SLO County supervisors fired deputy administrator Gail Wilcox, the county’s second in command, because she had a conflict of interest due to a personal relationship.
Wilcox will not receive any severance pay and the county officials are ready to spill the details behind her termination. The specifics probably will be released on July 24 as an edited report of an attorney’s investigation into Wilcox’s performance. Wilcox’s firing was hardly a surprise as county officials had hinted there would be a decision when county supervisors returned from their summer break.
Wilcox had been on paid administrative leave since May and county officials were not shy to disclose that her work was being investigated, though the details of the investigation have been kept secret.
Immediately after the decision, County Counsel Warren Jensen issued a written statement that Wilcox was fired “… based on her participation in a personal relationship that conflicted with her official duties.” No details were offered.
For now, county officials are letting the yet-to-be-released report do the talking for them. In a written response to local media, Jensen said the report is being withheld to allow any objectors to seek a court order to seal it from public view. Such personnel reports are typically withheld but this report is being released, Jensen said, because “ … a personnel document may be subject to disclosure if it concerns a ‘public figure’ and a matter of legitimate public interest.”
Supervisor Adam Hill declined to comment on specifics but said the board’s unanimous decision was “careful” and “decisive.”
Although Wilcox lost this battle with the county, she has filed a court complaint against the county and Edge. On June 16, Wilcox filed a lawsuit claiming that Edge sexually harassed her and county officials did nothing to stop it.
Wilcox could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, David Warren, declined to comment in detail because of the pending lawsuit. When asked whether he would block the release of the investigation results, he said it was still under review. The county had not filed a response to Wilcox’s complaint as of press time.
Wilcox will only receive compensation for her unused vacation hours but no severance package because it was a disciplinary action, Jensen said. She was receiving $87.34 per hour while on administrative leave.
Wilcox was placed on administrative leave on May 8. Edge was put on paid leave briefly before county supervisors fired him. He was handed a severance package for eight months after his termination, as well as other perks, for a total cost of about $239,000.
County supervisors officially terminated Wilcox’s employment contract after several hours of closed session on July 14 following the regular board meeting. Wilcox attended a portion of the session but the decision to fire her was reached later that evening.