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County of Santa Barbara served lawsuit accusing Public Health Leaders of discrimination, workplace safety violations

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The County of Santa Barbara has been served with a lawsuit claiming two Public Health leaders of discrimination, harassment and retaliation toward staff. 

Three county employees recently filed the lawsuit against county Public Health Director Mouhanad Hammami and Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg and claim the county failed to properly investigate workplace safety complaints and failed to protect them from further harassment. 

The lawsuit filed by Paige Batson, Dr. Noemi Doohan, and Shellie Robles-Davis allege the issues escalated after Hammami was hired as director in January 2023.

The lawsuit alleges that Hammami disregarded the concerns of female, non-white, and non-heterosexual staff members, while misrepresenting himself as a licensed medical doctor.

Hammami received his medical doctorate in Syria, but is not licensed in California according to the state's medical board website. The lawsuit alleges that Hammami received bonuses in line with someone with a medical license. 

The lawsuit alleges that Dr. Ansorg made homophobic and racist comments toward staff.

Dr. Ansorg allegedly asked a gay co-worker "why gay men have so much sex" during the monkeypox epidemic in 2022 detailed the lawsuit.

Dr. Doohan alleges that Dr. Ansorg said something to the effect that the federal government was "prioritizing monkeypox vaccines for soldiers over faggots". 

During the COVID pandemic in the summer of 2022, Dr. Doohan alleges that Dr. Ansorg said that the county should not prioritize COVID treatment in the northern part of Santa Barbara County.

Dr. Doohan said in the lawsuit that she understood this comment to be motivated by discrimination because the northern part of the county is primarily Hispanic, rural, and lower income. 

The lawsuit also alleges that Dr. Ansorg made inappropriate demands to nurses and told Robles-Davis to administer vaccinations to patients without patient consent and to estimate medication dosages.

The County of Santa Barbara did investigate Dr. Ansorg's action according to the lawsuit in February 2023 but did not take any corrective action according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim the investigation was "illegitimate and to have a predetermined result" because Hammami kept saying that he expected Dr. Ansorg to be back at work despite the investigation being completed at the time.

The plaintiffs seek monetary damages and claim to have suffered anxiety and emotional distress. 

"The County of Santa Barbara does not discuss personnel matters and neither does any member of staff," said Santa Barbara County Public Information Office Kesley Buttitta when asked about the lawsuit.

A case management conference has been scheduled for August. 

Article Topic Follows: Crime & Courts
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Ryder Christ


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