City Employee Files Lawsuit Against City of Santa Barbara Alleging Sexual Harassment
By edhat staff
A Santa Barbara City employee has filed a lawsuit against the city, City Administrator Paul Casey, and former Finance Director Bob Samario, alleging that Samario sexually harassed her and several other women.
The lawsuit alleges the city and Casey ignored the harassment or "turned a blind eye" to the alleged predatory behavior that took place over the course of 13 years.
Jennifer Tomaszewski, the current Santa Barbara City Finance and Treasury Manager and former Interim Finance Director during the COVID-19 crisis, has filed suit.
Samario, who was Tomaszewski’s former direct supervisor, was placed on leave in October of 2019 after a report of sexual harassment by another female employee was filed, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed on June 2, 2021, also states the City of Santa Barbara had spent a minimum of $100,000 investigating the allegations which generated a 150-page report detailing years of harassment against multiple female employees.
After the conclusion of the investigation in February 2020, rather than terminating Samario, the lawsuit alleges that Casey, without the City Council’s approval, permitted Samario to retire with full benefits and a positive press release thanking him for his years of service.
On February 26, 2020, edhat published an article where the City announced Samario's retirement after 24 years. The press release included a glowing statement from Samario praising the city and expressed looking forward to working in the private sector. The City did not address his abrupt departure or his long absence before the announcement.
The lawsuit also alleges that Casey retaliated against Tomaszewski by refusing to hire her for the permanent Finance Director position because of her involvement in the investigation and because of her gender, despite being praised for her work by other City officials during the financial crisis caused by COVID-19.
The lawsuit further alleges that Casey, Samario, and the City violated provisions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibiting sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace and prohibiting retaliation for participating in a workplace sexual harassment investigation.
“The City should have handled this situation much differently,” said employment attorney Christina Humphrey, whose Santa Barbara-based law firm, Christina Humphrey Law, P.C., represents Tomaszewski. “Samario’s behavior continued unabated for over a decade, and he was ultimately rewarded for it. Meanwhile, my client was denied a promotion that she had trained and worked hard to achieve for years.”
In her lawsuit, Tomaszewski describes numerous unwanted advances by Samario. One time, after Samario insisted that she attend a professional conference with him, Tomaszewski asked her husband to come with her so she would not be left alone with her supervisor.
Almost immediately after being hired, Tomaszewski details in the lawsuit that Samario began flirting and inappropriately commenting on her appearance, clothing, and fitness, and telling her she was attractive. Samario allegedly relentlessly asked her to show him her tattoo and when she refused, Samario told her that she needed to be more vulnerable and trust him more.
The lawsuit also states Samario asked Tomaszewski several times to bring in pictures of what she looked like in her twenties and to bring in pictures of her with her two daughters. Samario had met one of Tomaszewski's daughters and spoke several times about her body and how beautiful she was. Multiple times, Samario asked questions about her and her daughters’ clothing sizes and how much they worked out.
The accusations continue in the filing that include Samario frequently asking for hugs that he called "Bob's Hug Club," told sexually-charged jokes and talked about racy movies to and around female employees, and discussed and motioned the sexual positions he and his wife do.
Tomaszewski worked directly under Finance Director Samario for nearly 5 years until he was permitted to retire and she was appointed Interim Finance Director by the City of Santa Barbara.
Tomaszewski effectively balanced the City budget in 2020, during a worldwide pandemic, when most cities were experiencing significant loss of revenue and the largest financial crisis in history.
February 26, 2020: Santa Barbara City Finance Director Retires