Debbie Arnold shares experience with fellow supervisor Bruce Gibson

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — A recent book, “The Happiest Corruption: Sleaze, Lies, & Suicide in a California Beach Town,” revealed a darker side of the government in San Luis Obispo County. 

Written by Debbie Peterson, former Grover Beach mayor, her move to shed light on her experience in local government opened the floor for SLO County District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold to share one of her first experiences being a supervisor.

On July 6, Peterson went on the Dave Congalton radio show to discuss her book and the inner workings of our local government. 

Arnold called into the show to lend congratulations to Peterson for writing her book. But her call drifted to Arnold sharing one of her not so happy experiences as a supervisor, serving as an example of what the supervisor claimed to be a sometimes-hostile work environment.

The conversation with Congalton and Peterson went into the bullying that can be apparent between supervisors. 

This led to Congalton asking Arnold about an alleged “elevator incident,” saying, “Isn’t it about time we know that story?”

In 2013, Arnold was first elected as a county supervisor. Arnold recounted that following a disagreement with supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson during a meeting, the two men went into the supervisor elevator (that goes directly to their offices) with Arnold and began to intimidate her. 

Arnold described the incident as uncomfortable, rude, and intimidating. From that point forward, Arnold said she continued to use the public elevators to get to her office.

As the only woman on the board at the time, Arnold said she did not want people to think she could not handle her job. So she kept it quiet, but, as Congalton alluded, it was a known incident. 

Arnold did take the complaint to her supervisor. But, according to Arnold, she was told that since she is an elected official, she could not make the complaint.

Arnold told Paso Robles Press/Atascadero News, “It took years before I felt comfortable talking about what at times is a hostile work environment behind the scenes in the board of supervisor’s office.” 

The incident with Hill and Gibson came as a surprise to Arnold based on her previous experience in the supervisor’s office. 

Prior to becoming a supervisor, Arnold worked as a legislative assistant in the office. She describes the work environment as one where people could disagree and continue to be professional. 

She stated she cannot say that is the same environment she sees today.

Paso Robles Press/Atascadero News has reached out to District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson for comment. 

Below is Gibson’s response to Arnold and the CalCoastNews article, which covered Arnold’s discussion on the Dave Congalton radio show.

I do remember one elevator ride with Adam Hill and Debbie Arnold. However, the characterization of that event in the CalCoastNews story is not true.  

What I recall of that event, which occurred more than nine years ago and lasted less than one minute, is that Mr. Hill was criticizing Ms. Arnold over a vote she had cast a few minutes before.  

I’d remind you that I’m in a runoff election this November that will determine the balance of power on the county Board of Supervisors.  

Debbie supports my opponent, so it’s not surprising that this nearly decade-old story appears at a time when she may believe it will harm my campaign. 

Let me also remind you that CalCoastNews has a lengthy track record of publishing demonstrably false claims about me and others — and has been found by a SLO County jury, in a rare ruling, to have committed libel in a previous incident. This proven online libeler is known for its sensational and inaccurate “reportage.”  

The local Republican party — which has endorsed my opponent — actively promotes CCN and has previously recycled false information published there. 

Lastly, anyone who’s been around me over my many years as a county supervisor knows that I don’t badger, berate or scream at anyone. This story about me, as told by Ms. Arnold and CCN, is clearly a political hit piece and should be dismissed as campaign season gears up. 

Please keep all this in mind as we move forward to the November 8 election.