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Ex-worker under Sandoval won EEOC judgment in 2009
A one-time subordinate of Yuma County Sheriff candidate Rick Sandoval describes the top lawman hopeful as a vindictive boss when he was with the U.S. Customs Service.
Daryl Christensen's proof is the settlement he reached with the Department of Homeland Security in 2009 over Sandoval's treatment of him when he was an agent, and Sandoval was the assistant special agent in charge and his top supervisor, at the Customs office in El Centro/Calexico. Christensen's claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission got him the transfer he sought, to Missouri, and compensatory damages of $45,000.
Sandoval discredited Christensen as not credible and that the judgment was a “nuisance settlement.”
Christensen said he was once friends with Sandoval, but their relationship soured in 2006 after Christensen gave an interview to an EEO investigator who was following up on a complaint against Sandoval filed by another agent in the office. In a 2008 employment discrimination complaint filed in U.S. District Court in California, Christensen said – among other grievances – that hours after the interview, his immediate supervisor started criticizing his job performance and within a few days Sandoval himself was criticizing Christensen and relieved him of his duties as a firearms instructor and surveillance equipment installer. The complaint also stated that office management initiated a sexual harassment case against Christensen, although no co-workers filed complaints.
The settlement agreement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of any party.
Sandoval said Thursday that Christensen was a habitually troublesome agent who is also friends with the other candidate for sheriff, Leon Wilmot. He said he didn't want to comment further, as he said Christensen was under investigation by internal affairs for bringing up the case with the media.
At a Yuma Sun-hosted candidate forum between Sandoval and Wilmot in October, an audience member asked if either candidate had been involved in litigation involving discrimination, harassment or hostile work environment. Sandoval admitted that he had. (Wilmot said he never had employee complaints about his conduct.)
“Yes. I have on several occasions. When you're head of the office, complaints are filed ... as being part of management,” Sandoval replied. “Those are decisions that may be difficult at times, but you work with your human resources, your attorneys and upper management to get them resolved.”
Sandoval, a Democrat, is a nearly lifelong Yuma resident who spent 37 years in law enforcement with roughly half of them under the umbrella of what is now the Department of Homeland Security. He retired from the federal government in the spring.
Christensen said that he knows he could be seen as airing a personal vendetta against Sandoval, but ultimately, he said he doesn't have a dog in the fight that is the sheriff's race – he is no longer a Yuma resident, but he wants those who are to be aware of Sandoval's background.