Bruce Gibson admits to affair with assistant, plans to divorce wife

clambert@thetribunenews.comNovember 16, 2012 

Bruce Gibson

JAYSON MELLOM — The Tribune Buy Photo

County Supervisor Bruce Gibson had an extramarital affair with his legislative assistant and plans to seek a divorce from his wife, he told The Tribune on Friday.

Gibson, 60, wouldn’t comment on when the affair with longtime county employee Cherie Aispuro started. But he did say that it had been going on for a “fairly long time” during his nearly six years in office.

Gibson said he told his wife about the relationship last weekend, then informed San Luis Obispo County Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi and County Counsel Rita Neal on Tuesday.

The two officials are still in the process of reviewing email correspondence, travel claims and other information to determine whether any inappropriate conduct occurred, and to confirm that the relationship was consensual.

“At this point, based on an initial review of the situation, it appears that no county resources have been improperly used and no county policies have been violated,” Buckshi said Friday.

The county has not received any complaints or claims about the relationship, he said.

The other four supervisors have been informed of the issue, Buckshi said.

Aispuro, who is in her early 50s, will be reassigned to a different county department, Buckshi said. She has worked for the county for more than 20 years, including in the Clerk-Recorder’s Office, and has been Gibson’s legislative assistant since he took office in January 2007.

Gibson interviewed her and hired her as his assistant. He said the affair started later but would not be more specific, calling it a private matter. He would not say whether the relationship is ongoing.

Gibson has no plans to resign from the board — he has two more years left in his term representing the North Coast and part of San Luis Obispo — but he apologized to his constituents for causing a “breach of trust” and said he’d work to rebuild it.

“Outside the hurt that I have caused in my family, I am embarrassed at the breach of trust that I have caused to occur with my constituents,” he said. “Being an elected official does depend on a degree of trust between constituents and elected officials, and I feel this relationship and my concealment of it will cause people to question my integrity.”

Gibson said he came forward now because, after telling his wife, he figured the news would spread.

He rejected any idea that the affair took him or Aispuro away from their county responsibilities.

“Both Cherie and I gave 110 percent to this job,” he said. “It’s something we feel is important.”

Gibson wouldn’t comment on how long he and his wife, San Luis Obispo doctor Grace Crittenden, have been married. They have two grown sons and have lived in the North Coast since 1989.

Gibson said he is living with his parents outside Cambria. Aispuro is living temporarily in Paso Robles. She is on vacation this week and could not be reached to comment. 

The county doesn’t have a written policy that prohibits county employees from having relationships, nor does it have a policy requiring employees to disclose personal relationships, Neal said.

However, he said, “If we become aware of a relationship, we try to take steps to reassign one of those employees,” she added.

Officials are still trying to determine where Aispuro will be placed. 

Her salary and benefits, though, will continue to be paid for out of the Board of Supervisors’ budget, so at least initially there won’t be a financial impact on another department, Neal said.

Her salary is $68,890 annually, the same as the other legislative assistants.

Buckshi said the county has about 100 vacant positions, with recruitment starting for 19 of them. Once Aispuro moves into a new, permanent position, her associated costs would be paid for by that department, he said.

Neal has been studying travel claims and emails starting when Gibson was elected. She has found thousands of business-related emails between him and Aispuro, but no personal emails. She also searched their computer drives for any inappropriate photos or documents, but hasn’t found anything there either.

In addition, she is reviewing claims Gibson and Aispuro filed for various conferences and other travel-related expenses to make sure all travel was appropriate and within the bounds of their jobs.

Gibson annually attends a conference held by the California State Association of Counties, and Aispuro has attended once or twice with other legislative assistants, Neal said. Neal verified that in those cases, Aispuro stayed in a room with other female legislative assistants. 

Neal met with Gibson and Aispuro separately to confirm that the relationship was consensual. 

For his part, Gibson called his relationship with Aispuro “a matter of the heart” and asked for privacy.

“It’s obvious that I can’t completely separate my personal life from public life,” he said, “but it is a personal matter and I hope that everybody involved — myself, my wife, my family, Cherie — can be left (alone) to deal with the consequences of this.”

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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