Former deputy county administrator and labor negotiator Gail Wilcox had a sexual relationship with Deputy Sheriff’s Association leader Tony Perry.
According to an investigative report by attorney Sarah Robertson, Wilcox and Perry were involved sexually while the county and DSA were in active labor negotiations, a blatant conflict of interest.
This is just one detail in a lurid chronology of events that led to the firing of Wilcox and her former boss, former county administrator David Edge, whom she is now suing for alleged sexual harassment.
Robertson’s report details a relationship between Wilcox and Edge that involved the two frequently sharing intimate details about Wilcox’s sex life. Much of the report mirrors statements Wilcox made in her lawsuit against Edge, claiming that he would pry into her sex life and “pout” when she did not divulge. Other parts of the report, however, depict Wilcox as seemingly unconcerned about any harassment until after Edge seemed to have discovered her relationship with Perry.
The report itself reads like a hybrid of a legal tome and a teen’s diary. It’s filled with sexcapades and gossipy text messages, e-mails, and conversations over drinks. It also casts a different light on the unraveling sex scandal in county government.
Wilcox and Perry’s relationship turned sexual in 2006, according to the report. Wilcox originally told Robertson the relationship began in 2006, then her attorney David Warren clarified that she was confused and it was actually 2007. If the relationship did begin in 2006, as Robertson concluded, then the two would have been involved while the county was negotiating with the sheriff’s union.
Wilcox’s attorney David Warren declined to comment on the report. Perry could not be reached for comment. In a prepared statement from Sheriff Pat Hedges, he said, “The department will review the investigation conducted by the county to determine if there is any further action required by this office.”
Both Wilcox and Perry denied their relationship tainted labor negotiations, according to their statements in the report.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson said, “It’s material coming out after we’ve taken action and I’m glad that it can be out in public so they can understand the background or the basis for the actions we took.”
Wilcox confessed her relationship with Perry to Human Resources Deputy Director Dori Duke and other county employees (their names were redacted from the report) over drinks—many such confessions were said to have been over drinks—while on a July 2007 trip to Newport Beach.
Here was Duke’s reaction: “Gosh I really wish I didn’t know that. That’s not information she should be putting out there.”
That information stayed secret, at least from Edge, until this year. Wilcox and Perry stopped the relationship for a while, but it rekindled in April 2009, at which time Edge began prodding for a name. Edge wrote Wilcox an e-mail on April 25: “I think you have an ongoing relationship with a guy who is involved in union negotiations with you. That’s a direct conflict with your job duties and you are keeping it secret for that reason—understandable but …”
In another conversation, Wilcox told Duke that she and Perry were “madly in love” and “soul mates.” Wilcox was also worried about her job. She was an at-will employee and could be fired at any time—the report states that Edge made many employees who had been protected by civil service regulations at will. Wilcox told Robertson she was “scared shitless” of Edge.
Wilcox gave Edge Perry’s name over drinks, but said the relationship was over. Edge previously told Wilcox he didn’t want to discipline her, but after learning the name—Perry was usually referred to as the “county guy”—he seemed to change his mind.
On May 3, Wilcox told attorney Clay Hall—with whom she shared ownership of a house—that Edge had become increasingly intrusive into her personal life. She told Hall Edge had been sexually harassing her for 11 years, but didn’t mention her relationship with Perry, according to the report. Wilcox toyed with the idea of filing a complaint for several days and discussed it with other county employees including new Human Resources Director Tami Douglas-Schatz and Health Agency Director Jeff Hamm.
Soon after, Wilcox filed a complaint against Edge. Both were placed on administrative leave. Edge was fired on May 19 and Wilcox was fired on July 14. Before losing her job, Wilcox filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Edge and the county.
Robertson’s detailed report was supposed to have been released on July 24. County officials announced they would release the report and gave 10 days for anyone to seek a court order and block it. Warren filed to seal the report.
After three days and multiple delays in court, Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera allowed a redacted version of the report to go public. Warren argued its release would “poison” a jury for Wilcox’s lawsuit. He further argued that many of Robertson’s facts were inaccurate and the county hired her to push their own political agenda and fire Wilcox.
“The conclusions are not fact at all,” Warren said in court, “they’re someone’s opinions.”
Some facts were redacted in the public version of the report, particularly names of other county employees and someone in Sacramento with whom Wilcox was sexually involved.
Warren asked for further redactions before the report was released. LaBarbera granted him three more redactions on top of what county officials pulled. Warren declined to comment beyond what he said in court following the report’s release July 28.
Edge’s attorney, Martin Moroski, unsuccessfully asked the court to release the unredacted report. He told LaBarbera the additional facts would help to clear Edge’s name after Wilcox had “thrown him under the bus.”
Asked about the possibility that county negations with the DSA had been tainted by Wilcox and Perry’s relationship and whether there would be further action, County Counsel Warren Jensen said, “We’re looking into that,” but declined to comment further.
In 2007, both Wilcox and Perry signed off on an agreement to increase DSA member salaries $2.4 million, or 7 percent.