Angela Valles, Director of Finance for the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (VVWRA), filed a lawsuit in federal court on Nov. 6, 2015, alleging harassment, disparate treatment, and retaliation. The four-count complaint outlines a systematic pattern of conduct that Valles says is based on her sex, race, and whistleblowing activities.
Valles began her career with VVWRA as Director of Finance. She was eventually promoted to Director of Administration.
Earlier this year a number of current and former VVWRA employees lodged hostile work environment complaints against Valles, General Manager Logan Olds, and Director of Operations Gilbert Perez. As a result of the complaints only Valles was placed on paid administrative leave. After nearly five months she was demoted in title and responsibilities but not pay.
In her complaint Valles details actions she has taken to complain about several local politicians. She says in 2010 she filed a sexual harassment complaint against then Hesperia City Councilman and VVWRA Board of Commissioners member Thurston Smith, who she says was “reluctantly removed” from the board. She also claims Smith sexually harassed another female employee and that complaint was “brushed under the rug.”
Valles also complains that Hesperia City Councilman Russ Blewett has both been influenced by Smith and has “taken several actions to silence and undermine her.” She says he made disparaging remarks about Hispanics and women.
Valles’ complaint goes more deeply into the relationship of San Bernardino County First District Supervisor Robert “Bob” Lovingood and his connections to VVWRA. As first district supervisor, Lovingood would normally be seated on the Board of Commissioners.
Lovingood owns ICR Staffing, a temporary employment agency. The firm held a contract with VVWRA and other local entities to provide staffing services. Although he claims he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the firm, his wife takes an active role. Valles lodged a Government Code §1090 complaint in 2014, consisting of 319 pages of documentation, alleging Lovingood’s firm received $560,000 from VVWRA while an “inactive” board member among other allegations.
Due to Lovingood’s financial relationship with the entity, he allowed Third District Supervisor James Ramos to assume the position. Ramos appointed San Bernardino County Special Districts Director Jeff Rigney to sit on the board on his behalf. As a county department head Rigney ultimately answers to the Board of Supervisors, including Lovingood, and that includes keeping his job. The county attempts to deny it, but the recent scandal with Human Resources Director Andrew Lamberto clearly showed the relationship between a department head and the board of supervisors.
Valles’ husband, Rick Roelle, is expected to run against Lovingood for the First District seat next year. Valles is also rumored to be considering a run for the seat. To view the Valles complain in full, click here.