For more than 10 years, women on Robert Taitano mail route in Tacoma told the U.S. Postal Service the substitute carrier was creepy or worse.
They said he groped them and made sexual comments. He entered their homes and businesses without permission. Once, before he delivered a Victoria’s Secret catalog, he wrote: “You would look good in this.”
Nevertheless, the Postal Service never told Tacoma police of the allegations from more than a dozen women. After police investigated, Taitano was charged with assault, harassment and burglary.
Police started investigating Taitano, 55, in 2014 after a woman on his route reported to police that the mail carrier had entered her home without permission and asked whether she was married.
During the investigation, Detective Roland Hayes learned the Postal Service had gotten more than 12 formal and informal complaints about Taitano since at least the early 2000s.
At least nine formal complaints appear to have been made directly to the Postal Service. Others appear to have been made by women informally to another mail carrier.
Hayes wrote in a report that he didn’t understand why the federal agency hadn’t reported the alleged crimes to police.
“It is unknown why the United States Post Office did not forward this information to the Tacoma Police Department at the time of these potential criminal incidents,” the detective wrote.
“It is also unknown why the managers that supervised Taitano appeared to have no knowledge of prior incidents when the documentation was present in their internal records.”
Meosha Turner, whose complaint to police about Taitano prompted the investigation, is critical of the Postal Service as well.
“People reported to the post office, expecting them to take it seriously, and they don’t,” she said in an interview with The News Tribune. “They don’t even take the extra step to report it to the police department.”
Asked by The News Tribune why the agency had not alerted police to the women’s complaints, Ernie Swanson, a local spokesman for the Postal Service replied via email:
“I cannot discuss Mr. Taitano’s current status with the U.S. Postal Service due to the Privacy Act. It is the general policy of the Postal Service to place employees off duty without pay during the pendency of criminal proceedings.”
After Hayes’ investigation, Taitano was charged with residential burglary, harassment and fourth-degree assault, all crimes alleged by women on his route. He is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty and posting $35,000 bail in October.
His attorney, Michael Stewart, declined to comment, saying it is his general practice not to discuss ongoing cases.
‘THEY’RE NOT INFORMING THE PUBLIC’
The Postal Service and postal investigators have declined to comment about Taitano since his arrest and denied News Tribune requests for his personnel file, records of any investigation of his behavior and copies of the complaints against him.
The documents would be provided only with written permission from Taitano, officials said.
The agency also declined to say whether Taitano still is employed by the Postal Service, on administrative leave or still delivering mail.
The News Tribune also sent questions to the federal agency that investigates complaints against Postal Service employees.
John Masters, local spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, referred the newspaper to an October press release.
“The USPS OIG considers the aforementioned allegations to be a very serious issue,” the statement said. “When such allegations are made, the USPS OIG vigorously investigates those allegations, as we did in this instance.”
In the interview with The News Tribune, Turner said she was pleased with the Tacoma police response to her concerns about Taitano and the resulting criminal charges against him.
“The post office on the other hand, they failed miserably,” she said. “I don’t feel like they’re taking this seriously. They’re not informing the public of what they’re doing to make things different.”
NO KNOWN DISCIPLINE
Detective Hayes declined to talk to The News Tribune about how the Postal Service handled the complaints, but the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office provided the newspaper with reports from his investigation of Taitano.
An October report answered one question about Taitano: The carrier was on administrative leave at that time.
But in general, the Postal Service’s records of incidents allegedly involving Taitano were lacking, according to the detective.
“There is clearly a pattern of criminal activity that spans approximately ten or more years involving Taitano,” the detective wrote. “The documentation of these incidents by the United State Post Office was incomplete at best.”
Nevertheless, according to his reports, Hayes was able to piece together the following concerning Taitano. The News Tribune is not identifying the women involved because they did not return calls from the newspaper to agree to interviews.
On May 6, 2013, the owner of a local salon reported to the Postal Service that Taitano had assaulted, sexually harassed and stalked her. She said he also once grabbed her butt.
She asked that he no longer deliver mail to her at her business, but she said he continued to do that and to harass her. The woman said a Postal Service supervisor told her Taitano couldn’t be taken off the route “because he is union.”
Though Taitano was still delivering the mail, police found records that he had been directed in a counseling session to have no physical contact with customers on his route and to be professional.
Eventually he did stop delivering mail to the salon.
After the woman reported her problems with Taitano to police, Hayes interviewed the Postal Service’s manager of customer service at the Tacoma Central Carrier Facility at 3825 S. Warner St.
She said she’d talked with the salon owner and, after hearing her account, stopped Taitano from delivering mail to the business complex where the woman worked.
The manager told Hayes she was aware of only the one incident with Taitano during the nine months she worked in Tacoma, starting in November 2012.
The manager said a supervisor was the one to investigate the complaint and that a file on the incident had been sent to the Postal Service’s district labor office in Federal Way.
The manager told Hayes she was not aware of any discipline regarding Taitano.
Hayes said the manager couldn’t explain why no supervisor had any information about other incidents or complaints about Taitano.
When Hayes asked the salon owner why she hadn’t reported the alleged harassment to police sooner, she said she felt sorry for the carrier’s wife, and that she was afraid.
She also said that when she complained to the Postal Service, Taitano’s behavior got worse.
The detective learned that Taitano also allegedly had bothered women at the office of the Tacoma landfill on South Mullen Street.
One woman contacted Hayes after seeing news reports about Taitano’s arrest and said he’d harassed her. In an email to police, she said her co-workers had started calling Taitano the “stalker mailman.”
“No one should be subjected to such intrusive behavior, especially from a federal worker like Robert Taitano,” the woman wrote.
She said she hoped Taitano didn’t have the chance to harass women anymore by using his job.
The detective also spoke to a woman who said that in 2004 Taitano backed her up against her car while making sexual comments. Hayes wrote that the woman had reported the incident to the Postal Service and was upset when told he had not been fired.
‘SOMETHING BAD WAS GOING TO HAPPEN’
Though the Postal Service wouldn’t disclose Taitano’s personnel file to The News Tribune, Turner said Postal Service investigators told her he once was fired for his behavior and then rehired.
On that subject, one of Hayes’ reports refers to a Dec. 10, 2004, Postal Service memo, called a “notice of proposed removal,” that was prompted by Taitano’s actions.
The memo lists at least four alleged offenses, including that he:
• Backed the woman against her car.
• On July 18, 2003, circled an item in a Victoria’s Secret catalog and wrote: “You would look good in this,” made inappropriate comments and tried to hug the woman.
• On Aug. 15, 2002, he rubbed a customer’s back and kissed her on the cheek.
It is unclear in Hayes’ report whether anything resulted from the notice.
The main carrier for a route Taitano handled as a substitute told Hayes that multiple women had complained to him about Taitano’s behavior. The carrier said he’d contacted Postal Service supervisors about the complaints.
“He said the managers had dropped the ball, and he knew something bad was going to happen,” Hayes wrote.
Turner said she wants the Postal Service to take complaints against carriers seriously and for there to be serious repercussions for anyone who in the future behaves as Taitano is alleged to have done.
“Sweeping it under the rug, keeping it quiet — it’s time for that to stop,” she said.