David Edge says Board of Supervisors wanted to clean house

Fired county administrator alleges in an article that new supervisors didn’t value his leadership

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comDecember 3, 2009 

David Edge says he lost his job last spring because a newly elected Board of Supervisors no longer valued his leadership and was eager to show its intent to change the way the county is run. The county’s former chief administrative officer made the assertion in a recently published magazine article.

The board fired Edge on May 11, just before a sex scandal broke involving him and Assistant County Administrator Gail Wilcox. Wilcox lost her job later in the summer and has sued the county and Edge, alleging sexual harassment.

In an article Edge wrote in the December issue of Public Management magazine, he alludes to the Wilcox debacle but does not blame it for his dismissal.

Instead, although he does not mention them by name, he alludes to the election of Adam Hill and Frank Mecham to replace Harry Ovitt and Jerry Lenthall, and the re-election of Jim Patterson as a key contributing factor.

“I was associated too much with the previous board — a board that had been rejected by the voters in the 2008 elections,” he wrote. “Association with the old board was not good news.”

The election marked the complete replacement of the board that hired him in 1998. Those supervisors, he wrote, brought him aboard to fix an “organizational culture that lacked an emphasis on accountability, performance, and customer service,” Edge wrote in the article, titled “Tales of De-Termination.”

He fixed all that, he wrote, but those who had benefitted from the old, pre-Edge organizational culture of unaccountability resented it and lay in wait. “That resentment found some sympathetic ears when the board members changed,” he wrote.

Again, Edge does not disclose names or delineate particular circumstances.

The article breaks a public silence for Edge, who was advised by his attorney to remain silent during the course of Wilcox’s lawsuit. A person who answered Edge’s phone referred The Tribune to his attorney, who did not return a phone call.

“Those things that I was hired to do were done effectively,” he wrote, “but when I was perceived as the problem, the performance became irrelevant.”

Edge also blames the bad economy for his fall from grace.

“In bad financial times, the manager is the face of a cut budget, which is welcomed by neither the community nor the elected body. … After two years of budget cuts, I had accumulated significant negative baggage,” he wrote.

The article is significant as well for what Edge didn’t say. He has been criticized by present and former county managers for a management style that many said they found high-handed, for example.

And he glides past the Wilcox lawsuit, in which she accuses him of inappropriate sexual behavior over a period of 11 years. In his article, Edge mentions that she accuses him of creating a hostile work environment, but leaves out the sexual allegations. That suit is in the deposition stage.

Edge concluded that “it can be lonely at the top,” but nonetheless encouraged people to go into public service.

Other assertions in Edge’s article:

• The board “forced out the county planning director shortly before they fired me.” That is new information — officially, Planning Director Vic Holanda resigned.

The Tribune could not reach Holanda for comment, and board chairman Bruce Gibson declined to comment on the allegation, because it was a personnel matter.

• The Board of Supervisors would not allow Edge to resign rather than be fired unless he accepted a smaller severance package.

• The story of Edge and Wilcox “happened to be a local media delight,” and “there is no question my career will be tainted by these events.”

• His experience “suggests that one can be friendly — but not friends — with employees or elected members.”

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