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Months after bias findings, Santa Clara Co. won't release records on outgoing DA chief investigator 

It’s been seven months since Santa Clara County’s Equal Opportunity Division (EOD) found the District Attorney’s chief investigator made a series of discriminatory workplace remarks about women, Black people, and transgender people, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation. 

Next week, Chief Moises Reyes is scheduled to retire, as first reported by San Jose Spotlight. But some, both inside and outside the DA’s office, believe Reyes should have been terminated after the county concluded its investigation last spring. 

“The fact that Chief Reyes is still commanding the Bureau of Investigation as if nothing ever happened is extremely unnerving to many people in the Bureau,” said one source in the DA’s office. “A significant number of Bureau members have lost confidence in Chief Reyes’ decision making and leadership and are questioning how an organization that claims it values diversity, minorities, and equal gender treatment would allow such a person to remain in command.”

Another source in the DA’s office agreed, saying that leaving Reyes at the helm sends the wrong message.

“How can the DA’s office hold other law enforcement officers accountable for their behavior when Rosen protects his own?” the second source said. “The DA’s office is supposed to set the example, not be the example.”

It’s still unclear what, if any, discipline District Attorney Jeff Rosen may have imposed on Reyes. Rosen said he’s legally barred from publicly discussing such matters, and Reyes declined to comment on his departure or the investigation into his conduct.

In a statement, Rosen said: “We wish the Chief a happy and well-deserved retirement. Our focus is now on choosing another in a long line of leaders who have served our Bureau of Investigation and the people of this county with great distinction and determination.” 

When NBC Bay Area first reported the EOD’s findings earlier this year, Rosen stated the DA’s office is “a workplace of diversity, fairness, and mutual respect” and that he takes “very seriously allegations of behavior that runs counter to those values.”

NBC Bay Area has filed multiple public records requests with the county seeking records from its inquiry into the DA’s top peace officer, but so far, the county has declined to turn them over, stating that police personnel records are confidential. 

That’s in spite of a recent transparency law in California requiring the release of such records when a “sustained finding was made by any law enforcement agency or oversight agency that a peace officer or custodial officer engaged in conduct involving prejudice or discrimination on the basis of specified protected classes.”

NBC Bay Area has asked the Santa Clara County Counsel’s office if and how that law applied to Reyes’ case, but the office did not respond.

The investigation into Reyes was sparked last year by a complaint from a female lieutenant inside the Bureau of Investigation, who alleged more than a dozen instances of inappropriate workplace remarks spanning 2021 and 2022, according to the source with knowledge of the investigation. 

The county’s Equal Opportunity Division, a branch of the County Counsel’s Office, looked into 14 separate claims, sustaining five of them and not sustaining the other nine, according to the source with knowledge of the investigation.

The department is tasked with administering the complaint process for alleged protected-class discrimination, harassment and retaliation involving county employees, and sustains claims that it determines more likely than not violated county policies. 

According to the source, the five sustained allegations were tied to the following incidents:

  • During a 2021 staff meeting, Reyes insinuated that a female lieutenant (who later filed the complaint) had only been promoted because she was a woman and stated she brought nothing to the position at the time she was elevated.
  • While a promotional board was discussing a separate female investigator’s job performance as she sought a promotion, Reyes reportedly remarked that she had only been given a previous assignment with the San Jose Police Department’s homicide division because she got pregnant.
  • EOD investigators concluded that Reyes disparaged working mothers when he said during a 2022 staff meeting that working mothers shouldn’t complain about the choice they made to work since they’re the only ones capable of having children.
  • In a May 2022 staff meeting, Reyes allegedly made a discriminatory comment about transgender people following the release of an emoji depicting a pregnant male, created to recognize that trans men have the ability to bear children.
  • During that same May 2022 staff meeting, the investigation found Reyes made an inappropriate remark towards a veteran Black prosecutor in the DA’s office, saying the prosecutor “always takes the side of the underprivileged Black man.” The complaint, according to the source, alleged Reyes used air quotes when saying “underprivileged.”

“My expectation was for him to clean house with this guy immediately,” said Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the Silicon Valley-San Jose NAACP chapter. 

After NBC Bay Area’s initial report on Reyes’ workplace conduct in July, Moore wrote a letter to Rosen demanding immediate action.

“We believe that Chief Reyes, based on the sustained findings against him, should be immediately terminated,” Moore wrote. 

Moore added, “Integrity includes showing no favoritism, even to senior leaders within your office.”

In his letter, Moore also asked for a review of how Reyes’ alleged bias may have impacted the Bureau and its work, and requested Rosen provide data on the hiring of women and minorities in the DA’s office.

In response to Moore’s letter, Rosen wrote: 

“I appreciate your input on how seriously you take this matter. I, too, take it seriously. However, I am legally barred from discussing disciplinary matters in public.”

Rosen also noted about half the DA’s prosecutors are women, and 30% of the Bureau’s investigators are women. He also detailed efforts to diversify the office and listed specific reforms he said were aimed at advancing racial justice.

You can read the entire letter from Rosen here.

But in a follow up letter in September, Moore wrote that allowing Reyes to stay on the job jeopardized those aims, saying, “Your failure to address these serious issues undermines your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within your office.”

“Sometimes, if it’s a friend, you have to tell them the truth,” Moore told NBC Bay Area. “A real friend would tell you, and I consider myself a friend of Jeff. And I consider myself telling him: ‘You have a problem. Fix the problem.’”

Source: NBC Bay Area

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