A spokesman for San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts said allegations by a former staffer are "false, defamatory" and will be refuted by documents and witnesses.
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.
At a Thursday news conference, Roberts’ spokesman Gary Gartner handed out documents that he said prove those allegations are untrue.
"Throughout his entire term, Dave Roberts has held himself to the highest ethical standards, and he has done nothing unethical improper or in appropriate," said Gartner.
When asked why Roberts was not addressing the public himself, Gartner said because there is potential litigation, the supervisor is being advised about what he can and cannot say. “He has nothing to hide and he wants to speak to you," Gartner said.
INAPPROPRIATE RELATIONSHIP ALLEGATIONS ARE A LIE: STAFFER
As he walked through Porter's claim, Gartner addressed the allegations surrounding Roberts and Meza's relationship, reading a statement prepared by Meza under oath.
Meza described starting as an intern in Roberts' office, and after 11 months, he was hired on as a policy adviser and community representative. Although he and other staffers have driven Roberts to events, he "is not merely a driver," Meza's statement read.
“I’ve never engaged in any inappropriate conduct sexual or otherwise with County Supervisor Dave Roberts," said Gartner, reading the statement. Any suggestion is a lie, Meza said, pointing out that he is a heterosexual man. Roberts is a married gay man.
In Porter's claim, she said Roberts and Meza’s relationship took an inappropriate turn when the two started sharing hotel rooms on trips to Brawley and the Colorado River. Meza said everyone attending the Colorado River event was supposed to share rooms — male with male, female with female. Roberts said he was assigned the shared room and did not request it, which a San Diego County Water Authority letter confirms, according to Gartner.
“All that happened was that I went to sleep in my separate bed," Meza said in the release. "There was no sexual activity of any kind."
Meza also said he was not on the Brawley trip, though an email about it, sent to Porter by Roberts, says, "Harold will stay in the room with me. (Brave man!)" Garter provided a Lions Club attendance sheet from the Brawley trip, which shows Roberts' name and the name of another staffer, Kimmy Roberts. Meza's is not on the list.
In text messages between Porter and the supervisor provided to the media, Gartner pointed out that Roberts told Porter only Kimmy went to Brawley. In a follow-up text, Porter asked why Meza did not go.
MISUSING COUNTY FUNDS?
Porter's claim also details alleged misuse of county funds and time by Roberts.
She said the staff was ordered to make personalized “Dave Roberts baseball cards” for just under $1,000, but Roberts later told Porter to “make them disappear” when he was told they look like part of his campaign, she said in the claim.
Gartner told the media the cards were inspired by those used by former California Gov. Pete Wilson. "There was no inappropriate use of county money to produce those cards," the spokesman said. In memos, Roberts' chief of staff at the time, Glynnis Vaughan, said the cards initially appeared to be campaign related, so she suggested that they instead promote the county's "Live Well" efforts on the back, according to Gartner.
He said Vaughan took the lead on the cards, went through the proper county channels and got the right authority to produce them. Porter took them home on her own, not at Roberts' suggestion, Gartner said.
According to Porter, Roberts also accepted the county’s $1,000 per month car allowance for his personal car, but then used a county vehicle — mostly driven by Meza. Gartner said that started in October 2013, when Roberts drove himself to an event. As he walked back to his car, he was the victim of an attempted stabbing. From that point on, the staff decided they would be with Roberts at almost every event.
NO HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT: SPOKESMAN
Tensions and dissatisfaction with Meza’s performance came to a head when Porter and Vaughan confronted Roberts in March 2015. They took the conversation behind closed doors into the supervisor’s office and told him about their concerns regarding Meza. Roberts then called in Meza to defend himself.
“It just turned into Dave telling us how wonderful Harold was and he’s amazing and he’s perfect. ‘He’s the best staffer I’ve ever had. Nobody else compares.’ And we’re like, ‘He doesn’t do anything. He drives you,'" said Porter.
According to Gartner, Porter texted Roberts the following day that she no longer trusted the chief of staff and claimed that Vaughan had twisted her words. The next day, Porter complained to Roberts about a scheduling conflict between Vaughan and herself.
In April, the women took their complaints to the county’s human resources, saying Roberts had created a hostile work environment. However, they soon learned everything they said in that office was reported back to Roberts, Porter said in the complaint.
Another Roberts’ staffer soon called Porter, telling her Roberts planned on firing her because he blamed her for the office's problems, according to the complaint. The staffer said she was offered a higher position and more money to go to HR and tell them Porter’s reports were a lie.
Porter and Vaughan eventually resigned — two of eight people in Roberts’ office to leave since the beginning of the year.
At the news conference, Gartner handed out copies of text message conversations between Porter and Roberts. He said they show Porter was texting positive messages to Roberts until the day she resigned. There are also references to the "difficult" relationship between Vaughan and Porter, according to Gartner.
“What I'm trying to show here is that for somebody who says it was a hostile work environment and didn't get along with her boss,” Gartner said. “The text messages don't show that.”
In a text message to NBC 7 Investigates Thursday, Porter gave her take on Gartner's news conference. "Most of those texts 'being nice' [were] before the March shouting match and BEFORE he offered someone money to lie. And sure I did try after Glynnis left to maintain a good working environment, we had no idea what was going on. I needed to feed my family. I was threatened with being fired. But once I was told he offered someone money I couldn't even try anymore."
She said there was a scheduling disagreement between her and Vaughan because "emotions were high that week.
The county’s board of supervisors has declined to comment on the accusations, but it did say earlier this week that any settlements with Roberts’ former staffers will be paid by him, not taxpayer dollars. Porter's claim requests $250,000 to settle it.
NBC 7 Investigates confirmed with multiple sources Wednesday that the San Diego County District Attorney’s public integrity unit is asking questions about Roberts. DA spokesman Steve Walker said the office does not confirm the existence of ongoing investigations.
Ed. Note: NBC 7’s live stream of the Roberts staff’s news conference lasted an hour. For more details, watch NBC 7 News at 4, 5 and 6.