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Roberts' accusers getting $310K in settlement

Posted: 8:18 AM, Sep 16, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-16 15:18:09Z

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to pay $310,000 to settle claims brought by three former staffers of Supervisor Dave Roberts, who was accused of misusing his powers.

In a joint statement, the board members said they don't necessarily believe all the allegations against Roberts, but found substantial risk that jurors would find some of the contentions valid at trial.

The board members said former Chief of Staff Glynnis Vaughan appears to have identified numerous areas where county policy was not being followed in Roberts' office.

"She acted in good faith to work with Supervisor Dave Roberts to correct identified problems and establish professional standards within the District 3 offices," according to the board members "Her actions were met with resistance from Supervisor Dave Roberts resulting in a hostile relationship."

The supervisors also said ex-scheduler Diane Porter "participated in activities in her role in Supervisor Dave Roberts' office that violated county policy. Whether she did so knowingly or not is uncertain."

Her activities were known by Roberts and might have taken place at his direction, the supervisors said. Another former employee, Lindsey Masukawa, resigned "due to inappropriate pressure from the supervisor to influence the investigation" into his office, the supervisors said.

"The Board of Supervisors' decision to settle the claims is not intended as statement that we believe all the claims by the three former staff members are true," the statement said.

"But, we do believe there is substantial risk that a jury would find elements of several of the claims valid and would render an adverse verdict at trial," the supervisors said. "To minimize the significant financial exposure to county taxpayers, the board considers it's in the best interest of taxpayers to settle the claims immediately."

Combined, the women were asking for more than $1 million in compensation.

They said the supervisor, at minimum, showed poor judgment.

Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar, who will challenge Roberts for the seat, said his "actions are a disappointment to those who put their trust in him and have become a distraction from the job he was elected to do. This settlement will cost San Diego County taxpayers hundreds of thousands, which could otherwise be used to support critical county services."

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, who is also running for the seat, last week renewed his call for the embattled supervisor to resign.

Roberts issued this statement regarding the settlement:

When my Chief of Staff retired after 22 years in that position, the transition to a new Chief did not go as well as I expected and I take full responsibility for that. Now that the settlement has taken place, we are moving forward.

While I strongly oppose the action taken today by a majority of the Board of Supervisors, I respect my colleagues' right to make such a decision. I have said consistently that no taxpayer funds should be used to resolve these issues.

It is unfortunate that they occurred, but they are now behind us. My staff and I will continue to work hard delivering results for the people of the Third District as I have strived to do since my first day in office.

The following is the Board's full statement:

After careful consideration, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has determined that it is in the best interest of taxpayers to settle claims filed by three former staff members against Supervisor Dave Roberts for a total sum of $310,000.

In the opinion of the Board, activities that occurred in the District 3 Supervisorial office, at a minimum, showed poor judgment by the Supervisor. And, although not conclusive, the investigative material surrounding the inappropriate use of County funds, promoting a hostile work environment, an alleged bribe, campaigning on County time, improper use of a County vehicle and retaliation against District 3 staff members is significant and a matter of concern for the Board of Supervisors. Inconsistent statements made by Supervisor Dave Roberts during the investigation, in closed session and in media interviews have made the investigation difficult and certainly challenges his credibility as a witness during a potential trial. Although Supervisor Dave Roberts admitted to mistakes in judgment at the onset of the allegations and implied his willingness to settle allegations with these former staff members without using County funds, he has since reversed his statements. He now states that he has done nothing wrong. Emails, text messages and other documentation that have surfaced over the last several months appear to contradict his most recent position. The Board previously rejected severance payments to two of the three former staff members based on Supervisor Dave Roberts commitment to settle the matter without County funds.

Subsequently, the three former staff members all filed claims against the County and were ultimately seeking a total of $1.075 million in compensation.

If lawsuits were to be filed by the three former staff members and Supervisor Dave Roberts is named as a defendant, the County would be required to retain outside counsel for him at County expense. According to County Counsel, the litigation cost to defend Supervisor Dave Roberts through trial in the three cases, win or lose, could exceed $1 million. In addition, we believe it is unlikely we would prevail on all three claims.

Former Chief of Staff Glynnis Vaughan appears to have identified numerous areas where county policy was not being followed in Supervisor Dave Roberts' office. She acted in good faith to work with Supervisor Dave Roberts to correct identified problems and establish professional standards within the District 3 offices. Her actions were met with resistance from Supervisor Dave Roberts resulting in a hostile relationship.

Analysis of documented evidence indicates that former employee Diane Porter participated in activities in her role in Supervisor Dave Roberts' office that violated County policy. Whether she did so knowingly or not is uncertain. However, she was doing so with the full knowledge of Supervisor Dave Roberts and arguably at his direction.

Lindsey Masukawa had a positive two year working relationship with Supervisor Dave Roberts. She is a credible witness who made it clear to multiple County employees that she was resigning due to inappropriate pressure from the Supervisor to influence the investigation, but sent a positive resignation letter to him out of fear of retaliation and detriment to her professional career.

The Board of Supervisors' decision to settle the claims is not intended as statement that we believe all the claims by the three former staff members are true. But, we do believe there is substantial risk that a jury would find elements of several of the claims valid and would render an adverse verdict at trial. To minimize the significant financial exposure to County taxpayers, the Board considers it's in the best interest of taxpayers to settle the claims immediately.

At the direction of the Board of Supervisors, more detailed information has been compiled and is available.

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