought it over for a few days, then declined, she says. Richardson promptly turned sour toward her and began berating her regularly over the job she was doing in the office, Connelly says.

Once, she said, Richardson brought her dog to the office and told Connelly to walk it and clean up after it.

“I’m not one to complain or whine or make mountains out of molehills, but I dreaded coming to work,” Connelly told us. “Words can’t describe how out of control she is.”

Connelly says she contacted the agency’s chief counsel, Ralph Hilton, to inform him of the unusual surrogacy proposition right after it happened.

Hilton insists that Connelly never went to him, but that he did receive an anonymous letter about the matter in October.

Hilton said he investigated, but couldn’t find any witnesses to support Connelly’s charge.

However, one former board member who asked not to be identified because of his continued state employment told us that Connelly had informed him of Richardson’s request last year, and that office executives brushed it off as a misunderstanding when he inquired about it.

In March, Connelly was transferred — she says at her request — to the agency’s information technology unit and away from the board.

Despite the move, Connelly says, the harassment continued. In April, she says, she attended the unemployment claims board’s monthly meeting, only to be told by her bosses afterward that Richardson didn’t want her there.

“That was the final straw,” Connelly said.

Richardson did not return our call seeking comment, apparently preferring to let the agency’s lawyer speak for her.

Hilton, the lawyer, called Connelly’s accusations — both the surrogacy offer and allegations of retribution — absurd.

“These are falsehoods, and we deny them emphatically and await the opportunity to respond to her complaint,” he said.

Richardson was legislative secretary to then-Gov. Gray Davis when he tapped her for the unemployment appeals board in 2003. Then, last July, Schwarzenegger renominated her and elevated her to chairwoman.

Sacramento sources describe her as being tight with Susan Kennedy, the governor’s Democratic chief of staff, who also served in the Davis administration.

Hilton found it curious that Connelly filed her federal complaint on the eve of Richardson’s confirmation to a second term. But it turns out that Connelly wasn’t the only one who complained about the board chairwoman.

Steve Angelides, deputy chief administrative law judge at the agency and the cousin of former gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, submitted a nine-page letter to the Senate Rules Committee last month recounting the verbal and emotional abuse he says Richardson has heaped on him since she took over as chairwoman.

Angelides wouldn’t discuss details of the letter, but Sacramento sources tell us he complained about late night e-mails from Richardson, her criticism over his handling of private office communications, and meetings with agency clients that he felt were inappropriate.

Hilton said he didn’t think it was proper “to get into a battle between his allegations and our response in the paper.”

But he said, “Overall, the characterization is false, and I can say that on behalf of Ann Richardson.”

Angelides and Connelly met privately with the Senate Rules Committee staff last month. But by then, the committee had already voted 5-0 to confirm Richardson’s reappointment by Schwarzenegger to run the seven-member board.

However, state Senate President Pro Tem Perata, D-Oakland, was sufficiently concerned to write to Schwarzenegger on June 21 urging that Richardson receive training and counseling. He said his suggestion was motivated by “information from a number of sources, some of whom were unwilling to publicly appear, who indicated that Ms. Richardson had engaged in behavior on a number of occasions that created a hostile work environment for her staff.”

Perata’s letter said, “We do not believe that people should be penalized because of unsubstantiated representations, but we do find the pattern of information disconcerting.”

This past Wednesday, the day before Richardson’s confirmation vote, the governor wrote to Perata that he was standing by his nominee — but said she had agreed to step down as chairwoman “pending the administrative adjudication of these claims.”

“I will soon appoint a new chair for the board,” Schwarzenegger wrote, adding that “the entire board will receive additional (sex harassment) training before its next meeting.”

I’m curious to see how this one pans out.

One Reply to “Pregnant Pause”

  1. I worked for Ann Richardson in SF when she had her own practice. All stories about her inappropriate behavior is true. She also propositioned my daughter (who was 25 at the time) to be a surrogate for her and her husband Ron.
    She is not an honest person.

    If she doesn’t get her way, she gets nasty.

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