Riverside County officials will investigate allegations of corruption, racism and political favoritism leveled Tuesday at the county's human resources director by a subordinate.
The charges aired at a regular Board of Supervisors meeting were made by Debrah Freeman, the county's employee relations manager, who has been on leave for unknown reasons since March. Freeman works for Human Resources Director Ron Komers.
Freeman, who is black, told supervisors that Komers, 49, who is white, made and condoned racist statements, such as "Black woman speak too loudly;" that he discriminated against black people in hiring, promotions and disciplinary actions; and that he used his position to get criminal defense services for his stepson and to give his son's company a no-bid contract.
"I don't believe Riverside County stands for this kind of corruption," said Freeman, who is also the county's chief labor negotiator. "I believe we stand for accountability."
After Freeman spoke, board Chairman Roy Wilson asked the county's executive office to investigate.
County Executive Officer Larry Parrish said he hopes to outline a plan to investigate the charges today. Investigations are conducted any time such allegations are made, he said.
"These charges are dramatic and, if true, very serious," he said. "We have to take a very serious look at what's been said and put together an approach that's fair to everybody involved and does not drag out forever."
Attempts to reach Komers for comment were unsuccessful. He has been with the county since 1997 and previously worked for Ventura County.
Freeman has been with the county since 1998. County officials declined to discuss why she was on leave. Freeman declined further comment to reporters after speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Public Defender Gary Windom said his office represented Komers' stepson because he was unemployed and older than 18, not because Komers used his influence.
A defendant's eligibility for a public defender is based on income, Windom said. The determination was based on the stepson's income, not Komers'.
"He met the criteria for representation. I disagree with the characterization that [Komers] tried to use his influence or position to obtain political favors," he said. "It's absolutely false."
Parrish said Komers' son is a "computer whiz," and did some work for the county for free, but does not know of any contract. He said that he has never heard Komers make a racist statement. "If I would have heard it, he wouldn't be here," Parrish said.
A union official who negotiates labor pacts with Komers and Freeman said she was skeptical about Freeman's claims.
"We question why had she not come forward sooner with these serious allegations," said Rebecca Miller, executive director of the Service Employees International Union Local 1997, which represents about 4,700 county employees.