- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- OVER THE EDGE : Top county administrator David Edge was fired on May 19, although no real reasons were given for the action.
David Edge, the county’s top administrator, was publicly fired May 19, even though Edge said the decision had already been made more than a week earlier.
The reasons behind the decision, however, are still clouded.
At the Board of Supervisors meeting Edge sat in the front row with his wife Anna, directly facing the five supervisors, who occasionally glanced back at him. He could also see an empty seat on the dais with a nameplate reading “County Administrator.”
When given the opportunity to make his case, Edge got up, casually approached the podium, and launched into more of a standard retirement speech than a plea for his job. He spoke of his accomplishments, of how he tried to warn the emperor who occasionally had no clothes, and he praised the county employees he oversaw.
“While I would not have chosen to end my career this way … that’s not my choice to make,” he said.
Edge and Deputy County Administrative Officer Gail Wilcox were placed on paid administrative leave for undisclosed reasons following two closed sessions on May 8 and May 11. Wilcox is still on leave. According to Edge, he was only allowed to participate in a portion of the first closed session before getting kicked out. Later, he said he received a call from Supervisor Bruce Gibson and County Counsel Warren Jensen. They gave him a choice: resign and receive a limited severance package, or get the full pay and go through a public termination hearing. Edge chose the latter.
“Frankly, I found the penalty offer disrespectful and said, ‘No, that’s not appropriate,’” Edge told New Times after the unanimous decision to fire him.
As part of his contract, Edge could be fired for no reason. His contract stated that as of 2001 he was an “at will” employee of the Board of Supervisors. Regardless, Edge will still collect $237,000 in severance and sick pay over the next eight months. Curiously, Edge’s pay package will cover him up to his planned retirement date, he said.
As far as the county is concerned, the matter with Edge is essentially wrapped up. Still, no one will say exactly what that matter involved.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson said in a phone interview that Edge was fired because “we need new vision in this county.”
Gibson and Supervisor Jim Patterson denied in a slightly backward way rumors of sexual harassment charges against Edge.
“I want to speak emphatically that this action today is not about the speculation on the blogs,” Gibson said at the meeting.
When asked by reporters if reports of a sexual harassment complaint had any truth, Edge answered “none whatsoever.” Asked about bloggers (not mentioning specific blogs) who circulated rumors he replied, “Get a life.”
Gibson called it a new vision, but Edge characterized his firing as a purely political decision. He said the new board members wanted him gone (Supervisors Adam Hill and Frank Mecham replaced Harry Ovitt and Jerry Lenthall).
“I think they just associated me with an old regime,” Edge told New Times. He told supervisors, “I find myself now in a world of stifling political correctness.”
When asked more specifically why he was the subject of a closed session, Edge said there had been “informal complaints” brought against him, and county officials feared a lawsuit. He didn’t elaborate.
Just three people spoke in defense of the former administrative officer during the hearing. Former County Supervisor Shirley Bianchi, County Assessor Tom Bordonaro, and former Los Osos Community Services District President Lisa Schicker praised Edge for modernizing and cleaning up county government.
Edge asked for a full investigation into the complaints, but in a tone that indicated he didn’t expect one. “Unlike some, I have absolutely nothing to fear or hide from that kind of review.”
The decision to terminate Edge’s contract was swift and unanimous. Supervisor Katcho Achadjian— with whom Edge said he had spent the previous weekend during their sons’ graduations—initially voted against the termination but quickly changed his vote to give the appearance of a consensus.
“If it’s his choice to ask for an investigation, so be it,” Achadjian said, although he did not push any harder.
There will be no investigation and Edge said he would not file a wrongful termination lawsuit. It’s still unclear whether the county is protected from lawsuits, but Gibson sounded confident. “I won’t speculate on what litigation might ensue but I think it was a properly made decision.”