San Diego County residents are paying for an outside public relations consultant to write press releases, assist with communications and identify press opportunities for San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts' office, according to county documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates.
Roberts also has a communications staffer on his county payroll and has recently hired a campaign-funded crisis communications expert.
Marketing and communications professional Lisa MacLarty has been working with Roberts' office since March, according to a contract obtained by NBC 7 Investigates through the state public records act.
MacLarty referred questions about the contract to Roberts’ office. A spokesperson for his office told NBC 7 Investigates they did not have a comment on the public relations contract.
MacLarty has a $6,000 contract for a three-month period with the supervisor. Invoices for the PR work were not immediately available.
Roberts has been under fire this month after accusations from former staffers were made public about alleged abuse of public funds and unfair treatment of employees.
In a claim filed against the county last week, former scheduler Diane Porter accuses Roberts of misusing public funds, carrying on an inappropriate relationship with 26-year-old staffer Harold Meza and retaliating against those who objected.
Roberts' spokesman Gary Gartner, a crisis communication expert, said Roberts’ former chief-of-staff Glynnis Vaughan authorized the PR contract with MacLarty.
Vaughan filed a claim Thursday against the county about the supervisor and the workplace environment in Roberts' office.
Vaughan’s attorney said the contract is between MacLarty and the county.
“MacLarty was hired through the county through a legitimate procurement process,” said attorney Lynne Lasry. “My client didn’t authorize the contract because she has no authority to authorize it. The County does that."
In Vaughan’s claim, she alleges the supervisor’s office attempted to pay for an additional consultant through nefarious means. Vaughan described how she uncovered a deal Roberts made with a n Arizona consulting which had provided services to his office for two years – a deal, she said, that was “never properly authorized by the County of San Diego.”
According to Vaughan's complaint, that Arizona-based consulting firm said it was owed $28,900 for its work.
NBC 7 Investigates surveyed the other four county supervisors to find out if any had outside PR consultants paid with taxpayer dollars.
Staff in Supervisors Dianne Jacob, Greg Cox and Ron Roberts’ offices all said there were no outside communications consultants working for their offices. Supervisor Bill Horn’s office did not answer.
MacLarty recently sent a news release about a speaking engagement at Mira Costa Community College in which Roberts was to talk about the role of a county supervisor. That event was scheduled for Friday but Roberts cancelled the event at the last minute.
Members of the public still showed up for the event. Some said they were disappointed because they wanted to tell him they still support him.
“I have known Supervisor Dave Roberts for more than 15 years,” District 3 resident Mary Jane Boyd said. “I know him to be a person of the highest integrity and I know absolutely that he has not done anything improper or unethical.”