Arizona AG Sues Glendale Irrigation District for Sexual Harassment

The Arizona Attorney General’s office filed a civil rights lawsuit against a Glendale irrigation district this month, claiming a male manager sexually harassed a female employee over the course of five years.

According to the lawsuit, the board of the Sunburst Farms Irrigation District failed to follow up on complaints against irrigation manager Richard Mitten.

The lawsuit was filed by the Civil Rights Division of the Arizona Department of Law, which investigates and litigates claims of discrimination, including sexual harassment cases. Most lawsuits from the division come out of complaints.

Office manager Brenda Brown claimed that Mitten referred to house visits to female homeowners as “quickies,” called Brown a “bitch” and his "work wife," and commented that his penis is so big that it would “hit from one knee to another.”

Brown also claimed that Mitten commented about needing to “sleep off his hard on” and asked Brown and another homeowner, “What are you girls talking about over there? My big dick?"

The lawsuit states: "Because of Brown's sex, her co-worker, Mitten, subjected her to unwelcome verbal conduct of a harassing nature that was sufficiently severe or pervasive as to change the terms or conditions of her employment and create a hostile work environment."

In a phone interview with Phoenix New Times, Mitten denied making any comments about his penis or referring to home visits as “quickies.” He said he could not recall calling Brown a “bitch,” but admitted it was possible that he did.

Mitten admitted to calling Brown his “work wife." He said he did so because she called him her “work husband” years ago after observing that she spent more time with him than she did her husband.

Katie Conner, a spokesperson for the Attorney General's office, declined to comment.

According to the lawsuit, Brown complained about Mitten to the Sunburst Farms Irrigation District board on multiple occasions, only to have her grievances ignored.

The lawsuit claims Brown complained to board member Brett Harrison in September 2014 and October 2015 about Mitten's alleged behavior. Brown believed that Harrison took no action either time, and referred to her complaint as "a bitch session" after their first meeting.

Brown also complained to board president Kay Lorenzen in October 2014, May 2016, September 2016, and October 2017, according to the lawsuit. Lorenzen reportedly told her twice that she "didn't want to hear it" and refused to put anything in writing because "she didn't want anything in [Mitten's] personnel file."

Lorenzen denied having any knowledge of Brown's complaints against Mitten during an open board meeting, the lawsuit states.

The Sunburst Farms Irrigation District board could not immediately be reached for comment. The utility services residential and agricultural land covering 828 acres in north Glendale, according to a description on the district's website published in 2012.

Brown resigned from the district on October 11, 2018.
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Steven Hsieh was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from August 2018 to April 2020.
Contact: Steven Hsieh