Port San Luis commissioner continues bullying, harassment

August 13, 2021

Commissioner Robert Vessely

By KAREN VELIE

Shortly after the Port San Luis Harbor District agreed to pay a $150,000 settlement over allegations of bullying and harassment, Commissioner Bob Vessely doubled down again releasing a copy of a confidential document from closed session.

Vessely emailed the document to Chris Pavone, head of the professional fisherman’s association with the comment, “Just for your amusement – feel free to share.” Vessely’s email was forwarded to more than 50 commercial fishermen.

The district signed a settlement agreement on July 16 with Harbor Manager Andrea Lueker. The district agreed to pay Lueker $150,000 and raise her monthly salary from $13,733 to $16,000 until June 30, 2022, when Lueker’s employment with the agency would end.

“As staff and members of the public may be aware, regrettably over the past nine months during public meetings, unfounded allegations and accusations that were derogatory and defamatory were made,” according to a district statement released on July 27. “There were spates of disagreement sometimes derisive and contentious among both board members ourselves, staff, and the public.”

Lueker learned of Vessely’s email on Aug. 3. The next day, she suffered a high-stress related heart attack, which left her in an intensive care unit for three days.

This is the second time in a year that Vessely allegedly violated the law in an attempt to demean a harbor district staffer. In February, the harbor district board publicly reprimanded Vessely for providing confidential documents to a third party in violation of the Brown Act.

“Commissioner Bob Vessely did willfully and knowingly forward a document, dated December 30, 2020, clearly marked Confidential Communication -Personnel Matter and pertaining to confidential personnel matters, to a third party not authorized to receive such documents,” according to the district’s resolution of reprimand. “This action by Commissioner Vessely violated the public trust and the implicit trust of fellow harbor commissioners to be ethical in the dealings of Port San Luis Harbor District.”

Vessely emailed the confidential document to his wife, Susan Devine, who was one of former San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill’s legislative aids.

Last fall, amid the defund the police movement, Vessely wanted to rewrite the harbor patrol’s use of force rules, but received little support from the board and staff. Since then, three female employees have reported what they call ongoing bullying and harassment.

In March, the harbor district served Vessely a cease-and-desist letter to stop bullying, harassing, slandering and threatening a staffer. That employee, Karen O’Brien, had discovered Vessely’s initial violation of the Brown Act.

“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 says. “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.”

Even though the district is facing additional legal actions because of Vessely’s alleged ongoing harassment, Vessely’s fellow board members’ hands are tied, Commissioner Jim Blecha said.

“I do not agree with what Mr. Vessely said,” Blecha said. “Everybody on the board is of equal status.”

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adustum

South County government officials never learn. Karen, look at the sexual harassment/retaliation/retribution claims and lawsuits settled in Arroyo Grande since the late 1990s. That is one city. The public pays for these settlements, not the government officials.


Scarlet

Where is Minnery?


SLO Friend

Maybe he quit?


sbjcl

This arrogant bully cost taxpayers $150K and he is still there? Get him out now !!!!


Buchon

I wonder what happened to Bob? He used to be a nice guy. Typical engineer. Sounds like he should consider investing in a PET scan for his noggin…


horse_soldier

F. O. A. H.

Friends of Adam Hill strike again!


Julie

Lueker is one sharp cookie. The Port has been lucky to have her. Seems like the “Man’s World” Vessley wasn’t receptive to a smart woman in charge. I hope she seeks civil action against him directly. Hang in there Andrea! You are a badass!


Where is Legal Counsel, Jeff Minnery? He should be keeping Vessley (and other Directors in other districts) in check. No one has the right to bully staff or the public. There are few directors on his boards that are loose cannons.


Eyes Everywhere

Harbor District Commission seems to parallel BOS. Everyone knows Vessely is an arrogant prick, but nobody wants to do anything about it.


George Garrigues

I thought the Brown Act related to open meetings, not public records. Can we get an explanation?


horse_soldier

Closed session is not public, hence the term closed.

Business conduction in closed session is often of a sensitive nature ans therefore not to be discussed or shared outside the meeting.


Jorge Estrada

There are new rules, new housing, new parking meters and new money to be counted. This low budget, quiet, Norman Rockwell scenery is changing. It is no longer a local secret and is transforming into a land yacht haven that overlooks the water yachts. I remember the $120 / month boat mooring that you could call home and Park Hotel playing their live music at the Old Port Inn.