SANTA ANA — In a Superior Court hearing Thursday, ex-County Administrative Officer Ernie Schneider painted a portrait of former Supervisor Roger R. Stanton as a bully who wanted to fire the county's finance director after she leaked information to the media.
At the time, Schneider told jurors, he had refused to dismiss Eileen T. Walsh, who was later transferred to the county's Integrated Waste Management Department. She filed suit against the county and Health Care Agency Director Tom Uram alleging that she was wrongly demoted during the county's bankruptcy debacle by a vindictive "good old boys" network in a scheme to settle personal scores.
Schneider told jurors that Stanton knew Walsh had spoken to a Times reporter about how contractors seeking county business had generously contributed to certain political campaigns, including Stanton's, and wanted to retaliate against her. Stanton has denied the allegations.
"Roger is very sensitive to leaks to the press," Schneider said. "He knew that Eileen had discussed this with the media and he wanted her terminated."
Schneider said that he, and not Stanton, had the authority to fire Walsh at the time. To accomplish that task, Schneider said, supervisors fired him and installed Uram, who transferred Walsh to the county's trash department. She now works out of a trailer performing secretarial duties for her annual salary of $75,420.
The county contends that Walsh was sent to work in the trash department in a move to protect her from losing her job altogether. Earlier this week, attorney Norman Watkins, who represents the county, said in opening statements that Walsh was transferred because she was heavily involved in financial deals that had gone awry, referring to the county's 1994 bankruptcy.
In cross-examination, Watkins established that in a deposition, Schneider had said that Stanton told him to remove Walsh because of her ties to the bankruptcy. Schneider did not deny making that statement.
"I think she was discriminated against; whether or not it was because of sexual discrimination or other reasons, I couldn't say."
Outside the courtroom, Schneider, now an executive at a local engineering firm, said both statements were true, because Stanton had twice approached him about firing Walsh, listing both reasons.
"It was retaliation . . . because she had the courage to tell the truth about Roger Stanton," Schneider said.
Walsh alleged that she was forced to work for Murry S. Cable, whom Schneider said had a history of making inappropriate, derogatory statements about women. Furthermore, Uram and others tolerated Cable's behavior, even after the statements were brought to their attention, Schneider said.
But in cross-examination, Watkins established that Walsh had never filed a complaint against Cable and had even gone out to lunch with Cable. Cable died earlier this year, attorneys said.