REGION — In claims filed by two former staff members, Dave Roberts is accused of misusing county resources, creating a hostile work environment and having an unprofessional relationship with a male staffer.
The 3rd District county supervisor said the only thing he is guilty of is poor judgment when it came to replacing his chief of staff.
“My mistake was obviously not hiring the correct staff for my office,” Roberts said, referring to Glynnis Vaughn, whom he hired to replace John Weil as his chief of staff. “When you look at the facts this was a bad personnel hire on my behalf.
“If you look at the first two years my office was a stable, smooth operation, with almost no personnel changes,” Roberts added. “Then on January 7, a new chief of staff started and worked for approximately 50 days. In that time we had seven resignations, plus her own.”
Weil was chief of staff for former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, who supported Roberts to replace her when she opted not to run in 2012. He left the office in December because he said he was moving out of the county.
More than 60 people applied for the job. Roberts said three people recommended he hire Vaughn.
Of those who have left his office recently, including four people in three weeks, Vaughn and Diane Porter, his former office manager and scheduler, have filed claims against the county, a precursor to a lawsuit.
They claim Roberts used his staff for campaign work — he is up for re-election in 2016 — and shared a hotel room on a business trip with Harold Meza, a policy adviser and community representative.
They also claim, among other things, that the supervisor showed favoritism toward males and promised raises and promotions if staff members would lie to the human resources department.
Using copies of text messages and a sworn statement from Meza, Gary Gartner, a spokesman for Roberts, refuted the allegations during a May 21 press conference.
Speaking on his own behalf for the first time, Roberts denied any inappropriate relationship with Meza.
“I want to be crystal clear,” Roberts said. “We did not have an affair. These slanderous, false allegations have to stop. They are a lie.
“We never stayed in a hotel together,” he added. “We did go on a water authority trip and we were assigned to a military-style workers barracks. There were two single beds in the room. If I wasn’t gay this would not even be a story.”
In his statement Meza said he and Roberts were “booked into a room with two separate beds.”
“All that happened was that I went to sleep in my own bed. There was no sexual activity of any kind.
“Let me be perfectly clear on this,” Meza added. “I am a heterosexual male.”
Copies of text messages between Roberts and Porter that were distributed by Gartner include several happy emoticons and present what appears to be a positive working relationship and friendship between the two.
One features a cartoon outlining 12 outstanding personality traits of a great boss, which Porter described as Roberts “to a tee.” In her final text on March 31 she wrote, “You know I love me some Dave Roberts.”
Porter’s attorney also distributed copies of text messages, one of which has Roberts saying Meza could keep him warm on a trip to the East Coast, although Meza ultimately did not make that trip.
Roberts said those and similar texts were simply staff members joking around but they ultimately led to a situation in which he should have displayed better leadership.
“The texts were a joke,” he said. “They were always followed by ‘hahaha.’ I tend to joke with people. I can tell you that I learned from this and my new chief of staff has really implemented some very good policies for all of us in my office about not texting.
“When Harold Meza was assigned to the same room with me, after that trip it kind of became verbal joking around. It is not appropriate and we have stopped that verbal joking around. It was done by all sides but as the leader in the office I should have put a stop to it.”
Roberts said it wasn’t until recently that he learned there was tension in his office. With his busy schedule and out-of-state parents who had some health issues he said he wasn’t in the office frequently during the early part of this year.
“There was a lot going on in our office,” he said. “You expect your chief to keep operations flowing smoothly and obviously that didn’t happen.
“Glynnis Vaughn, as my chief of staff, complained to almost everybody else about problems in the office, but not to me,” he added. “I find that very unusual. I actually learned about this from Diane Porter.”
Roberts said Porter and Vaughn did not get along.
“There were just issues all along,” he added. “Nobody could please Glynnis Vaughn. She was dissatisfied with everybody, including me.”
Roberts said he can only speculate as to how things got so bad so fast or why Vaughn and Porter are making what he describes as false allegations to “misrepresent the truth and defame and slander” another person.
“If you look at this objectively some people would say (Glynnis Vaughn) didn’t have the skill set to be a chief of staff,” he said. “She had never been a chief of staff before and she didn’t really understand the process.
“I can’t get into the minds of these two people but I can read their claims and all the false allegations,” he said. “Your eyes immediately go to the bottom of both claims and you see the dollar amount their asking for and I think it’s pretty apparent what this is all about.”
Vaughn and Porter are seeking settlements of $475,000 and $250,000, respectively.
Roberts said the allegations are a distraction but “my eye is on the ball I am focused on my county work.”
He said he has already taken steps to move forward.
“I have now hired the correct staff for my office and it’s back to business as usual,” he said.
His new chief of staff is Mel Millstein, a finalist when Vaughn was hired.
“He’s well-qualified,” Roberts said. “In almost six weeks he has right-sided the ship. He really has put into place a smooth operation and we are continuing our extensive level of service to our district.”
Roberts said the accusations have hurt his family, which includes his spouse and five adopted foster children between the ages of 6 and 19, some of whom played with Porter’s kids.
“They keep asking why they can’t play together anymore,” Roberts said. “My kids have two less friends now.”
Efforts to reach Porter’s attorney for comments were unsuccessful by press time.