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County Panel's Rebuke Targets Flynn

The veteran supervisor is defiant after board colleagues, critical of his actions, bar him from meeting privately with harbor staff members.

November 02, 2005|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County supervisors Tuesday took the extraordinary step of forbidding a fellow board member from meeting privately with certain county staff, saying his bullying ways had created a hostile work environment.

Board members said they were forced into action because a "pattern of employee harassment" by veteran Supervisor John Flynn had exposed the county to potential lawsuits.

"I am not going to be an enabler anymore," said Supervisor Judy Mikels in making the motion. "No longer can Mr. Flynn meet with harbor staff alone. He must be accompanied by County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston."

Four of the five supervisors voted in favor of Mikels' motion, with Flynn abstaining.

Defiant in the face of his rebuke, Flynn said he will continue raising questions about what he believes are nefarious dealings.

"I'm not going to be frightened," said Flynn, 72, who has been on the board since the mid-1970s.

Meanwhile, a businessman who has operated marinas in Oxnard and Ventura for more than 30 years said he is considering a lawsuit against Flynn for comments the supervisor made last week.

At the Oct. 25 board meeting, Flynn said a "sweetheart deal" over marina leases sought by Randy Short, owner of Almar Corp., had been struck between Short and Lyn Krieger, director of the county-owned Channel Islands Harbor.

Flynn also implied that a "payoff" of some sort had been made.

He has declined to provide more specific information or evidence to back up the claims.

Short said the accusations, though baseless, are harming his business reputation. He has consulted with an attorney about filing suit, Short said.

"We own 17 marinas and are in the process of acquiring more," he said. "I'm sure my competitors will be happy to use Flynn's comments against us."

The supervisors' rebuke followed an intense, hour-long debate in which board members outlined grievances against Flynn.

Flynn's colleagues said it was one thing to engage in politicking over pet issues. But the supervisor stepped over the line when he began publicly criticizing Krieger's efforts to bring new life to the aging marina and browbeating her over minor details of lease arrangements, supervisors said.

"If staff's professional opinion is at odds with Mr. Flynn's, you are at risk of character assassination," Supervisor Steve Bennett said.

Supervisors said Flynn's attacks date back to 2003, when the board followed Krieger's recommendation in approving a new boating instruction center for the harbor's west end. The center was heatedly opposed by harbor residents within Flynn's voting district.

Since then, Flynn has questioned or attempted to stall other projects at the harbor. He is usually ignored and voted down by a majority of supervisors. But last week's accusations went too far, supervisors said.

"All of this has put taxpayers at great risk from accusations that have not been substantiated," board Chairwoman Kathy Long said.

A board-ordered investigation into Flynn's allegations against Short and Krieger concluded they had no merit. Johnston, who conducted the inquiry, recommended that Flynn withdraw his claims or apologize for them.

On Tuesday, Flynn did neither. The sometimes fiery politician reddened while his colleagues discussed him but otherwise remained calm.

He called the allegations of harassment "baloney" and said the public upbraiding didn't bother him.

"I'm not going to talk to staff anymore," Flynn said. "Why should I? My questions fall on deaf ears."

A second motion, offered by Bennett, stripped Flynn of the courtesy of being informed by staff members when inquiries concerning his district are made. The board voted 3 to 1 to approve the motion, with Supervisor Linda Parks voting no and Flynn abstaining.

Bennett said the action was necessary to protect employees from a Flynn tirade should he not like the information being relayed.

"I want our employees to know that the board will do whatever it can to protect employees from retribution by a supervisor," he said.

Krieger declined to say whether she is considering a workplace harassment lawsuit.

She called the situation "sad."

Short, who has known Flynn for more than 30 years, said the supervisor's propensity to hurl a political bomb and later apologize used to make him chuckle.

"It's not funny anymore," he said.

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