Plan aimed at cleaning up behavior in coroner’s office 

Following a scathing report that found pervasive lewd conduct in 2005, the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office has laid out a proposal to prevent similar behavior in the future.

Chief elements of the plan include sexual harassment training for all personnel, periodic Internet monitoring to prevent inappropriate viewing and the direct reporting of complaints to the county personnel department.

The plan comes in response to a request by President of the Board of Supervisors Jerry Hill for Coroner Robert Foucrault to outline in writing how he plans to ensure there are no recurrences, including how staff are to report discriminatory incidents and how such reports will be addressed by the coroner’s office.

The new protocols will ensure the confidentiality of those who report lewd conduct or sexual harassment, Foucrault said Wednesday.

Overall, operations at the Coroner’s Office will be little impacted since many of the new conduct regulations have been in place since September 2005, when an anonymous report leveled charges of sexual harassment, Foucrault said.

"Absolutely nothing like that has happened in this office since (the September complaint) was brought to our attention," Foucrault said.

Supervisor Hill’s request came after an investigation — conducted by retired Judge Zerne Hanning — found that there were repeated instances of inappropriate conduct in the Coroner’s Office that violated state and federal law and created a "hostile environment" prior to the September 2005 complaint.

Hanning was brought in by supervisors in June, eight months after an anonymous complaint led to an investigation by the county Employee and Public Service Department in September 2005, which found similar problems.

Behavior included sexual jokes, remarks about female employees’ attire and appearance, viewing sexually graphic material on the Internet and an alleged "mooning" by Foucrault himself, according to Hanning’s report. In one instance a cake in the shape of women dressed in negligee was brought in for a birthday, officials said.

Because the coroner is an elected position, rather than appointed, supervisors have limited oversight and no disciplinary power for Foucrault, according to Hill.

Since September 2005, there has been no repeat behavior, according to Hanning’s report. In the interim, all of the coroner’s staff has undergone sexual harassment training.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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