Former San Benito County Probation Chief Ted Baraan was placed on leave and under investigation for allegations of workplace sexual harassment before he resigned in August, San Benito Live has confirmed.
The former official ran San Benito County’s probation department from April 2014 to August 2018. Baraan had been on administrative leave for several weeks before his abrupt resignation, and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Joe Frontella was appointed to the role.
San Benito Live could not immediately reach Baraan, whose contact information is largely unlisted. He did not respond to a request over LinkedIn to communicate about the sexual harassment investigation and his departure.
The extent and details involved with the allegations of sexual harassment are unclear, and most county officials declined to comment on the matter.
“So this whole thing, basically, we just can’t comment on due to the personnel reasons,” said Kevin O’Neil, a spokesman for San Benito County.
O’Neil said the county’s legal counsel rejected a San Benito Live request for information on the investigation — including any prospective costs — along with data on payouts Baraan may have received upon his departure. O’Neil said despite taxpayer funds being involved, the county’s legal counsel argued that personnel information on Baraan is protected since he was in law enforcement.
The local media outlet has followed up on its verbal request by submitting an official California Public Records Act request for information on payouts to Baraan upon his departure and the cost, if any, of the investigation.
“I can’t even confirm whether or not there was an investigation,” O’Neil said.
Others with knowledge of the situation did confirm the sexual harassment investigation, although top county officials — including supervisors — mostly shied away from talking specifics on Baraan’s departure.
County supervisors who talked about the matter noted how the probation chief job is classified under the superior court system. Court Executive Officer Gil Solorio, who manages the administrative side of the courts, said the employer of record overseeing the probation chief is the county. He also said the county oversees all compensation for the role.
Otherwise, however, Solorio declined to comment on the sexual harassment investigation or Baraan’s departure.
“I wouldn’t be able to comment on any of it,” Solorio said.
County Supervisor Anthony Botelho initially said he was hesitant to talk about personnel issues.
“We somewhat manage the budget, but we’re really, the probation chief is kind of, technically, hired and fired by the courts,” he said.
When pressed on the subject as it relates to broader issues nationwide with the “Me Too” movement and other matters involving sexual exploitation, Botelho did elaborate.
“Unfortunately, what happened, I think it’s problematic nationwide — that people have to maintain a level of professionalism and a code of moral conduct in the office space, with the people that you work with. And that did not happen,” he said about the Baraan matter, “and a change took place.”
Botelho went on: “We were aware of the investigation, and I think the court made the decision to accept the resignation, and we probably would’ve done the same thing.”
Asked about the investigation, he noted it was a joint effort between the county and courts.
“It’s really unfortunate — it really is,” he said, “and people make mistakes and hopefully not only they learn from them, but we all learn from them.”
Other supervisors reached on the matter limited their comments.
“We had a very limited involvement,” Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz said. “It’s one of those positions that’s governed by the superior court judge and the board of supervisors. Because it’s more a personnel matter, I can’t discuss those issues.”
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer had a similar tone.
“On the chief probation officer, I have no comment on that because it’s a personnel issue. I would suggest maybe getting a hold of the courts,” he said.
Supervisors Mark Medina and Robert Rivas could not be reached before publication time to comment on the matter.
As for Baraan, his LinkedIn page lists him as a “Retired Community Corrections Professional” who’s “Dedicated to Public Safety, Service, and Positive Change.”
Before coming to San Benito County, he had been a division director for the probation department in Alameda County for 18 years.
Frontella was introduced to the county board at the regular meeting Sept. 11. He has been doing probation work the past 23 years, with three years spent in San Benito County. Had ran the local juvenile hall before taking on the assistant probation chief role.