Oh, Dear Gawwwdd, Noooo! Noooo!
If it’s one thing Mother Calhoun’s doesn’t want to read about over her morning coffee, it’s the words “creepy” and [fired former County Administrator] “Dave Edge” and “nipples” and [Assistant County Administrator] “Gail Wilcox.” Mother Calhoun also doesn’t want to read about anyone getting “black stockings and lingerie,” and “how (Wilcox) may want to satisfy herself sexually,” or Edge "pouting." Pouting? Nuh-huh. No. Nope.
But, there we are with the morning Tribune and the Edge/Wilcox miasma dribbling out as such cases always do. Ms. Wilcox has filed a lawsuit (posted at the Tribune at http://media.sanluisobispo.com/smedia/2009/06/17/wilcox.source.prod_ ). It makes for, uh, interesting reading, as it is, in many ways, a playbook for how these things transpire. And there’s some interesting points that the county may need to take a closer look at if they want to avoid this mess again.
First of interest is that Wilcox lawsuit claims that “Between 1999 and May 2009, Edge engaged in ongoing harassing conduct toward Plaintiff and was intrusive and abused his power and control to create a hostile working environment for Plaintiff. Ten years? And nobody said anything until a few months ago? Or is it more likely that the reality was that what started out as a “close” friendship slid off into something “creepy” and went bad a few years later, with both parties now trapped in a mess of their own making, but unable to figure a way out, in a system set up to only make things worse?
Which brings us to the following excerpts: 1)” The previous Human Resources Director at one point attempted to intervene on Plaintiff’s behalf and Edge made it clear to her that she should not get involved” and 2) “The previous Human Resources Director served at will and could be terminated without cause.” You see the problem when HR is serving “at will” to anybody? HR is supposed to be the bulwark and protection for employees. If they can be fired by the one doing the harassing, bank on it, you will have a mess on your hands sooner or later.
Plus, “County Counsel acknowledged [in the meeting with HR Director] that Edge had made inappropriate comments to a female attorney in his office in the past [no date given, not known how far in the past], county counsel stated that a second female attorney in the office reported inappropriate behavior by Edge.” A second report of inappropriate behavior, in the office of county counsel, no less, and nothing was done? That’ll GUARANTEE a lawsuit against the county somewhere down the line.
And, “Edge had engaged in [inappropriate comments for years, comments made in front of other ranking managers, yet]” at no time was any investigative action undertaken with respect to that conduct.” Reason two why it’s guaranteed the county will get sued.
If you recall, the BOS held their little BS meeting and nattered on about the reason they were firing (at will) Edge was because of philosophical differences and other horse woggle. The above excerpts from Wilcox’s lawsuit give you a glimpse as to what was really going on. And here’s the capper as to why these things ALWAYS break bad when you try to cut corners, cover your ass, lie, try to bury the bodies and think it’ll all just go away. No. These cases always involve MAD (mutually assured destruction) on the part of all players, and the following illustrates perfectly what was in play:
“When [Wilcox] asked HR Director why “may” instead of “will,” (as in the county counsel “may” tell Edge to cease all contact with Wilcox] HR Director told Plaintiff that there was no basis for telling Edge this [absolutely, officially, cease all contact] because there was not going to be an investigation into sexual harassment allegations because Edge was leaving. County officials then contacted Plaintiff’s attorney and advised that upon learning of sexual harassment allegations against him, Edge told county officials about Plaintiff’s relationship with [another county] employee.”
Did you hear the boom from the shot across the bow? MAD at work. And the county then knew that all of this was gonna move to the killing ground. Which is where it is now, despite the best efforts of the county to bury this and try to make it all go away. It never does. It just gets worse, including news stories about nipples and sexual awakenings and black lingerie.
But until the County tackles what is clearly some administrative weaknesses in how they are running the office, so to speak, this mess will happen again. One of the ironies is that Edge was hired, after a spate of sexual follies by various administrators, (all of whom were protected under civil service, except for Paul Floyd, who was elected and so couldn’t be fired at will), and restructuring to put CEOs under the direct control of the BOS was likely seen as a better way to be more responsive. But without any proper checks and balances, who will watch the watchers? If the previous HR Director served “at will” there could be no protection offered there if the HR Director’s “boss” was the one doing the harassing. And if inappropriate comments are received by TWO attorneys in the county counsel’s office, fer Chrissakes, and nothing was done . . . .?
Lawsuit city. And the taxpayer’s gonna eat it all. And that really doesn’t go down well with Mother Calhoun’s morning coffee.