Gibson’s costly affair
March 8, 2013
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
In a Tribune exclusive Nov. 16, 2012, San Luis Obispo County District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson admitted a longtime extramarital affair between he and his Legislative Assistant, Cherie Auspiro. The couple had disclosed their personal relationship to County Counsel, Rita Neal and County Administrative Officer, Dan Buckshi on November 13.
Over the course of just three days, Ms. Neal, who is paid $15,000 per month and works at the pleasure of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, would have us believe that she did a thorough investigation into the affair. County Administrator Dan Buckshi, who is paid $16,700 per month and also works at the pleasure of the board, is quoted as saying, “based on an initial review of the situation, it appears that no county resources have been improperly used and no county policies have been violated.”
Neal had both Gibson and Auspiro’s computers “imaged” and reviewed thousands of emails sent between the two over six years of their working relationship. Additionally, Neal analyzed all travel and per diem reimbursement vouchers submitted by the two. She interviewed Gibson and Auspiro “multiple times” and claims to have interviewed colleagues on the fourth floor of the county government building as part of her investigation into the matter. Neal, said she held several meetings with the county Administrator and the Human Resources Director, Tami Douglas-Schatz, who is paid $10,650 per month.
These county employees should never have been placed in charge of “investigating” the matter. They are too close, too invested in their high paying jobs with lucrative benefit packages and couldn’t possibly be expected cry foul — when their senior board member boss was at the pinnacle of the investigation.
After realizing the Board was not going to order a proper investigation, I contacted Ms. Neal and asked to see all documentation that she had reviewed to make her determination that, “No county resources were used in their relationship.”
The California Public Records Act allows the public access to these records and I was not convinced that in only three days she could make such a definitive determination. Apparently, the Tribune made a similar request, but opted to narrow their focus to emails from the first and last years Gibson and Aupsiro had worked together. Monies for public records requests are required in the budget.
In the hasty investigation, Ms. Neal evidently missed some sensitive emails and some questionable expenses that clearly violate county policies. One such policy relates to the security program wherein it states; “Computing assets shall not be used for purposes that are in conflict with the county (non-binding) organizational values, or in any way contrary to the interests of the county.”
On January 26, CalCoastNews revealed one such email exchange and, on February 10, the Tribune was quick to dismiss the same email, claiming “context” is everything. Yet the exonerating article failed to mention their review only included 2007 and 2012, leaving 2008-2011 to the imagination.
Falling in love with one’s co-worker often happens. What is at issue is Ms. Auspiro’s taxpayer funded $69,000 a year legislative assistant position and any taxpayer resources, including email, used during the longtime affair.
Had the County properly turned the investigation over to an independent consultant, as was done in the Wilcox/Edge matter, the need to redact the emails and staff time involved would have cost just as much or more.
Try as they may, the Tribune, March 7, who made the same request as mine, is equally “guilty” of costing the taxpayers. But, really it is Gibson who has brought any and all costs to the county by his own actions. I’d like to see him pay the bill.