San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who transferred his legislative aide out of his office two months ago after their affair became public, has moved her back into her old job.
Cherie Aispuro, he said in a statement on his Facebook page, “is quite simply the best person for this job.”
Gibson also apologized once again, as he has in the past, for “concealing this relationship and the hurt it’s caused my family. My actions have damaged relationships with many people I know, and many I don’t.”
He said “personal relationships should never get in the way of doing our jobs well. And here, it did not and will not.”
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Gibson added that the County Counsel’s Office has vetted his dealings with Aispuro and now pronounced them legally in the clear.
To protect the county from being sued, he and Aispuro signed a legal agreement that includes a waiver and release “that protects the county from any liability claims — past and future.”
County Counsel Rita Neal and Dan Buckshi posted separate statements Friday, in which they made public for the first time that Gibson had been trying since Dec. 17 to get Aispuro back to her legislative aide duties.
They had balked because of the potential liability and declined to approve of the move until Gibson and Aispuro absolved the county legally, which they have now done.
In that same statement, which acknowledges that the Gibson-Aispuro relationship is consensual, Neal and Buckshi extracted pledges from the pair that, for example, precludes Gibson from making decisions regarding the pay of legislative assistants, and gives the county unannounced access to the duo’s phones and computers.
Gibson and Aispuro also put in writing that they “agree to refrain from any displays of affection in the workplace or at work-related events that others could perceive as intimate personal conduct.”
Gibson, 60, would not elaborate beyond the statement on his Facebook page. He said there that he had “thought carefully” about the decision and did not make it “lightly” or “impulsively.”
Gibson declined to respond to a voice mail asking whether county officials were simply unable to find another county job for Aispuro – an effort that began when the affair became public.
The North Coast supervisor, whose term of office expires in 2014, told The Tribune on Nov. 16 that he and Aispuro, 52, had been involved in a long-term affair that he described as an “an affair of the heart.”
He said he and his wife, Dr. Grace Crittenden, were divorcing, although as of this week no papers had been filed with the county.
Aispuro was moved to a “temporary assignment” in the Clerk-Recorder’s Office, an arrangement that county officials said was legal and had been used before. Aispuro, a 22-year employee of county government, spent many years in that office before becoming Gibson’s assistant.
Aispuro worked in her office for a month and a half, Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald told The Tribune Friday, proofing transcripts and transcribing meetings, while also “work(ing) on identifying and indexing board records.”
However, while there she continued to earn her $68,890 salary as Gibson’s aide. The work she had done for Gibson was picked up by others, including the supervisor.
The affair created a furor. Some criticized Gibson, as Aispuro’s boss, for abusing his power over a subordinate. But since the affair was consensual, claims by others about sexual harassment went nowhere.
Aispuro also was accused of being given special treatment by being handed the job in her old county office.
Marshall Ochlyski of Los Osos, who ran against Gibson in 2010, said the issue remains whether Gibson can restore trust among the residents of the 2nd District. He said Gibson’s decision Friday caught him off guard.
Will trust return? It’s too early to tell, but community activist Lynette Tornatzky said, “Great! Let’s get her (Aispuro) back in there as soon as possible.” She called Aispuro “incredibly professional.”
Asked whether he intends to run for a third term next year, Gibson said it is too early to make that decision.