Article re-posted from The Bulletin, in regards to the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office, the same office that charged and victim-blamed Luke Anton Wirkkala for defending himself against strangulation and sexual assault by David Andrew Ryder.
A former Deschutes County prosecutor plans to sue the district attorney’s office for race and sex discrimination for enabling a “toxic” workplace culture.
By GARRETT ANDREWS The Bulletin May 29, 2020
Jasmyn Troncoso worked there as a deputy district attorney for 10 months, resigning May 15. On Thursday, she filed an amended tort claim notice with the county’s legal department through a Portland-based attorney.
Troncoso is Mexican American, and during her employment, she was the office’s only nonwhite prosecutor.
“Ms. Troncoso was a victim of both sex and race discrimination throughout her employment with the county and on a continuing and ongoing basis,” the tort claim notice reads.
On Friday, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel issued a statement in response, writing that his office had retained an investigator to look into Troncoso’s allegations.
“I was shocked when these allegations were brought to my attention because I have known my colleagues to be dedicated, ethical and open people,” Hummel wrote. “I’ve never see(n) the type of conduct alleged by Ms. Troncoso, and would be surprised, disappointed and angry if it turns out to be true. Regardless, the facts will be determined and the response will be proportional to the facts.”
In Oregon, before a person can sue a government agency, they must file a tort claim notice to give the agency time to resolve the matter before litigation.
There is no other workplace-related litigation against the Deschutes DA’s office, according to the DA’s office.
Troncoso was hired in July and assigned to work in the “person” crimes division.
She claims harassment included false rumors she slept with married coworkers and a male defense attorney.
She was told by other staff that Hummel only hired her because she was attractive and he wanted to sleep with her, she states in the tort claim notice.
She was called “dumb,” “ditzy,” “inexperienced” and a “drama queen,” she claims. Coworkers allegedly said she was “anorexic” for her petite frame.
“Slight male coworkers were not subject to such comments,” the tort notice reads.
Troncoso writes that she brought concerns about her treatment separately to three of her superiors.
“While they appeared sympathetic, they failed to take reasonable steps to stop the conduct, thereby causing the harassment to continue to spiral,” according to the tort claim notice.
At one point when the office’s trial assistants were learning a Spanish sentence to say to Spanish-speaking callers, Troncoso allegedly heard a staff member lash out and say, “This is America, speak f—–g English.”
“For a Mexican-American professional, the comment, ‘This is America, speak f—–g English’ is not a far cry from using the ‘N word’ to reference an African-American employee,” the tort notice reads.
Years before she was a prosecutor, Troncoso dropped out of high school and struggled with grades and the law, according to a Bulletin column written on the occasion of her swearing-in at the Deschutes DA’s office. She moved to Bend in 2006 to attend the military-style Oregon Youth Challenge Program, a live-in alternative high school associated with the National Guard.
There, she thrived among the rules and discipline.
Troncoso later attended Loyola Law School then worked for 18 months in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, before returning to Bend to work for the Deschutes DA’s office.
Speaking by phone, Troncoso said she’s moving back to San Bernardino, where she was welcomed back by her former employer.
She said Hummel shouldn’t be “shocked” at her allegations, as he wrote in his statement.
“They’ve known about this for months,” she said. “This shouldn’t be a surprise.”
To this, Hummel said, “I’m not going tit-for-tat. The allegations that were made are extremely serious. If they’re true, that’s reprehensible and we’ll deal with it appropriately.”