Lawsuit accuses Cambria staffer of sexual harassment, retaliation

February 25, 2024

Cambria Administrative Assistant Haley Dodson


Cambria’s former fire chief filed a lawsuit against the community services district alleging he was fired after reporting sexual harassment. The lawsuit alleges the employee involved in the misconduct was engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the district’s general manager.

In his Jan. 26 lawsuit, Cambria’s former fire chief Justin Vincent alleges 13 causes of action, including retaliation, sexual harassment, failure to take action or prevent sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Vincent’s lawsuit names the Cambria Community Services District, its General Manager Matthew McElhenie and its Administrative Assistant Haley Dodson as defendants.

In an Oct. 3 press release, McElhenie announced he was terminating Vincent’s employment after a “comprehensive review and careful consideration.”

The lawsuit argues that McElhenie fired Vincent, who was hired in late Oct. 2022, without “good cause.”

Cambria General Manager Matthew McElhenie

Shortly after he began serving as chief, Vincent observed Dodson “engage in severe and pervasive sexual harassment, including but not limited to lewd and sexually offensive comments and jokes,” according to the lawsuit. Multiple firefighters complained of Dodson’s pervasive sexual misconduct.

“Many staff members informed Vincent that they feared submitting formal complaints would result in an adverse employment action given Dodson’s position as the head of the human resources department at Cambria Community Services District,” according to the lawsuit. “The individuals informed Vincent that they observed Dodson repeatedly tell the staff members that she had control of the Board of Directors and that she had been instrumental in getting rid of people that she did not care for.”

In April 2023,  Vincent, in his position a fire chief, filed a formal grievance against Dodson for:

  • creating a hostile work environment and making unwanted sexual comments to members of the fire department for several years prior;
  • engaged in years of inappropriate comments and inappropriate workplace behavior that made the staff adjust their workplace performance and behavior;
  • speaking about the firefighter’s bodies and genitalia, sometimes in jest and sometimes with lustful intent;
  • on one occasion she made sexual comments during a Cambria Board of Directors meeting:
  • sending a firefighter multiple unwanted, sexually explicit text messages;
  • making sexual propositions, talking about sexual acts, making sexually degrading comments, inappropriate jokes, and racial slurs about the size of genitalia based on one’s race;
  • making an inappropriate sexual proposition to a fire captain which was witnessed by Vincent.

“I am personally fearful of retaliation, knowing how connected and powerful that this individual has become in CCSD and community,” Vincent wrote in his formal grievance. “She has openly disclosed her ability to control board members, members of the public, and manipulate situations to get staff fired. I am positive that reporting her abuse will result in retaliation to myself and the fire department staff, due to her
political connections and power.”

During an investigation into the formal grievance, a female firefighter reported Dodson had also sexually assaulted her, striking her rear end and embarrassing her in front of her entire crew.

Even though the investigation sustained mutiple allegations against Dodson, she did not receive any serious discipline, according to the lawsuit.

In May 2023, Vincent received his first and only performance review, receiving excellent in all categories.

Shortly afterwards, an administrative staff member told Vincent that McElhenie and Dodson were engaged in an inappropriate relationship.

During a meeting in June 2023, McElhenie proposed that Dodson be reclassified, which bumped her pay by $22,000 a year. At the same time, McElhenie proposed pay raises for all department heads, aside from Vincent, whom he later terminated.

In his lawsuit, Vincent is seeking an order that the district stop engaging in illegal activities, reinstate Vincent as fire chief, and pay damages along with court costs and attorney fees.

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If true, profoundly upsetting news. CSD’s are often springboards to greater elected positions within our cities and county. Is it any wonder then that malfeasance is ubiquitous?

It isn’t

Like Bruce Gibson…started on advisory councils, made it to county Supervisor and had a sexual affair with his county staff member while he was married. The employee was moved to another county department while the affair continued and he eventually left his wife for his employee. This was an egregious violation of county policy, blatant sexual misconduct, and textbook sexual harassment.

If our leaders, like Bruce, aren’t held accountable for this disgusting behavior, it is no wonder we see it repeated as we do now at the CCSD.

Yes, because Bruce “supposedly” did that, it is automatic that the guy who is making the accusations, who has been fired from 3 fire chief jobs in 6 years, is credible. I have some oceanfront property in Vegas if you are interested.

Bruce admitted having a sexual affair with his staff while married. These are the facts of which no one disputes.

Yes, as I said at the very beginning, if Chief Vincent’s claims are true.

It’s true that we are often too quick to judgement. Like saying Chief Vincent’s employment history alters whether or not sexual misconduct occurred/occurs at the CCSD. Let’s have an independent investigation.

Wait, it’s not Chief Vincent right because he’s been fired (again) from being a Chief? His history of intimidation, lying and bullying repeats itself (again) and this particular article is obviously one sided. I wonder what his motivation is especially since he’s lost law suits before? People like him are a disgrace to the fire service and the community.

That’s why an independent investigation will establish, in fact, the accuracy of the claims.

It’s a race to the bottom!!!

No way Cambria was going to let San Simeon or Oceano surpass them as worst managed Districts in the area:)

Haley Dodson reminds me of Lisa Solomon Chitty.

Two peas in a pod.

She is a good person; he is not.

Men aren’t always the creeps and scum bags, thank Dodson for proving that.

More untruths and more deception by Justin Vincent. Please google him; he was fired from California City and from Suisun but was allowed to resign under a harassment claim of his own. Union submitted a vote of no confidence. 3 departments in 6 years, what does that tell you?

Another taxpayer funded folly. I waiting for a sexual misconduct tax to be proposed so that we can pave the roads to work, not down under.

50 shades of Harper Valley PTA…