Gibson violated no county rules in affair with his aide, officials say

San Luis Obispo County supervisor cleared of any wrongdoing

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comDecember 4, 2012 

In pursuing a romantic relationship with his legislative aide, county Supervisor Bruce Gibson violated no policy, misused no money, and did not expose the county to any significant legal liability, County Counsel Rita Neal said Tuesday.

Neal, who has been investigating the affair between Gibson and Cherie Aispuro for weeks, said Gibson is in the clear legally.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Neal went into detail about the look she has taken into the activities of the supervisor.

She said she interviewed Aispuro and Gibson several times; examined thousands of emails on their office computers; reviewed all their travel claims; and spoke with other top administrators, including County Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi and Human Resources Director Tami Douglas-Schatz.

She said Aispuro is now working in the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, where she toiled before Gibson hired her. She is not filling a vacant position in the Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Neal stressed – she is still an employee of Gibson’s, on temporary assignment, earning $68,890, which is paid from the Board of Supervisors’ budget.

Gibson is functioning without a legislative aide and has not been interviewing prospective replacements, according to Buckshi. It is not clear who is doing that position’s work – the aides of other supervisors, or Gibson himself.

The job is a stressful one, those familiar with the workings of the supervisors’ offices say. Former Supervisor Shirley Bianchi, who preceded Gibson as 2nd District supervisor, said her aide was almost a “co-supervisor” and did much of the heavy lifting in the office, especially with constituents.

Neal described Aispuro’s move to the Clerk-Recorder’s Office as “standard,” echoing what Douglas-Schatz told The Tribune last week.

Any county employee, civil service-protected or otherwise, “can be temporarily reassigned to other departments to perform special projects or tasks for a variety of reasons,” Douglas-Schatz said last week.

She said the county has temporarily reassigned people “due to employee medical needs, employee safety or other personal needs, departmental workload requirements, or to provide employee developmental opportunities.”  

Gibson may have received a clean bill of health from the county legal staff, but a relentless procession of audience members at the board meeting assailed him, county administrators, and fellow supervisors for the affair and the way they have handled it.

For the most part, the objections were on moral or financial ground, or both.

Many speakers criticized the supervisor, who is in divorce proceedings with his wife, of moral turpitude for having the affair at all, but especially for having it with a county employee who is his workplace subordinate.

Others said he set a bad example, or violated the public trust.

Still others suggested that Aispuro received special treatment – that the county found her a job in a way they might not have done had she not been connected to a powerful county elected official.

Many speakers said Gibson should resign.

As he has done since he went public with the affair Nov. 17, Gibson sat silently and took the castigating without reply.

His colleagues came in for their share of criticism for remaining mum about the situation. They have been reticent from the start, and several attempts by The Tribune to get Supervisors Frank Mecham, Paul Teixeria, Adam Hill, and Jim Patterson to comment on the Gibson-Aispuro affair have been met with silence.

Some in the audience, joining earlier critics, asked the four to censure their colleague or hire an independent investigator to look into the affair for possible criminal activity.

Still others have been critical of those who are critical of Gibson, saying his relationship – which he describes as “an affair of the heart” – is nobody’s business.

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