Sheriff’s Office Slow to Act on Harassment Complaints

Linda Byron/King 5 News

October 11, 2012

For nearly a decade, inside the Kent Regional Justice Center, three female King County Sheriff’s detectives who investigate horrendous sex crimes say they were subjected to sexual abuses by their supervisors in the special assault unit.

“Heaping verbal abuse, and making degrading and derogatory comments,” said attorney Julie Kays.

Kays says the ringleader was Sgt. Tony Provenzo.

“He would talk about the size of his genitals, he would talk about his sexual escapades, he would comment on the size of women’s breasts in the workplace,” said Kays.

Now the KING 5 Investigators have obtained the confidential workplace investigation conducted by an outside attorney hired specifically to look into allegations of sexual harassment in the special assault unit. That attorney found Provenzo had a history of problems with women he supervised.

The attorney focused on one detective’s allegations of mistreatment and concluded that Provenzo was inappropriate and “treated the complainant differently”…”based on her gender”

Other detectives described the atmosphere in the special assault unit as “dysfunctional” and “intolerable.”

The Sheriff’s Office got the workplace investigation report in January, yet Sgt. Provenzo wasn’t transferred until nine months later, and only then because the three female detectives filed multimillion-dollar legal claims against the sheriff’s office.

“He should have been moved and not placed in a position where he has an opportunity to degrade and humiliate wonderful female employees.  He should have been moved a long time ago,” said Kays.

In the meantime, the three women are still reporting for work in the Special Assault Unit – still answering to one of the three sergeants they have accused of sexual harassment.

Sheriff Steve Strachan sent us a statement, saying “Issues were brought to our attention.  We hired an independent investigator, and then a facilitator to conduct a collaborative process to work through some issues in the unit. During that process the claim was filed.   We are still in the process of evaluating the claim.   We transferred the sergeant following the claim.   We are committed to finding the best solution that is fair to everyone involved.  As I have made clear, it is my expectation that we will have a respectful workplace. This is a pending claim and our policy is that we do not try the case in the media. “

We attempted to contact Sgt. Provenzo but the Sheriff’s Office has advised him not to talk.

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