County sex scandal reveals misdeeds
July 29, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
In addition to detailing the improper relationship Gail Wilcox engaged in with a sheriff union negotiator, the recently released investigative report commissioned by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unveils how government leaders conspired to hide “corruption” from the public.
In an e-mail, made public in the report, former County Administrator David Edge offers Wilcox, his second in command, suggestions on how to protect herself from the possible ramifications of her affair with a married union representative she was negotiating against. Edge laments that if the media discovers the conflict of interest it will be labeled corruption.
“If the story breaks through UncoveredSLO, or similar, it will be sleazed up to the max and will be defined as obvious corruption in the media,” Edge says in the e-mail.
He goes on to suggest that Wilcox should first remove herself from the negotiation, and then inform a few people about the affair so that when it does become public it doesn’t appear that they were attempting to deceive the public. Edge notes that expecting the information to remain secret is a “long odds strategy.”
Edge also warned Wilcox that if the revelations about her relationship with Tony Perry became public it could bring up the “Clay issue again,” which could result in Wilcox loosing her job.
Last summer, CalCoastNews revealed a cozy mortgage relationship between Wilcox and attorney Clay Hall, whose firm receives hundreds of thousands of dollars annually as the vendor responsible for the majority of San Luis Obispo County’s outside legal work.
In a deal approved and defended by Edge, Clay put half the money down on Wilcox’s $580,000 Arroyo Grande home.
Hall’s firm has provided no-bid legal work for the county for more than two decades. County regulations require that contracted work of more than $10,000 be placed out for bids.
A month before the Wilcox’s Blackberry Avenue deed was granted, Edge put a proposal before supervisors purporting to “review and update” the county’s conflict of interest codes. The resolution, placed on the supervisors’ consent calendar and approved without dissent on March 20, 2007, also contains language specifically exempting Wilcox’s residence from the conflict regulations.
The exemption appears to circumvent California law governing public officials’ conduct and defining conflicts of interest.
Last summer, Edge claimed on Dave Congalton’s radio show that the wording on the consent order did not exempt Wilcox’s home.
“The dynamic in this scenario is different from that with Clay Hall because 1) there was no inappropriate relationship and 2) we’d taken action to shield you from any real problems with the business deal…,” Edge says in an April 29, 2009 e-mail to Wilcox.
On May 12, UncoveredSLO broke the news that Wilcox and Edge had been place on paid administrative leave due to allegations of sexual harassment. A week later, the board of supervisors terminated Edge.
Wilcox than filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Edge and the county. In response, the board hired an out-of-area attorney to investigate the allegations that led to the termination of Wilcox.
The investigation report documents how a few high ranking county employees used their government e-mail accounts to send “juvenile” and sexually explicit messages to one another.
In one such e-mail from Edge to Wilcox, he says, “So you didn’t get to scratch the itch but – you did hang tough and let him initiate texting this time.”
Wilcox asserts in her lawsuit that Edge’s interest in her personal life was unwelcome, however, earlier this year Wilcox e-mailed Edge from a hotel room to discuss a sexual liaison.
“(Redacted name) texted 2 say his flight sucked, he missed me and he had fun. Of course he’ll probably have another woman in his bed by 2night but getting the text made me smile of course,” Wilcox says in the e-mail.
In order to prevail in a sexual harassment lawsuit, a relationship cannot be either consensual or welcomed.
According to the report, “The evidence does not support Wilcox’s assertion that she personally found Edge’s behavior to be unwelcome or intrusive into her private life.”