Updated at 11:20 p.m. Sept. 15, 2015
The county Board of Supervisors will settle claims involving Supervisor Dave Roberts for $310,000, the board revealed Tuesday — adding more fuel to the political fire.
“After careful consideration, the [board] has determined that it is in the best interest of taxpayers to settle claims filed by three former staff members against Supervisor Dave Roberts,” said a statement. “In the opinion of the board, activities that occurred in the District 3 Supervisorial office, at a minimum, showed poor judgment by the supervisor.”
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Roberts said:
“When my chief of staff retired after 22 years in that position, the transition to a new chief did not go as well as I expected and I take full responsibility for that. Now that the settlement has taken place, we are moving forward.
“While I strongly oppose the action taken today by a majority of the Board of Supervisors, I respect my colleagues’ right to make such a decision. I have said consistently that no taxpayer funds should be used to resolve these issues.”
The board statement said “investigative material” was not conclusive. But allegations included misuse of county funds, promoting a hostile work environment, an alleged bribe, campaigning on county time, improper use of a county vehicle and retaliation against District 3 staff members.
The three former staff members all filed claims against the county and sought a total of $1.075 million in compensation.
According to county counsel, the cost to defend Roberts through trial in the three cases could exceed $1 million, the board said. “We believe it is unlikely we would prevail on all three claims,” the board said in a joint statement.
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“Inconsistent statements made by Supervisor Dave Roberts during the investigation, in closed session and in media interviews, have made the investigation difficult and certainly challenges his credibility as a witness during a potential trial,” said the statement.
Roberts admitted to mistakes in judgment at the onset of the allegations and implied his willingness to settle allegations with these former staff members without using county funds, the board said, but “he has since reversed his statements.”
Supervisor Dave Roberts says he strongly opposes county settlements, says issue is behind him and he’ll keep working for his district.
— James R. Riffel (@JamesRRiffel) September 16, 2015
Roberts now says he has done nothing wrong, the statement continued.
“Emails, text messages and other documentation that have surfaced over the last several months appear to contradict his most recent position,” the board said. “The board previously rejected severance payments to two of the three former staff members based on Supervisor Dave Roberts commitment to settle the matter without county funds.”
Democrat Supervisor @DaveRobertsSD just cost San Diego County taxpayers $310,000! Shame on @SanDiegoDems. @sdut http://t.co/6WKTlegHdY
— Tony Krvaric (@TonyKrvaric) September 16, 2015
The board says his former chief of staff, Glynnis Vaughan, “appears to have identified numerous areas where county policy was not being followed in Roberts’ office. She acted in good faith to work with … Roberts to correct identified problems and establish professional standards within the District 3 offices. Her actions were met with resistance from … Roberts resulting in a hostile relationship.”
The county says documented evidence indicates that former Roberts employee Diane Porter took part in activities that violated county policy.
“Whether she did so knowingly or not is uncertain,” the board said. “However, she was doing so with the full knowledge of Supervisor Dave Roberts and arguably at his direction.”
A lawsuit filed by Roberts’ policy advisor and community representative Harold Meza against Vaughn and Porter is unaffected by the board action, said Meza’s attorney, Daniel Gilleon. Meza had been accused of inappropriate conduct with Roberts, who is gay.
“I have never engaged in any inappropriate conduct sexually or otherwise with San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts,” Meza said in June. “Any suggestion I did is a lie. I was not favored by him. Any suggestion I did — that is a lie.”
Late Tuesday, Gilleon told Times of San Diego: “It was illegal for these two women to create a hostile work environment for Mr. Meza, all for the self-serving purpose of extracting money from the county. It was illegal for them to violate Mr. Meza’s civil rights by posing as victims of some lurid affair between their boss and a ‘young male driver.’
“Today, the county supervisors exploited these bogus claims for political advantage. The county’s focus on the costs to defend the claims as a reason to settle is nothing short of disingenuous hypocrisy.”
Gilleon said the county has instructed the private lawyer it hired to defend Meza’s claim to “engage in ‘scorched earth’ litigation, sparing no expense.”
“Does the county think we will be intimidated by incessant emails, letters, accusations, threats, court hearings and never-ending interrogatories? Do they think we’re going to just give up?”
The lawyer said he and Meza and “have hunkered down. We’re more determined than ever to expose the ugliness in the way these two women behaved at the county workplace — before they quit.”
The third Roberts accuser — Lindsey Masukawa — had a positive two-year working relationship with Roberts, the board said.
“She is a credible witness who made it clear to multiple county employees that she was resigning due to inappropriate pressure from the supervisor to influence the investigation, but sent a positive resignation letter to him out of fear of retaliation and detriment to her professional career.”
The board says its decision to settle the claims is “not intended as statement that we believe all the claims by the three former staff members are true. But, we do believe there is substantial risk that a jury would find elements of several of the claims valid and would render an adverse verdict at trial.”
To minimize the significant financial exposure to county taxpayers, the board said, it considers it in the best interest of taxpayers to settle the claims immediately.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Vaughan will get $150,000, Masukawa $120,000 and Porter $40,000.
Roberts concludded his own response: “It is unfortunate that [issues] occurred, but they are now behind us. My staff and I will continue to work hard delivering results for the people of the Third District as I have strived to do since my first day in office.”
— City News Service contributed to this report.