The county employee whose romance with her boss, Supervisor Bruce Gibson, created a stir last month has been moved to another county job, even as Gibson’s colleagues on the Board of Supervisors remain mum about the controversy.
Cherie Aispuro, who is on vacation, will report to a “temporary assignment” in the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office on Monday. However, she will remain Gibson’s employee.
She also will remain on Gibson’s payroll, not that of County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald. She makes $68,890 yearly. Before Gibson hired her, Aispuro worked for many years in the Clerk-Recorder’s Office.
“There is no written county policy that prohibits relationships between county employees, whether that be equal status or manager and subordinate,” County Counsel Rita Neal wrote in an email to The Tribune. “As a result we have a protocol so if we become aware of a relationship we try to take steps to reassign one of those employees, so that is what we’re doing.”
However, Aispuro’s peculiar job status leaves Gibson in the position of being able to fire her, while Rodewald will evaluate her performance.
It also has raised the question of whether the county found a job for Aispuro, giving her protection against unemployment that other employees in similar situations might not receive.
Aispuro is an “at will” employee, meaning that she has no civil service protection and can be fired by the person who hired her, in this case Gibson.
Another county legislative aide, Vicky Shelby, who works for Supervisor Frank Mecham, said, “I was hired by Frank and I can be fired by Frank.” Similarly,
Supervisor-elect Debbie Arnold, who worked as a legislative aide to then-Supervisor Mike Ryan, said “you come and go at the will” of the county supervisor. Arnold, who will be sworn in in January, is about to hire her own aide.
This sort of lateral move is not unprecedented, according to Human Relations Director Tami Douglas-Schatz.
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,” she wrote The Tribune in an email.
“Such temporary reassignments are a standard management prerogative,” Douglas-Schatz wrote.
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.”
The length of Aispuro’s stay in Rodewald’s office remains unclear. When Gibson hires another aide, the salary Aispuro is earning will be redirected to the new person.
At that point, county officials say, Aispuro will be free to reapply for any job that opens, but she will have to go through the normal hiring process, like anyone who comes in off the street.
“In the longer term,”
Douglas-Schatz wrote, “Cherie can apply and compete for other county positions, including civil service or at-will positions, as they become available and interest her.”
“We currently have 100.75 vacant positions,” County Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi wrote. “There are open recruitments for 19 of these positions. The plan is for Ms. Aispuro to temporarily transfer … until a new, permanent position is identified.”
The Gibson-Aispuro affair came to light two weeks ago when Gibson told his fellow supervisors about it and then went public in a Nov. 17 interview with The Tribune. In that story, he expressed regret but said he fell prey to an “affair of the heart.” He and his wife are divorcing.
At the time, county officials revealed that there is no code of conduct that covers the situation. There are policies against sexual harassment, but they don’t apply when the affair is consensual, which is how both Aispuro and Gibson describe their relationship.
Both Douglas-Schatz and Neal have said the county needs to develop a policy that would cover such situations, and Supervisor Paul Teixeira, who will be board chairman next year, said he would look into it after talking with Neal.
That was 10 days ago, and, despite repeated requests by The Tribune, neither Teixeira nor any other county supervisor has spoken out about the affair, scheduled a public discussion, or announced an intent to formulate a policy.
Gibson reiterated Thursday that “I’m not going to be speaking publicly about the situation.”