Chief Deputy County Recorder Leaves After Three Years Of Recriminations

Chief deputy county recorder De Ana Thompson is leaving her position with the county as of today, nearly four years after several of her underlings made a very public display of objection to what was characterized as her overbearing and intimidating management style.
In April 2009, six employees within the auditor-controller-recorder’s office, as it was then composed, signed a letter to the board of supervisors alleging Thompson was responsible for the proliferation of a stressful work environment.  Four of those employees had taken stress leave and two others had transferred out of the office. Several members of the department suggested that Thompson, who had initially met auditor-controller-recorder Larry Walker  at a Little League game before he persuaded her to leave her job as a sales clerk at a department store to become his personal assistant, had exploited her friendship with their boss to rapidly advance to the management position she held in the office. She had continued to rely upon that personal relationship to keep her position in the face of a rising tide of rebellion among the employees she oversaw, they said.
Among those feeling the sting of Thompson’s lash, were John Pinckney, Wendy Everett, Dennis Tormey and Sean Crees, all of whom filed workers’ compensation claims against the county. Several other employees bemoaned a “dog eat dog” atmosphere in the recorder’s office.
Walker and his then-senior assistant, Betsy Starbuck, however, defended Thompson as “technically proficient” with regard to the digitalized function of the recorder’s office and capable of inducing the division’s employees to meet the production goals Walker and Starbuck had set.
Discontent with Thompson as their supervisor persisted among some of the recorder’s office employees, but in 2010, a reconsolidation of responsibilities in several county offices occurred, when the auditor controller took on the function of the treasurer’s and tax collector’s offices, and the recorder’s function was  transferred to the assessor’s office. In January 2011, Walker sidestepped any further suggestion that he was protecting Thompson when the recorder’s office came under the authority of assessor Dennis Draeger.
The new line of command, however, did not alleviate the hard feelings several of the division’s current and former employees had toward Thompson.  Four workers’ compensation lawsuits were filed against the county that cited a stressful  work environment Thompson had created which  made the continued employment of those that filed them untenable. Two of the cases were settled with the county for a dollar amount short of trial.
A third involved court hearings between December 2011 and October 2012, with the plaintiff, John Pinckney, prevailing in that action, based on a judge’s finding that he had suffered a stress-related industrial injury that stemmed from supervision that was “inadequate and inappropriate.”
A fourth case is yet pending. A county source has told the Sentinel Thompson was pressured into resigning as a consequence of the outcome of Pinckney’s case and the cost the county sustained.  All four who filed claims remain employed by the county in departments outside the recorder’s office.
There was no hint of anything being amiss in the announcement of Thompson’s exodus that went out to her colleagues in the assessor’s office. In a January 3 email to those workers, assistant assessor-recorder Dan Harp wrote, “De Ana has informed me that she will be retiring from the assessor-recorder-county clerk’s office next week. Her last day with the department will be 1-11-2013 and her official retirement date is 1-12-2013.  De Ana has many years of dedicated service to the county of San Bernardino and the recorder’s office and has gathered many accolades on a local, state, and national level.  Her involvement with the various recorder and county clerk organizations has earned her a very high degree of professional respect amongst her peers in the recording and county clerk business.  Many of you have worked with De Ana for years and some of you have worked with her for a lesser time, but all of us who have known and worked with De Ana wish her the best.”

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