Bay City News Service — An Alameda County deputy probation officer filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad sexually harassed her.
The county Board of Supervisors after the employee filed a $1.5 million claim against him.
The employee's attorney, Kelly Armstrong, said Tuesday that the lawsuit, which names Muhammad and Alameda County as defendants, is seeking unspecified general, special and punitive damages.
The Board of Supervisors hired Muhammad a year ago after he held top probation positions in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Armstrong said it appears that the board was "negligent" in hiring Muhammad because an employee who worked for him in Washington, D.C., alleges that he also sexually harassed her.
The suit, filed by a 30-year-old deputy probation officer who alleges that Muhammad, 38, sexually harassed and assaulted her on several occasions in 2011, says that an employee who worked for him at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services in Washington, D.C., has filed a claim accusing him of harassing her in 2009.
Armstrong said that in addition to the female employee in Washington who has filed a complaint against Muhammad, two other potential complaints by female employees who worked for him there are also being investigated.
A spokesperson for the Department of Youth Services in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday that Muhammad resigned from his post there on Sept. 10, 2010, but didn't disclose the reason for his resignation.
In the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court, the 30-year-old deputy probation officer alleges that Muhammad harassed her at a probation office in Hayward on May 15 when he noticed a discoloration on her neck, laughed and joked about it and called it a "hickey."
The deputy alleges that four days later, on the morning of May 19, Muhammad asked her to pick him up at Oakland International Airport and drive him to a speaking engagement in Oakland but then instructed her to take him to the San Leandro Marina instead.
Once at the marina, the deputy alleges, Muhammad grabbed her head and started kissing her, telling her, "We would make some pretty babies."
The suit states that the deputy tried to pull back from Muhammad but he became aggressive and sexually assaulted her, kissing her and forcibly touching her breasts and vagina.
The deputy said that a day later, on May 20, Muhammad sent her multiple text messages. Concerned about what would happen to her job if she rebuffed him, she agreed to meet him and his brother at a restaurant in Hayward, according to the suit.
At the end of the night, the suit alleges, he again began to grope her.
The deputy claims she pulled away and reiterated to Muhammad that she only wanted to be friends, and that Muhammad eventually became upset and left.
The suit alleges that the deputy probation officer has suffered economic harm and has experienced mental distress and anguish.
Armstrong said she believes it is unfair that Muhammad in on paid administrative leave while the deputy officer is on unpaid leave. She said the officer is on medical leave due to the injuries she suffered when Muhammad allegedly sexually assaulted her.
The California Attorney General's Office is conducting an investigation to see whether criminal charges should be filed against Muhammad.
The Board of Supervisors on Friday , to serve as acting chief probation officer.
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said Muhammad's background was thoroughly investigated by an outside recruiter and other outside experts when the county conducted a nationwide search for a new chief probation officer in late 2010.
Carson said, "There was no hint of any improprieties on a personal or professional level" during the search for a new person to head the Probation Department, which has a staff of 600 people and a $90 million budget. Carson said county officials take the deputy probation officer's allegations against Muhammad "very seriously" but he also "would be deeply shocked if it comes out that they are true."
Carson said that when the Board of Supervisors interviewed Muhammad after his employee filed her claim against him "he admitted they had some kind of personal interaction at some point." Carson said, "It appeared to have been consensual but it went past that point and that is a gray area."
In an interview before he began his Alameda County job, Muhammad said he got into trouble with the law while he was growing up in Oakland but he said he turned his life around with the help of the Omega Boys Club, which paid for him to go to college.
According to a March 15, 2011 article by Chip Johnson in the San Francisco Chronicle, Muhammed's youthful trouble with the law included three arrests, "including once as a suspect in an attempted murder. No charges were ever filed."
Muhammed's own website gave this account of his background when he was hired for the Alameda County job:
"After working in both New York and Washington DC, David returns to his hometown to continue reforming the criminal justice system in the Bay Area.
"While in New York, David served as Deputy Commissioner of New York City's Department of Probation, and was responsible for overseeing 35,000 people on probation and a staff of 800.
"In New York, David had joined his colleague Vincent Schiraldi, the Commissioner of NYC's Department of Probation to make the department the model for the country.
"The two worked together in Washington DC, reforming the juvenile justice system there, where David previously served as the Chief of Committed Services for the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. At DYRS, David’s responsibility included 300 staff, a $42 million annual budget, a juvenile institution, and 900 youth committed to his department’s care.
"David Muhammad was formally the Executive Director of The Mentoring Center in Oakland, CA. Under David’s leadership, The Mentoring Center (TMC) doubled in staff size and tripled its budget as it became the premier agency serving highly at-risk youth in the Bay Area. TMC’s work has become renowned in all three of its areas: direct service, technical assistance and training, and policy advocacy.
"As a graduate of Howard University’s School of Communications, David also has an extensive journalism career. Since 1997, Muhammad was a contributing editor and television show host for Pacific News Service in San Francisco. His columns continue to be published in publications around the country. David was the editor of the “Seeking Solutions to Black on Black Crime” series in the Globe Newspapers from 2007-2009.
"Growing up in the inner city of Oakland, California, Muhammad overcame several adversities including poverty, foster care, nearly dropping out of school, and the juvenile justice system. He got involved in the renowned Omega Boys Club, which helped him turn his life around.
"David Muhammad's proudest accomplishment is being a father to his three children."
Muhammad wasn't immediately available for comment on the lawsuit.
Alameda County officials issued the following statement Tuesday evening:
"The County of Alameda is aware that a civil lawsuit was filed today against the County and Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad, alleging sexual harassment in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
"The allegations in the lawsuit are currently under investigation. Top County officials first learned of the allegations in February 2012 and Chief Muhammad was promptly placed on administrative leave.
"The County is unable to comment in any significant detail because the dispute involves confidential personnel information. The privacy rights of County employees must be protected."
Dixie Jordan contributed to this article.
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