Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, Chief of Staff Sexually Harassed Adjutant, Lawsuit Alleged – Press Enterprise

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt and his chief of staff made inappropriate comments about an employee’s appearance and marital status while ignoring warnings about her behavior and treatment of county employees, according to a recent lawsuit.

Brenda Dennstedt, who served as Hewitt’s legislative assistant and public safety liaison, filed the lawsuit against the county, Hewitt and Matthew “Boomer” Shannon March 3 in Riverside County Superior Court. The lawsuit, which alleges sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation, comes nearly two months after the board of directors denied Dennstedt’s more than $25,000 in damages.

Neither Hewitt nor Shannon responded to requests for comment on Thursday, March 10.

The county had not received the lawsuit as of Wednesday, spokeswoman Brooke Federico said.

“After careful consideration, the board of directors rejected (Dennstedt’s) advance notice based on the facts,” she said. “The county is strongly committed to providing a harassment-free workforce that is safe for all employees and regularly invests in training in this area.”

The lawsuit alleges that Hewitt and Shannon “did not understand the political and ethical aspects of their work. They regularly crossed legal and ethical boundaries, and Dennstedt pointed this out. This made her an object of Hewitt(s) and Shannon’s disdain and/or approval.”

“Add to this her failure to tolerate the constant sexual harassment she received and it proved too much for Shannon and Hewitt, leading to her firing.”

Editor’s Note: This document contains profanity and detailed allegations of sexual harassment.

The 25-page complaint contains the following allegations:

  • Hewitt, who was first elected supervisor in 2018, asked her to join his staff in March 2019 to capitalize on Dennstedt’s law enforcement connections and public service expertise. First of all, none of the office staff have undergone any legally required training on sexual harassment.”
  • Shannon told employees they had to participate in political fundraisers. Dennstedt informed Shannon that county personnel and resources should not be used for political purposes. “Hewitt and Shannon maintained this requirement and simply communicated it to employees outside of Dennstedt or emailed all employees outside of Dennstedt.”
  • Dennstedt “reviewed forms that were inaccurate and were often given to her after filing when her expertise would have prevented the problems on the front page,” including potential violations of state campaign finance rules. “…She noticed errors that needed to be corrected and pointed them out to Hewitt and Shannon, who said they would make the corrections in amended documentation,” but often did not do so, actually appearing to purchase box seats at the stadium to be where the San Diego Padres play.”
  • Shannon “had no problem using his power as chief of staff to order district staff to run personal errands for him during district time. In at least one instance, he sent a county worker to get a SIM card for his cell phone. In another instance, he had a county worker deliver groceries and medication — during hours — to his personal residence while quarantined with COVID-19.”
  • Dennstedt “experienced myriad issues with sexual harassment while at work, with inappropriate talk and actions, and constant comments about her looks and age, being too pretty, and she needed to get married and have a husband,” and offered her dates. These comments have always been made in the context of her physical appearance.”
  • Because after the death of her daughter, Dennstedt was “understandably mourned for some time”, which, in addition to an ankle injury, led to weight gain, which she lost after she was able to do sports again. “On December 10, 2019, Dennstedt wore a special outfit after losing weight. Aside from a standard compliment about her good looks, Hewitt and the Shannons (sic) had asked her such questions as “Oh my god, who are you trying to please?”. and ‘Who are you hoping to open up to from this dress?’”
  • Hewitt and Shannon “continued to show they didn’t care how their behavior was viewed,” a robe that offended many, including Dennstedt. During that meeting, he grabbed his laptop, went outside and smoked a cigarette, leaving his robe clearly visible.”
  • Women in Hewitt’s office “became disillusioned to find that Hewitt paid less attention to their projects and priorities than the men in the office did.” The men go golfing with Hewitt and Shannon every week. In fact, every Monday morning, even during staff meetings, the men in the office, led by Hewitt and Shannon, gushed about the great time they had playing golf the weekend before.” Dennstedt “explained to Hewitt that he had to find some time with the ladies in the office, as he seems to do for the men. His response was that the women need to go golf too,” and Hewitt went back on a promise to have lunch with female employees to discuss their projects.
  • Dennstedt recommended that Hewitt conduct a photo session with a newly trained electronics sniffer dog, used by the District Attorney’s Child Sex Offenses and Cybercrimes Task Force, who exposed himself during a Zoom meeting. “(They said) ‘Can you believe that guy (Toobin)?’ “How many people do you think do that?” The supervisor said, “Well, what else are you going to do? People are bored.’ Shannon laughed as this conversation continued.”

Dennstedt, an elected official who sits on the Western Municipal Water District’s board of directors, works with the same law firm, McCune Wright Arevalo, that handled her lawsuit.

Dennstedt filed her claim with the county about five months after Nasim Nicole Hamrang, a clinical therapist in the county’s Behavioral Health Division, filed a claim against Hewitt.

That allegation alleged that Hewitt sexually harassed Hamrang during a tour of a qualified nursing facility in Cherry Valley on May 15, 2020. Hewitt denied molesting Hamrang, and her claim was settled with $50,000 in taxpayers’ money in February.

Hewitt, a former Calimesa mayor who ran as a Libertarian in last September’s gubernatorial election, is up for re-election this year in a newly drawn district that loses Menifee and Perris but adds Hemet and San Jacinto.

The district also includes Banning, Beaumont, Cabazon, Calimesa, Cherry Valley, Lakeview, Moreno Valley, Nuevo and Valle Vista.

Moreno Valley Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez and Hemet attorney DeniAntionette Mazingo plan to run against Hewitt in the June 7 election.


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