SLO County releases sexual harassment complaints

May 22, 2019

Daniel Colt Esenwein

By KAREN VELIE

Two weeks after the head of the San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department resigned, the county released portions of three harassment complaints lodged by staffers. [Cal Coast Times]

A year ago, shortly after Daniel “Colt” Esenwein was hired as the Public Works Department director, several female staffers began questioning his flirtatious behaviors. Those concerns led to official complaints, an investigation, and Esenwein’s May 5 resignation.

In response to a public records request from Cal Coast Times, the county released three heavily redacted complaints, but not the investigation report.

In the county’s response, County Counsel Rita Neal justifies the redactions under the personnel and medical record exemption. Cal Coast Times plans to contest Neal’s interpretation of the exemption rules.

The following comments are from the complaints:

“Colt is a harasser who is either clueless or knows where the line is and stays right at it. Regardless, XXXX is embarrassed and does not like working in these hostile conditions.”

“…basically said Colt singles out cute young females and flirts with them while he ignores the rest of the office.”

“bending over and taking it,” and “grabbing your ankles,” “creeping out female employees”

“emphasize how he does business.”

“people are borderline getting asked out on dates.”

“XXXX said nothing sexually inappropriate, but he is loud and obnoxious and he stays for a long time and gets in people’s personal space, especially the females,”

“an immature high school boy who likes attention but doesn’t have the social awareness to realize it’s inappropriate.”

“very brutal situations where staff gets interrogated and humiliated,” elevating staff into defense mode. They alleged he spoke loudly about personnel issues with his door open, then laughed about whether people could hear him.”

“Staff is very scared of him.”

“Colt comes over multiple times a week specifically to visit females.”

“He’s like an immature high school boy who likes attention but doesn’t have the social awareness to realize it is inappropriate XXXX doesn’t think it’s malicious but also does not thing this is behavior of a director.”

“General consensus morale is very low, based on primarily poor communication and leadership from Colt. Universally, nobody trusts or likes Colt.”

“…Colt has perceived/real favorites and only gives his attention to young female employees and Interns.”

“Colt is coming in and only talking to certain female staff.”


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nazbol gang

Good work, CCN. Keep on em


805slocal

I’ve been hearing terrible things about the Administrative Division of Public works for almost a year that isn’t just about the Director in the story. It seems as though several higher ups treat staff very poorly. I’m not surprised about the high turnover that division has gone through lately. Its unfortunate that the County doesn’t pay close attention to the supervisors of the areas with high turnover rates. My suggestion to the CAO, and I hope Mr. Horton has someone paying attention to these comments from the Public…. the “public that he wants to do -good work- for” , a thing or two I’ve learned in the past is its a good idea to have confidential evals of all staff in charge of supervising anyone from THE PEOPLE they supervise. This can address any issues with upper departmental staff. The Public Works Department used to be highly sought after for job seekers, not the case anymore……


youserveus

I agree, Administrative leadership needs to step down. How can anyone relax with that hostile environment? Especially now that unemployment is at historic lows, they are losing their best employees because employees do not want to be treated like this. There should be a county-wide reporting system to address these issues in all departments and divisions. Those in charge won’t do that though, that’ll just create more work for them.


shelworth

Kind of like the Los Osos CSD, only we hire criminals instead of perverts…


LovinLosOsos

The real impact will continue to be felt at Public Works for a couple years. Dozens of the most competent and talented staff have abandoned ship just in the 13 months of Esenwein’s havoc. Dozens others are now jaded, disengaged, and have been forced to grab their ankles and take it.


There is a story in the high turnover. Sad.


Norse

Not true. The degeneration and abuse of a public works department does not happen because of a single man in a single year.


It is unfortunate what has become of the public works department. There are a few abusive managers, the others are complacent or incompetent. The system has taken years to come this far.


kayaknut

Are we suppose to believe this wasn’t Esenwein’s behavior in his previous job?, but thanks to the public unions we may never know. This is the way government works just pass the bad employees around until they are able to either take an early retirement or a disability leave with full salary and benefits for life.


itneverends

The problem with hiring “from the outside” is that you never really know what you are getting until after you get it.


laftch

Sounds like what the Democrats are calling quaint gregariousness of their current favorite candidate for presidential nomination.


As the world turns

You have to wonder about the motive of a person who blames one major political party when the head of the other major political party is a self-proclaimed sexist.


pi-on

Why are you bringing Bill Clinton into this conversation?


As the world turns

You are either confused or misunderstand historic events. Bill Clinton is not in political office. Donald Trump is head of the Republican party and a self-confessed sexist. You may want to stay on top of current affairs so you know which people are in political positions.