SLO County maintenance supervisor allegedly spied on workers

November 12, 2015

spyThe maintenance supervisor and lead custodian for the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education secretly recorded, spied on and repeatedly harassed employees, according to claims filed on Oct. 29 by Avila Beach-based attorneys with the Tardiff Law Offices

In early August,  maintenance supervisors Bill Barnhill illegally recorded a number of private conversations with custodians Julie Lackie and Sharon James, as well as groundskeeper Dennis Loftus.

The maintenance workers do not know how many of their conversations were recorded, the claims state. After the employees informed the county of the alleged illegal taping, one of the tape recorders used was destroyed on or around August 21, according to the claims.

Barnhill also illegally took photos and/or other media of the janitors and the groundskeeper, the claims state. In addition, Barnhill and lead custodian Michelle Terry allegedly bought binoculars for the purpose of spying on the workers, the claims allege.

Beginning on or before Feb. 1, 2014, Barnhill and Terry began showing up at the work sites of Lackie and James to surprise, shock, annoy, assault and harass them, the claim states. Both Lackie and James typically work late at night and/or in unoccupied buildings and often with headphones on.

The claims cite examples of the harassment.

On one night, Terry followed Lackie without her knowledge while she was cleaning a building near the Men’s Colony. Terry surprised Lackie when she came around a corner, the claim alleges.

On one afternoon, James was working in a “medically fragile” classroom at an Atascadero elementary school. The building was unoccupied at the time. Terry followed James, snuck up behind her and startled her, according to the claim.

The incidents caused the workers serious stress and shock, the claims state.

The harassment was allegedly continuing at the time the claims were filed. The county office of education did little to stop the harassment after becoming aware of it, the claims state.

Jackie, James and Loftus are seeking unspecified damages and compensation for their legal costs. If the county rejects the claims, they can file a lawsuit.



  1. Ugluk says:

    Showing up unannounced at a job site is a very effective management tool. It keeps people on their toes, and is a good way for a supervisor to find out who actually works.
    If the stress of having your boss watch you work causes you to file a lawsuit,you need to grow up.

    (14) 22 Total Votes - 18 up - 4 down
  2. achillesheal says:

    Startling someone is now illegal? Is the punishment being startled? An eye for an eye.

    (15) 23 Total Votes - 19 up - 4 down
  3. Pelican1 says:

    verb: supervise; 3rd person present: supervises; past tense: supervised; past participle: supervised; gerund or present participle: supervising

    observe and direct the execution of (a task, project, or activity).
    “the sergeant left to supervise the loading of the trucks”
    synonyms: oversee, superintend, be in charge of, preside over, direct, manage, run, look after, be responsible for, govern, organize, handle, micromanage
    “he had to supervise the loading”
    observe and direct the work of (someone).
    “nurses were supervised by a consulting psychiatrist”
    keep watch over (someone) in the interest of their or others’ security.
    “prisoners were supervised by two officers”
    synonyms: watch, oversee, keep an eye on, observe, monitor, mind; invigilate
    “you may need to supervise the patient”


    (8) 28 Total Votes - 18 up - 10 down
  4. Black_Copter_Pilot says:

    This kind of BS only happens in the public aector where the government has no problem settling stupid lawsuits with the taxpayers money. Tariff should be embarrassed to take on the case.

    (18) 36 Total Votes - 27 up - 9 down
  5. Jim Anderson says:

    County supervisors here are truly fascinating. I thought things were bad in India and abroad.
    It’s the very same. They (the Adam Hill group and James Wagstaffe of Kerr & Wagstaffe) removed video evidence of Charles Tenborg and ECO Solutions mishandling PG&E’s toxic waste and are currently attempting to remove this video from YouTube Thank you very much for clicking on the video, liking, sharing, and commenting.

    (17) 49 Total Votes - 33 up - 16 down
  6. LAH says:

    So let me get this straight, they are upset because their boss watched (spied) on them while they were working? Would you be “scared” if your boss came around the corner at the job site? What do they have to hide? I do hope CCN will report the other side of the story. Could it be these people were under investigation? Where there items missing at the sights, were they slacking off? I am sure these days we are all being secretly spied on! Go into any store or bank…there is a camera looking at you. Isnt it the bosses responsibility to make sure these guys are doing their job?
    Sounds like they are just looking for a free ride to retirement.

    (14) 40 Total Votes - 27 up - 13 down
    • shudacuda says:

      If you are working at night in a building that is presumed to be empty, then I can understand the stress of someone sneaking up behind you or popping up unexpectedly from around a corner. There are more effective ways to see if the job is getting done. Bosses like these only create an environment that fuels resentment and leads to absenteeism and a host of other things. There is a big difference between watching and supervising than sneaking around and spying.

      (10) 58 Total Votes - 34 up - 24 down
      • achillesheal says:

        Stress as in “gheez I wish that guy didn’t just sneak up on me”, or stress as in extreme emotional distress causing one to seek out an attorney and file a lawsuit.

        Sounds pretty ridiculous to me.

        The next time a co-worker gets the hiccups and I yell boo to scare them, do I need to fear being sued?

        (7) 21 Total Votes - 14 up - 7 down
  7. SloTownMan says:

    Sounds like the supervisor was doing a great job.

    (12) 48 Total Votes - 30 up - 18 down

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