Wade Horton’s separation agreement includes severance, NDA

April 4, 2023

SLO County Administrator Wade Horton


San Luis Obispo County officials agreed to provide Administrative Officer Wade Horton a severance package that includes a non-disparage clause after Horton announced plans to resign amid a controversial performance review.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors agreed to provide Horton six months pay or $146,364 as part of a separation agreement that requires Horton agree not to take legal action against the county. The March 21 agreement also includes a mutual non-disparage clause.

Last month, two members of the new board majority called for a performance review of Horton. County officials are not disclosing which of three county supervisors – Bruce Gibson, Jimmy Paulding or Dawn Ortiz Legg – requested the review.

As required by his position, Horton then placed the closed session performance review on the agenda leading supervisors Gibson and Paulding to claim Horton “voluntarily chose” to put his review on the agenda.

In addition, Paulding wrote in a newsletter that the plan during Horton’s review was to discuss “the work ahead, the state of the county organization and what resources are necessary to achieve positive outcomes for the county and community.”

However, during the closed session employee performance review the board was limited to discussing their expectations of the position and Horton’s performance. Under the Ralph M. Brown Act the board is required to discuss “the state of the county organization and what resources are necessary to achieve positive outcomes for the county and community” as an agendized item in open session.

The Ralph M. Brown Act was passed in 1953 because of mounting concerns that government bodies were avoiding scrutiny by meeting secretly. The act, which has been amended and strengthened in the years since, guarantees the public the right to attend and participate in meetings of legislative bodies, to have forewarning of discussion items through posted agendas, and forbids a majority of board members from discussing government issues in private.

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Paulding is not a very bright guy. He just parrots what Gibson tells him to say. That’s going to get him in a lot of trouble, very quickly.

Paid to walk and paid not to talk. What a deal.

There “never was a government that was not composed of liars, malefactors and thieves.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

I expect an NDA is common practice.