By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Debbie Arnold revealed last week that supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill verbally assaulted her in an elevator shortly after she took office.
Arnold won a strong victory over an incumbent supervisor who was an ally of Gibson and Hill. She disagreed with the two during an early 2013 Board of Supervisors meetings on a subject that she has since forgotten. During that time, Arnold disagreed with Hill and Gibson on planning area updates and backroom negotiations regarding state water, according to meeting minutes.
After the meeting ended, Gibson and Hill followed her into the supervisors’ private elevator and cornered her in the back, she said.
While the men screamed at Arnold, Hill sprayed spittle on her face, Arnold said. Following the incident, Arnold reported the altercation to SLO County Counsel Rita Neal.
“I feel like I was bullied, and, as a matter of fact, I made a formal complaint,” Arnold said.
Neal told her she could not make a complaint, Arnold said.
“I was told that ‘hey, if you were an employee of the county you could complain and something might be done, but you are an elected, so get over it and get on with it’ ” Arnold said, quoting Neal.
Gibson and Hill were rude and mean, Arnold said.
“It would remind you of a third grade playground, just trying to intimidate me,” she said. “And I thought, there are other elevators and I do not need to ride in this one again.”
Arnold disclosed the verbal assault on July 6 during the 5 p.m. hour on the Dave Congalton radio show.
After learning of the incident, in 2013 reporters asked Arnold to speak about it on the record. She refused to do that.
“I felt that if I started whining about the way I was treated then everyone would think I couldn’t handle the job, so I just stayed out of the elevator,” Arnold said.
Over the decade that followed, observers of the Board of Supervisors have witnessed Gibson and Hill regularly demean and yell at Arnold during public meetings. The attacks come typically after Arnold has disagreed with the two.