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Sexual misconduct by Animal Services’ volunteer director alleged

An administrative clerk for the Los Angeles Animal Services department has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city and the department’s director of volunteer programs.

The clerk alleged in a complaint filed in August in Los Angeles Superior Court that he faced “egregious sexual harassment and predatory assault” by Juan Rivera at work.

Rivera, who oversees the department’s volunteer programs, was placed on leave earlier this year. The department declined at the time to state the reason for his absence.

The 20-page complaint alleges that the clerk was sexually assaulted by Rivera “multiple times” at work on Jan. 17. Rivera also made crude sexual comments, grabbed the clerk’s genitals and exposed himself to the clerk, according to the complaint.

The Times generally does not name victims of sexual assault.

The clerk started working at Animal Services in December 2022 and was referred to the job by Rivera, according to the complaint. He was a “subordinate” to Rivera at the department, the complaint said.

Rivera did not respond to several requests for comment. It was not clear if Rivera has an attorney.

A representative for City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto declined comment.

Agnes Sibal, an Animal Services department spokesperson, confirmed that Rivera holds the position of director of volunteer programs but is on leave. She did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Rivera has had no interruption in his salary payments this year, according to the City Controller’s Office. Through 2023, he has been paid $51,132.61, according to the department.

The clerk made an initial complaint earlier this year about Rivera with the city’s Personnel Department, said the clerk’s attorney, Andrew Jaramillo.

The Times viewed a letter sent last week from the city’s Personnel Department to the clerk about his case. The letter said the allegations had been “substantiated” by the department. An earlier letter sent in August to the clerk, also viewed by The Times, said the allegations were “inconclusive.”

A representative for the city’s Personnel Department declined to comment on the two letters.

Rivera faced criticism last year after he told employees during a meeting that he is scared of large dogs, but small ones can be managed because he can strike them. He later apologized and said that he doesn’t interact with the dogs.

Rivera helps oversee the Animal Services’ volunteers, who play a critical role in operating the city’s six public animal shelters. The volunteers walk dogs, clean kennels, feed small mammals, do administrative work and more.

The department is facing an overcrowding crisis and staffing shortages, Staycee Dains, Animal Services’ general manager, told a City Council committee this week.

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