Supervisor Jerry Hill's recommendation that the board pass a resolution requiring the Peninsula Humane Society to provide some answers to the gender discrimination charges against their executive director, didn't even make it to the level of a board vote yesterday. The other supervisors rejected the legitimacy of the request, saying that it was not the county's place to step into a dispute between the organization and it's employees. Instead, they wanted to see the issue played out longer before they took it up.
"It might be more prudent to step back," said Supervisor Mary Griffin during the meeting. "I would prefer not to be directly involved in an issue between employees and the Peninsula Humane Society."
Supervisor Jerry Hill said later, "I'm embarrassed that the county took the position it did. They didn't even want to question the Humane Society." He added, "It tells me that the county of San Mateo wants to bury its head in the sand and not address the gender harassment that occurred at the Peninsula Humane Society, which is on our property."
The Peninsula Humane Society receives $4 million annually from county and city funds to run the county's animal control service and to pay for the salaries of a number of their employees. PHS also leases their property from the county.
Griffin said later that she felt ill-prepared to vote on the issue yesterday because Supervisor Hill did not brief the supervisors well enough ahead of time. "We should have been privy to all the things he was privy to," she said, referring to the conversations Hill had with former employees and other documents he researched ahead of time.
Griffin said she was also concerned about stepping into a fierce battle between the employees and the organization. "I don't think that's something we should get in the middle of. It's like stepping between gunfire," Griffin said. She added, "I don't want to move on anything like that until we have a word from our legal department on what we should do. I want my attorney to tell me what we can do by the law, because we can get into as much trouble by moving precipitously as we can by moving slowly."
Hill brought up the fact that under PHS's contract with the city, there is a clause against discrimination. According to County Counsel, Tom Casey, the county could terminate the contract with PHS on the grounds that there is a "material breach" on the provisions of the contract. "You always have the opportunity to cancel the contract," Casey said. "That might not be agreed upon by the other party and that's how you have lawsuits."