Legal experts say San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts could face a criminal investigation, if allegations that he misused public funds are true.
Roberts’ former scheduler Diane Porter filed a claim against San Diego County Wednesday, alleging the supervisor spent county time and money on campaigning, pursued an “inappropriate” relationship with staffer and chauffeur Harold Meza and retaliated against employees who spoke up.
In a statement sent to NBC 7 Thursday, Roberts said, “I am disheartened to see the allegations contained in one former employee’s complaint that was filed with the County on Wednesday. This claim contains many inaccuracies. I am confident that if this matter advances further, the inaccuracies will be proven for what they are. As the allegations currently present a threat of litigation, I cannot discuss them further at this time.”
Legal experts tell NBC7 Investigates three of the accusations in Porter’s claim against the County and Roberts have the potential of sparking a criminal investigation, if they are true.
The allegations are:
- Roberts spent slightly just under $1,000 on personalized baseball cards and then asked Porter to “make them disappear.”
- Roberts offered a staffer money and a higher position to tell Human Resources that Porter was lying.
- Roberts double-dipped into the county car allowance benefit by accepting $1,000 per month for his personal car, but then used a county vehicle.
“It could segue into some criminal action, if his intent was to commit a fraud. If his intent was to deceive any accounting of the way that particular amount of money was being used, it could result in some type of criminal investigation and/or prosecution,” Criminal Defense Attorney Marc Carlos said.
The attorney said if Roberts’ goal was to spend more time with Meza, it could provide him with legal cover from prosecution because the intent was not fraud.
Legal analyst Dan Eaton said what stands out about the complaint is that it alleges public money was used for private purposes.
“That’s not allowed under civil law and not allowed under certain criminal statutes in the state of California as well,” Eaton said. “When you are in a position of public trust, the assumption --and indeed the mandate -- is that any resources that are entrusted to you will be used for the public good. “
Easton said if any agency were to investigate Porter’s claims, it would likely be the Attorney General’s office.
Speaking exclusively to NBC7, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said she cannot comment on any potential cases, but she did say that in general, she does have jurisdiction for public integrity cases in the county, whether they involve county supervisors or not.
Porter’s claim describes Roberts’ declining relationship with his 11staff members, seven of whom resigned since the beginning of the year. She said much of the turmoil came from the supervisor’s relationship with Meza.
"When you allow your relationship to affect that many people," Porter said in an exclusive interview with NBC 7 Investigates Wednesday, "and you can’t see that that’s what’s causing all the problems in the office, and you’re allowing one person to just do nothing during the day and take home a paycheck, and then you’re paying him to drive but you’re getting money for your car because you’re supposed to be using your car, it’s just — it’s just not right.”
On trips to Brawley and the Colorado River, Roberts and Meza shared a room, Porter said. His chief of staff at the time, Glynnis Vaughan, confronted the supervisor about the situation, telling him it is not right to share with a staffer.
When Vaughan and Porter took their complaints to Human Resources, Roberts was told what they said, and he repeated them to Porter in a phone call later that night, she told NBC 7 Investigates.
Porter said HR first told her she would be transferred elsewhere in the county. But then, she was told she had to return to work in Roberts’ office.
On April 1, another Roberts' staffer called Porter with a warning. She said Roberts was planning on firing Porter because he blamed her for the problems in the office. The staffer told Porter she was offered the official deputy chief of staff position with a pay raise, and in exchange, she would have to go to HR and tell them Porter's reports were a lie.
Instead Porter resigned on April 14, following Vaughan's resignation.
Porter’s claim asks for a lump sum payment of $250,000 to settle the case with the county. On Monday, the board of supervisors said any legal settlement made with Roberts’ former employees will be paid by Roberts’ personal funds, not public money.