San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts disclosed details about a confidential discussion of sensitive personnel matter, according to emails obtained by NBC 7 Investigates. One legal expert said Roberts’ disclosure violates the spirit, if not the letter, of a state government code.
The supervisors met in a confidential, closed session on April 14 to discuss what public documents describe as a “conference with legal counsel” regarding “anticipated litigation.”
Multiple county sources told NBC 7 Investigates the purpose was a candid discussion of a proposed $75,000 pay-out to Roberts' former Chief of Staff Glyniss Vaughan.
The Board of Supervisors did not approve the pay-out or any separation agreement at that April 14 closed session and did not make any public report on its discussion.
But emails obtained by NBC 7 Investigates reveal that four days after that closed door meeting, Roberts sent an email to former County Supervisor Pam Slater.
Roberts told Slater the board rejected the payment. “Yes, unanimous! 5-0,” Roberts emailed Slater.
Tony Solare, a local attorney with expertise in government law, says details like that must remain confidential until the matter is settled.
Solare, who formerly worked in the San Diego City Attorney’s office, said the confidential nature of closed session meetings is important because it allows elected officials, their attorneys and administrators to talk frankly about sensitive and important issues.
“They can feel comfortable that it’s going to remain confidential so that they can air different ideas and talk about things that if discussed in a public setting, would be unpopular,” Solare explained.
A county spokesman confirmed someone sent a copy of Roberts’ email to county attorneys, who are reviewing those messages.
Roberts has not responded to our request for comment on his email.
In the last four months, Roberts' office has experienced a high level of turnover, with at least seven of his 11 staffers quitting.
In her resignation letter, a copy of which was obtained by NBC 7 Investigates, Vaughn complained of a "hostile, politicized work environment" in Roberts' office.
She said she should not “be required to endure the retaliation that took place before I went on leave and while I was on leave," according to the letter, which was sent to the county’s personnel director.
Roberts' current Chief of Staff Mel Millstein defended his boss, saying "he is a fair and thoughtful leader who provides strong support."