A former chief of staff for San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts claims the supervisor created a "hostile, politicized work environment" in his office.
Roberts is at the center of a political firestorm; at least seven of his 11 staffers have quit in just four months.
Several top county officials told NBC 7 one of those former staffers, Chief of Staff Glynnis Vaughan, was expected to receive a $75,000 settlement. A public document, obtained by NBC 7 Investigates, confirms that payment would have helped the county avoid a possible lawsuit Vaughan could file against the county.
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The county’s five supervisors have met twice in closed sessions to discuss the proposed payment to Vaughan, who has hired an attorney. But the supervisors did not approve the payment at their second meeting on April 14, and the negotiations are now on hold.
Vaughan had been on paid administrative leave during those negotiations but resigned from the county after that April 14 meeting.
NBC 7 Investigates obtained a copy of her two-page resignation letter, in which Vaughan claims she learned of “alleged misuse of government resources and other questionable behavior, including alleged staff intimidation, coercion, and the creation of a hostile work environment" in Roberts’ office.
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She said a county employee brought the allegations to her and had supporting documentation, which included text messages and emails.
Her letter also refers to warnings she received via emails that “…the Supervisor intended to lie publically about the concerns raised, and who otherwise used language that appeared to be an attempt to intimidate me if I held my ground.”
Vaughn writes that she has “been told that the Supervisor has asked others to be untruthful about what was reported and about me.”
Vaughn has not returned our requests for an interview.
Roberts' current chief of staff, Mel Millstein, said in an email that the supervisor cannot comment on the resignation because it is a personnel matter.
Millstein continued with the following statement:
"However, as his Chief of Staff, I can tell you that it is the Chief of Staff who sets the tone in the office of an elected official. Supervisor Roberts is extremely hardworking and dedicated to all his constituents. He is a fair and thoughtful leader who provides strong support to allow me to be successful as he does for all his staff. He has given me the full authority to manage the day-to-day operations of our staff and he expects a collegial office environment that promotes strong teamwork in order for him to do the people’s business for which he was elected."
In a Tuesday interview, Roberts told NBC 7 Investigates there is not much he can say about the settlement and high turnover.
“There is nothing I can share on this,” Roberts said. “It's just one of those allegations that is floating out there."
In the last three weeks, Roberts has had three different people in his chief of staff position: Vaughan, Lindsey Masukawa and Millstein.
According to a memo obtained from the county, Millstein will receive an annual salary of $151,008 and began serving as Roberts' chief of staff on April 15.
“I think he (Millstein) will be a great chief of staff,” Roberts said. “All my staff is doing a phenomenal job, and I’m just really pleased they’re doing a phenomenal job.”
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The supervisors’ meetings are closed to the public because they involve “exposure to significant liability” to the county and taxpayers. The county’s five supervisors, county attorney and CAO are allowed to be present at the closed-door meetings. The public learns about the results only if action is taken, which usually consists of an agreement to pay money to settle an existing or threatened lawsuit.
County spokesman Michael Workman said the county will not be commenting because it is a personnel matter. It has been responding to and answering our requests for documents, emails and other records through state open record requests.