Port San Luis commissioners told to stop bullying, harassment

March 6, 2021

By KAREN VELIE

The Port San Luis Harbor District has served cease-and-desist letters on two commissioners ordering them to stop bullying, harassing, slandering and threatening a staffer.

The district hired attorney Susannah Galiano with the Ventura based law firm of LightGabler after learning of allegations that commissioners Bob Vessely and Mary Matakovich were harassing an employee. That employee, Karen O’Brien, had discovered Vessely’s violation of the Brown Act. In her cease-and-desist letters, Galiano outlined the alleged violations before telling Vessely and Matakovich not to retaliate.

“On behalf of the Port San Luis Harbor District, I am directing you to cease-and-desist contacting Ms. O’Brien  and all other actions that have constituted threatening, bulling and intimidation,” the letters say. “Finally, understand that it is illegal and inappropriate to retaliate against any person who has participated in or provided information regarding the issues provided in this correspondence.”

After participating in a closed-door meeting regarding the annual performance review of the harbor master, Vessely emailed confidential documents to his wife Susan Devine, through his public email. Vessely was not able to open his email, and asked O’Brien, a non-management employee, to assist him.

While working to help Vessely, sometime around Jan. 11, O’Brien discovered the commissioner had violated district policies, which she reported to her supervisor.

Robert Vessely

“Ms. O’Brien determined these actions of forwarding confidential emails was highly improper and suspected it violated the Brown Act, various district polices, and applicable law,” according to the cease-and-desist letters.

Even though district policy forbids commissioners from contacting a non-management employee regarding operations, Vessely and Matakovich attempted 13 times in four days to contact O’Brien. O’Brien found the behavior hostile.

“Your repeated efforts to contact Ms. O’Brien asking to speak to her regarding operational policy via telephone, hand-written letter, email, on several occasions in an harassing and intimidating manner arguably appear to be retaliation for whistleblowing in an effort to intimidate her,” according to the cease-and-desist letters.

In addition, during a Jan, 26 district board meeting, Vessely and Matakovich accused O’Brien of monitoring their emails, a claim that Vessely repeated during the Feb. 23 district board meeting.

“You publicly characterized her lawful actions as improper thereby slandering her,” the letters say.

On Feb. 23, the other three commissioners — Jim Blecha, Bill Barrow and Drew Brandy — voted to reprimand Vessely, who at first said he was unaware of the accusations. Vessely then claimed spousal privilege, before he blamed staff for reading his emails.

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Chill

Mary Matakovich runs the Yacht Club the same way.


SLO Friend

Two elected officials receiving “cease and desist” letters for harassing, bullying and slandering an employee is such a shameful situation as well as something not seen in SLO County. Embarrassing to all elected officials and should result in these two resigning.


OnlyinSLO

For thirty years this cretin worked his way to the top by: politicking, bullying, harassing, lying, intimidating and leveraging coworkers. This is a standard in local government; good hardworking public servants are often pushed to the side by cretins like this. Just look at the grand jury report from the County of Ventura regarding Santa Barbara. That issue resulted in millions of dollars being paid out to victims of Derek Johnson and his team of bullies. That’s why staff at the City refer to breakfast meetings with Johnson as “Breakfast with the the Dick” or an “am briefing with the A-Hole.” Internal emails reveal this and have been a standard ever since Johnson joined the City. His own right hand guy was and is still involved in these divisive practices.


obispan

Looks like this is another micro-agency with unnecessary layers of mismanagement and corruption. Like the OCSD this should be a function of one layer of mismanagement and corruption, the County of SLO. Friends and foes alike will also be able to focus their efforts more efficiently.


TKG

Kudos to the Port San Luis Harbor Commission and their attorney for resisting the Adam Hill/Heidi Harmon/Dawn Ortiz-Legg political machine. Sorry to hear that Mary Matakovich might be a part of it.


commonsenseguy

Unbelievable. What are these two thinking? It appears Mr. Vessely and Mrs. Matakovich are led by arrogance, intimidation of others, and ignorance. They both need to do the right thing and resign. Mr. Vessely should of resigned a week ago. Now this has morphed into something more sinister as Mrs. Matkovich joined in his coverup, and now threats to a subordinate whistleblower. Both need to be sent packing. They’re not worthy or capable of handling the responsibility. They both lack the character and honesty.


George Garrigues

Good work on this, Karen.


Buchon

Matakovich has been a community embarrassment ever since she was hired as the former principal of SLO High School.


Both she and Vessely sound like they have been smoking from the same politicians’ pipe of arrogance. They need to go.