County Supervisor Dave Roberts’ Aide Sues 2 Former Colleagues
Harold Meza alleges the two women created a hostile work environment
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Attorney Dan Gilleon has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Harold Meza, an employee of San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts, claiming two former staffers created a hostile work environment.
Lawsuit filed on behalf of Harold Meza
Harold Meza vs Diane Porter, Glynnis Vaughan
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A staff member for embattled San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts announced Thursday he is suing two former colleagues who have filed complaints with the county against Roberts. The announcement unfolded at a chaotic news conference as both sides used the event to respond to the other’s allegations.
In front of the Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego, aide Harold Meza announced the suit against Diane Porter and Glynnis Vaughan.
Vaughan and Porter resigned from Roberts' office in April and subsequently filed claims with the county that allege a series of improprieties in the supervisor's office, including that Meza and Roberts had an inappropriate relationship. Roberts has said the claims are false.
At the Thursday's news conference, Meza denied any suggestion of inappropriate conduct — sexual or otherwise — with Roberts. He said Porter and Vaughn started the rumors in March, which created a hostile work environment.
"The recent allegations made about me by two former San Diego County employees are false. They have hurt me deeply," said Meza, who was hired nearly a year ago as Roberts' policy adviser and community representative. "Diane Porter and Glynnis Vaughan have attempted to smear my reputation by spreading outrageous and obscene allegations about me, my sexual orientation and my ability and job performance."
Meza's attorney, Dan Gilleon, said the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday, "has nothing to do with the claims recently filed by Ms. Porter and Ms. Vaughan. They had the right to file those claims, even though we believe them to contain complete fabrications of fact."
Gilleon said the lawsuit explains why Roberts' office "suddenly erupted in turmoil."
The suit claims Porter and Vaughan spread rumors in the workplace that Meza was having a sexual relationship with Roberts. It also says Porter "embarked on a smear campaign" and was exploiting that Roberts is gay.
Meza claims this happened after Porter "made a vivid, obscene comment" to him about "intimate marital problems she was experiencing." He said he avoided Porter after that because her comment made him feel uncomfortable.
After Gilleon and Meza finished speaking, Porter’s attorney, Chris Morris, stepped before the news media and claimed the hostile work environment was actually created by Roberts.
Morris said Roberts sent text messages to Porter about Meza, such as sharing a hotel room with him on an out-of-town trip.
“A supervisor cannot spend a night in a hotel room with a subordinate and then text how much they enjoyed that activity to the other subordinates in that office. Totally inappropriate," Morris said. "Doesn’t matter sexual orientation, doesn’t matter if there was sexual activity. That in and of itself was inappropriate. That’s what caused the consternation and problems in the office."
He said the messages made Porter and Vaughan uncomfortable, and they took their concerns to their boss.
The women did not allege that the relationship between Roberts and Meza was sexual, but rather that Roberts showed favoritism toward Meza, who is also Roberts' driver.
In Porter's claim, she said she and her husband saw Roberts try to spoon- feed Meza at an event.
Following remarks from Morris at the news conference, reporters gathered around Roberts’ spokesman, Gary Gartner, for his response. Gartner said the series of text messages sent by the supervisor, in which he mentioned sharing a bed on a work trip with Meza, were merely inappropriate jokes.
"I think that, in retrospect, you know the supervisor has said that he’s going to be more cautious about joking around. But it was a joke. There wasn’t anything more than that, nothing more," he said to a circle of reporters.
Gartner went on to accuse Porter and Vaughan of hiding behind their attorneys, which prompted Porter to show up at the news conference.
“The only reason I would even talk with Glynnis about Harold were text messages that were being sent to me by Supervisor Dave Roberts that I felt were inappropriate."
Porter has not been served with the suit. Her lawyer said when it is, it will be forwarded to the county’s lawyers because the alleged events took place on county time. Vaughan’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
A third former Roberts staffer has also filed a claim against the county.
Allegations against the freshman supervisor surfaced in May after Porter and Vaughan became vocal about their time working for him.
Roberts, the only Democrat on the five-member Board of Supervisors, represents District 3. A former Solana Beach city councilman, he is up for re-election next year.
His district includes coastal North County as well as parts of Escondido, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Peñasquitos, Scripps Ranch and Tierrasanta.
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