Report: Fired jailer harassed more than a dozen womenPublished 11:45am Monday, October 1, 2012
ALBERT LEA — More than a dozen employees interviewed as part of an investigation into a fired Freeborn County jail administrator’s actions said they felt threatened, intimidated or sexually harassed by the administrator.
The investigation began after a 19-year-old woman reportedly walked off the job in June.
The investigation report alleges jailer Marcellino Peña, 45, put on a latex glove and told her he had to conduct a physical exam on her since she had called in sick the shift before. Instead of putting up with it, she quit and spoke with her supervisor, who filed the initial complaint.
Peña could not be reached by phone for this story. However, in an interview with Chief Deputy Glen Strom — who conducted the interviews and investigations — Peña denied many of the accusations, describing them as a “witch hunt.” As for the glove incident, he said his girlfriend, who also worked at the jail, was present. Peña told investigators she grabbed the latex glove and made “a joking gesture.”
Peña, who was terminated last month after the completion of the investigation, had worked with the Sheriff’s office since 2004. Most recently, he oversaw the Immigration and Customs Enforcement contract in the Freeborn County jail.
Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said Peña has not been charged with any crime, and Clever knows of no pending civil litigation.
The Albert Lea Tribune on Friday got a copy of the more than 300-page investigation report, which detailed interviews with current and former employees.
In addition to allegations of harassment, several employees accused Peña of watching movies in his office while on the clock, gambling and campaigning while on duty, and directing other employees to help him apply for new jobs.
Strom said one employee described the situation as a “hostile work environment filled with secrets, intimidation, and sexual harassment.” Another stated he “manages by fear.”
Other female employees stated Peña would put his arm around them, making them uncomfortable, and described how he would sometimes ask some of the employees personal questions about their marriages and sex lives.
One woman alleged he once rubbed his arm on her clothed chest.
Peña denied any of the sexual harassment allegations because no one ever told him to stop.
He also reportedly admitted to watching movies in his office while on the job but stated during the past 18 months, his job duties had been taken from him. He said he was told to take direction from the other jail administrator, Steve Westland.
“Every day from that day forward, I would go in to Steve Westland’s office, and I would ask him, ‘Is there anything I can do for you today, is there any duties I need to perform?’” Peña said. “He would say no. I’d say, ‘What would you like me to do?’ He says ‘Well, go to your office and I’ll let you know if I need anything.’ For 18 months, I’ve gone to that office for eight hours a day and not performed a single duty.”
Kluever said Peña made an annual salary of about $58,000.
Peña said he was the last of former Sheriff Mark Harig’s supporters, and he thought the supporters of current Sheriff Bob Kindler were out to get rid of him.
“I don’t think Bob’s out there and saying, ‘Hey I need to burn this guy at the stake,’ but I think his supporters are coming to him,” Peña said.
Kindler declined to comment.
In another instance, Peña reportedly forced two female employees to leave the jail and go to McDonald’s with him, where he ordered them to support former Sheriff Mark Harig during his campaign for re-election.
Several of the employees said Peña threatened them with their jobs to do so, stating their jobs were at risk if Harig was not re-elected.