Top Ten stories of 2009: No. 3: The David Edge and Gail Wilcox saga

The countdown continues for the Top 10 Stories of 2009 selected by the Tribune editorial staff.

The normally sedate county government bureaucracy was rocked during the spring and summer by a scandal at its highest levels, as the personal and professional lives of its top two administrators mingled in ways that brought their job performances under close scrutiny.

By the time the temblor had subsided, Chief Administrative Officer David Edge and his second-in-command, Assistant County Administrator Gail Wilcox, had been fired, and Edge and the county were fighting a lawsuit from Wilcox alleging inappropriate sexual behavior.

The lawsuit, now in the deposition stage, is the last remnant of the furor.

“The parties are now busy taking depositions of parties and witnesses, exchanging documentary evidence, and preparing their cases,” County Counsel Warren Jensen wrote in an e-mail to The Tribune.

“We are hopeful that the case will be resolved before the end of 2010, but there are many factors beyond our control that could delay resolution beyond 2010,” he wrote.

The Edge-Wilcox controversy broke out in May and, except for the litigation, was over in July.

On May 5, Human Resources Director Tami Douglas-Schatz was told of Edge’s alleged sexual harassment of Wilcox.

She alerted county supervisors, who immediately placed Edge on paid administrative leave. Supervisors held a pair of extraordinary closed-door meetings — 10 hours in all — after which they placed Wilcox on paid administrative leave.All this happened inside a week.

On May 10, the county hired Oakland attorney Sarah Robertson to investigate Wilcox.

On May 19, the supervisors fired Edge, without stating a formal cause, which was allowed in his contract.

About a month later, on June 15, Wilcox — then still employed and under investigation — filed a lawsuit against the county and Edge, claiming she was a victim of sexual harassment, retaliation, discrimination, a hostile work environment and breach of contract.

On July 14, the board fired Wilcox, “based on her participation in a personal relationship that conflicted with her official duties.”

Supervisors did not identify the other person in the relationship.

However, on July 29, the investigative report on Wilcox — called the Robertson report after its author — was released. It confirmed an allegedly improper relationship between Wilcox and Tony Perry of the Deputy Sheriffs Association, when the two were involved in collective bargaining, Wilcox representing management and Perry the union.

On Aug. 5, Perry resigned as executive director of the Deputy Sheriffs Association.

The scandal came with other accoutrements. The Wilcox lawsuit was riddled with steamy accusations against Edge, including advice he allegedly gave her about dating.

The Robertson report delineated what many critics have called — at best — inappropriate behavior among managers, and suggested an out-of-control culture of dysfunction at county government’s top levels.

It revealed that Wilcox shared her personal life with Edge as well.

A separate Public Records Act investigation by The Tribune of e-mails among top managers confirmed this pattern.

By year’s end, the supervisors had hired longtime deputy county administrator Jim Grant to replace Edge through at least December 2010. And the board tightened up some of its practices, such as its procedures for hiring outside legal representation when needed.

Supervisors also decided to have certain top department heads — such as the human resources director — report to them rather than the chief administrative officer, as had been the case under Edge.

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