County settles lawsuits with Roberts for $310K

County settles lawsuits with Roberts for $310K
The County Board of Supervisors agrees to pay $310,000 to settle allegations made against Supervisor Dave Roberts by three former staffers. File photo by Bianca Kaplanek

REGION — The County Board of Supervisors has agreed to pay $310,000 to settle allegations made against Supervisor Dave Roberts by three former staffers.

The staff members, all women, had accused Roberts, who oversees the county’s Third District, of inappropriate use of County funds, promoting a hostile work environment, an alleged bribe, campaigning on County time, improperly using a County vehicle and retaliating against staff members.

The board in its statement said that Roberts, at minimum, showed poor judgment in the handling of activities in his office.

“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,” the joint statement reads.

The board also said that inconsistencies in Roberts’ statements to the public, to his colleagues in closed session and to county officials would damage his credibility in the event of a trial.

While not an admission of guilt, the Board in a joint statement said that a settlement would be in the best interest of the taxpayers, rather than taking on three lawsuits that would expose taxpayers to more than $1 million in potential legal costs.

Claims filed by Roberts’ former Chief of Staff Glynnis Vaughan, his ex-scheduler Diane Porter and ex-staffer Lindsey Masukawa — which are typically the precursor to lawsuits — totaled $1.075 million.

The county said that Vaughan will receive $150,000, Masukawa $120,000 and Porter $40,000.

“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,” the statement said.

According to County Counsel, the litigation cost to defend 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,” the statement said.

Vaughan, Porter and Masukawa said that the supervisor had his office do political work and personal errands on the county’s dime, had an improper relationship with an assistant, and tried to mislead a human resources investigation into his practices by offering a staff member a raise and promotion.

Roberts, a first-term supervisor and the freshman member of the five-member county governing board, has denied the allegations.

He is facing a 2016 re-election that sees his opponents — including Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar — seizing hold of the allegations in their campaigns.

Gaspar issued a statement shortly after the settlement was announced.

“Supervisor Dave Roberts’ 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,” Gaspar said. “This settlement will cost San Diego County taxpayers hundreds of thousands, which could otherwise be used to support critical county services.”

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