Lifeguard report in, response will be delayed

Lifeguard report in, response will be delayed
Pat Vergne good-naturedly takes part in the 2011 groundbreaking for the 17th Street beach safety center. The city’s community services director and chief lifeguard was fired Aug. 23. Photos by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — The final draft of an investigation into workplace misconduct in the Community Services Department has been submitted to the city attorney.

But any information that can be made public will not be released until a similar inquiry involving a complaint filed against the city manager is complete, according to Ashley Jones, Del Mar’s administrative services director.

Community Services Director Pat Vergne, a city employee for more than 35 years and head lifeguard for about 20 of them.

Community Services Director Pat Vergne, a city employee for more than 35 years and head lifeguard for about 20 of them, has been on paid administrative leave since early spring after two lifeguards filed separate complaints in March and April with the Human Resources Department.

He and Liza Rogers, an administrative assistant in his department, have been out for more than four months while an independent, Encinitas-based attorney investigated the situation.

City officials said they are unable to provide details to the public, Vergne or his attorney because it is a personnel issue.

Daniel Crabtree, who is representing Vergne, said he believes it started when his client tried to break up a verbal argument between two lifeguards and Rogers.

But after listening to six hours of testimony given to the investigator, Crabtree said there may be more to it.

Early last month, he filed a complaint on his client’s behalf against City Manager Scott Huth.

(Contrary to what was reported in this paper, City Attorney Leslie Devaney was not named in that complaint. The Coast News regrets the error.)

Huth said, like Vergne, he does not know the details of the complaint.

Council members met for about an hour in a July 27 last-minute closed session, during which they entered into an agreement with an employment law and labor relations firm to “oversee a confidential personnel investigation” into the Huth complaint, Jones said.

Liebert Cassidy Whitmore brought in an investigator and an inquiry is currently underway.

“The City Council’s goal is to conduct a thorough, fair and expeditious investigation,” Jones said, noting that additional information may be shared at the next council meeting on Aug. 7.

Crabtree said Vergne has spoken to the new investigative team.

“They have done a very fair and honorable job, which is more than I can say about the first investigation, which to me was a travesty,” Crabtree said.

Meanwhile, more than 200 residents have demanded Vergne be returned to his position because now that the investigation is complete and no more witnesses will likely be questioned, he cannot influence their responses.

Crabtree addressed council with that request before the July 27 meeting.

“I made a statement about reinstating Pat but it fell on deaf ears,” he said. “We need his guidance and leadership right now.”

Huth said government employees typically remain on leave until an entire investigation is cleared up. He and Devaney will review the findings and he will have the final say on what, if anything, is done.

The final decision on what, if anything, will be done in response to the investigation into the Huth complaint will be made by City Council.

Unless personnel changes are made as a result of either inquiry, the public will likely never know the allegations made in those complaints.

 

 

 

 

1 Comment
  1. Scotty Bloom 4 months ago

    Oh Really?
    Trust me. We are going to know what allegations were made and why Pat has been crucified. There’s more than a few little birds on the inside who know the story and, eventually, the truth will surface, more so than theories and innuendo. Anyone who knows Pat Vergne or has dealt with him at any level knows this is total BS. I see Pat walking around be Del Mar lately with his chin up and with humility. No matter what happens, all of the locals have his back.

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