Supervisor’s zipper costly to county taxpayers

November 29, 2012

Bruce Gibson

By DANIEL BLACKBURN and KAREN VELIE

Supervisor Bruce Gibson’s adulterous, long-term affair with a subordinate — his legislative assistant of six years — will cost county taxpayers $68,870 in annual salary plus benefits for a parallel county position she’s been offered by the county administrator.

Cherie Aispuro was appointed by Gibson as his legislative assistant, an at-will job that concludes when the elected official leaves office. After news of the affair with Gibson became public, the county offered Aispuro the new job.

SLO County Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi said he plans to shift her to another county position. Legislative assistants, however, are not considered civil servants, and do not have the ability to transfer to a county civil service position.

Former North County supervisor Mike Ryan, who served on the board for eight years, was outspokenly critical of Buckshi’s decision.

“Reassigning her? There is no reassigning her,” Ryan told CalCoastNews. “(The county) can’t let her go, because she works for Bruce Gibson, and they can’t reassign her into a civil servant position without violating civil service. She has to get back into line for a job. Otherwise she’s taking a job that someone else was waiting for.”

Cherie Aispuro

Ryan added, “I like Dan (Buckshi) and I think he is a very capable guy, but if (County Counsel) Rita Neal is guiding him through this, he may have the wrong guide. Both, incidentally, just got nice contracts from the board.”

Although her previous position in the clerk recorder’s office paid about $35,000 a year, the county is offering Aispuro the same $68,870 she has been earning, to be paid from supervisor discretionary funds. Buckshi made his decision based on the premise that she once worked for the county. She quit county employment to work for Gibson. Other county employees who have quit positions to become supervisors’ legislative assistants, however, have not similarly benefited. None was subsequently offered a job with the county.

Several local attorneys speculate that county counsel weighed the potential financial risk if Aispuro should lose her position and then sue for sexual harassment. Officials, apparently determined to protect the county, have offered her equal compensation, without regard for qualifications or available county jobs.

U.S. courts have been wrestling with increasingly technical sexual harassment and coercion issues for at least the last decade. Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case regarding responsibilities of people in supervising positions in instances of sexual harassment.

And in 2005, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the case of Miller v. Department of Corrections which held that even if a supervisor’s sexual relationship was consensual, the employer nevertheless should be held legally liable for creating a hostile work environment. Employees can sue their employers for sexual harassment if their employment is affected by an office romance between their supervisor and a fellow employee.

The court explained: “Although an isolated instance of favoritism on the part of a supervisor toward a female employee with whom the supervisor is conducting a consensual sexual affair ordinarily would not constitute sexual harassment, when such sexual favoritism in a workplace is sufficiently widespread, it may create an actionable hostile work environment in which the demeaning message is conveyed to female employees that they are viewed by management as ‘sexual playthings,’ or that the way required for women to get ahead in the workplace is by engaging in sexual conduct with their supervisors or the management.”

Gibson, 60, has not said when he started his affair with his assistant other than to admit that it has been a long-term sexual relationship. More than three years ago, a friend of Gibson’s wife called CalCoastNews to tell of the ongoing affair (of which Gibson’s wife was aware, according to the friend). Calls to Gibson’s wife at the time were not returned.

Gibson told The Tribune recently that his wife became aware of the affair only a week ago.

County attorney Neal downplayed Gibson and Aispuro’s affair, noting that the county doesn’t have a written policy that prohibits county employees from having relationships.

When a 2009 workplace sex scandal ended with the Board of Supervisors’ termination of the county’s top two administrators, David Edge and Gail Wilcox, the Board approved a set of “Organizational Values” to be followed by all county officials and staff.

“We are dedicated to high ethical and moral standards and uncompromising honesty in our dealings with the public and each other,” according to the Organizational Values. “We assume personal responsibility for our conduct and actions and follow through on our commitments.”

Neither Gibson, Neal nor Buckshi responded to questions about the use of discretionary funds for a non-public purpose, or why Aispuro is winning a lucrative county job after having an affair with her supervisor.

San Luis Obispo-based attorney Stew Jenkins said that offering Aispuro a job in the aftermath of the affair does not seem appropriate from a fairness standpoint, and that the use of supervisor discretionary funds to assure Aispuro stays employed is improper.

“Discretionary finds have to be used for a public purpose,” Jenkins said.

And Ryan wondered: “How did Gibson and Aispuro think they could pull this off and not have the public find out?”


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Cindy

Has anyone considered that she might have some dirt on these guy’s ? After all, she has been in a perfect position to know everything that Bruce knows. In my opinion, nothing else makes any sense.


Mr. Holly

Boy Cindy you hit it right on the head. Positioning is everything and she may have been in several.


Cindy

You just gave me a chuckle..but then, I have an extreme dislike for woman who play with married men and I do mean, an EXTREME DISLIKE.


SLOBIRD

I’m still waiting from Mr. Buckski that THEY BOTH SIGNED AN AGREEMENT THAT THIS WAS A CONSENUAL RELATIONSHIP. THIS IS HIS JOB SINCE THEY HAVE ALL MET AND SHE ADMITTED IT WAS CONSENUAL. THEN, THEY COULD DISMISS HER AS HER TERM IS OVER. SHE WAS HIRED FOR MR. GIBSON, ONLY MR> GIBSON, BY MR. GISBON. LET HER GO WORK FOR HIM. MAYBE SHE COULD BE PAID TO PACK UP HIS PERSONAL BELONGINGS AT THE HOUSE AND THEN GO PACK ORANGES.


lee

When Supervisor Gibson’s quisling on the board dumped his wife for another woman he skated because his lack of personal ethics is not cause for removal from the board. Neither are Gibson’s lack of personal ethics cause for his removal. The difference, however, is Gibson got it on with a subordinate which everyone knows is wrong and almost always leads to a rather large waste of corporate or, in this case, taxpayer money to repair the damage. In this case it seems to amount to somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 per year for a make-work “job”. And this will go on for how many years?


Supervisor Gibson went well beyond poor ethical boundaries and has directly and intentionally caused the waste of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pay for his good times with his mistress. He really should do the right thing and move on.


easymoney

No one is ever going to stop adults from making poor choices about their moral compass. Affairs are rampant everywhere in politics and public office.

I could care less if gibson is sneaking around with his side squeeze on his own time, but when an elected public servant uses their position to give extramarital partnersan advantage in hiring or wage situations that crosses the line into ILLEGAL…


danika

It appears Cherie has benefitted directly and solely BECAUSE of her affair with Gibson. Would this parallel position have been offered to her had she not been involved in an inappropriate sexual relationship with Mr. Gibson? Unlikely. So Cherie gets the benefit for wrongful behavior from a “discretionary fund” for her indiscretions.


It’s going to become costly to the taxpayer no matter where her salary comes from. And the reason? She willingly participated in an inappropriate sexual relationship for YEARS. Not just once, twice, or for a hot tub weekend out of town on the taxpayers dime.


Send a strong message. Fire her.


shelworth

Maybe Buckshi and Neal are setting the stage for when their own affairs become public? Just asking.


HonestyPlanet

Many stones heaved from glass porches. The distinction being when one who places themself into the public limelight, based upon values, common goals and trust, chooses to depart from the land of customary moral behaviour. It’s a choice, and a conscious decision that simply betrays the common values, goals and trust that served to elect that person to the limelight they chose to pursue for the common benefit. We struggle with that betrayal, from a moral perspective, and when considering the risk that it exposes the public purse to……It bothers us morally, and we are reluctant to consider that one of the participants might ulitimately procure finanical benefit for the private intimacy invovled. It takes two to tango, but it’s always an awkward dance when the boss is calling the steps…….and the public jury must wonder…..did she REALLY want to dance???? As time goes on , the answer seems ever less clear. The simple fact is that we need to elect people who we feel most comformtable with not making such a compromise with our public trust…….It’s just that simple. We each make mistakes too, and normally we’re forced to admit and learn from them…..(or repeat them……). So if someone makes a mistake, and we observe that they have admitted and learned from the mistake……where to do we go from there???

It’s a judgment call we much each make for ourselves. We can forgive, with a sharp eye on each future cicumstance……or we can simply condemn, without the possibility of reform.

Decide how you may, but decide with the analysis that defines your judgment…. I’m okay with life, as well as the ms. isnt’ financially benefitting from a true matter of heart.. But if it’s otherwise, I’m not so impressed with the system, and things need to change in a big way….

..


obispan

What are you? A struggling poet?


OnTheOtherHand

Most of you are right on the money about the stupidity and lack of ethics Gibson and Aispuro showed in having this affair while working together. You can also argue that they shouldn’t have had an affair even if there was no work relationship although I fail to see why that would be anyone else’s business but theirs and their families’. Infidelity may be a moral failing but it is a fairly common one and, by itself, is not bad enough to warrant “lynching.” Infidelity under these circumstances is a different matter since it will cost the county (& thus the taxpayers) big bucks.


Calling for the removal of both of them is justified. Demanding responsibility from Buckshi, Neal(?) and the rest of the Board is also warranted.


But please don’t let your anger at the situation lower your standards to calling her a “whore” unless you have proof that she only did it for money.


zaphod

We are done with that misused invective in this thread, if you use it you commentary will not appear.

I apologize for not deleting the original comment.

some comments awaiting moderation are not going to appear.


RU4Real

Good God ontheotherhand, Just WHAT other reason could there be for having an affair with Gibson? Have you REALLY LOOKED AT THE GUY? Granted, Cherie’s nothing to write home about, but Gibson, really?


celebratepaso

It is clearly evident that both Gibson & Cherie need to resign & move on with their private lives – and not on the county’s dime.


It is blatantly wrong to move Cherie into another job and pay her more than that job is worth. What is wrong with Buckshi & Neal for even thinking for a second about doing something like this?


She & Bruce played the game their way, and now they need to reap their consequences. We flat-out should not be rewarding immoral, dishonest & untrustworthy character behavior!


Crusader

I suspect both Buckshi and Neal are terrified of the possible impacts to their own employment if they canned Aispuro for cause and advised Gibson that he should resign.


That said they should still not have facilitated Aispuro’s move. In doing so they did something wrong, something not mandated by the job descriptions.


Kevin Rice

They don’t need ’cause’ to can Aispuro. She is an “at will” employee.


But even more specifically, she is at Gibson’s will, and ONLY GIBSON can fire her!


What Buckshi and Neal can do is NOT HIRE HER.