The former acting general manager of the San Mateo County Harbor District has filed a detailed claim against the district outlining what he says were years of abuse from Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan.
Such tort claims are a necessary step in many legal proceedings against government agencies and effectively serve as notice of intent to sue unless a settlement is reached. Former Harbor District Finance Director Debra Galarza followed a similar path, using the same Oakland attorneys, before reaching a $295,000 settlement over her claims of mistreatment within the district.
Scott Grindy worked for the Harbor District for three years between 2012 and 2015. He was hired as harbormaster and charged with many of the day-to-day management functions of district operations, including those at Pillar Point Harbor. He claims that he was led to believe he would take the general manager position in the future. When General Manager Peter Grenell retired in 2014, Grindy was promoted to “acting general manager.” Not long after, he reportedly asked to be reinstated to his old position, a move he maintains in his April 8 claim against the district was motivated by ongoing abuse.
The 24-page claim details what Grindy’s attorneys say was persistent abuse by Brennan, one of five elected Harbor Commissioners. It suggests years of Brown Act violations, staff harassment and overreach during a turbulent time within a district that stretches across San Mateo County but is focused on two harbors.
Grindy says Brennan yelled at him in person, belittled him on social media and online posts, and that she gave the press information about him that was shared in closed meetings. He says at one point he was averaging 16-hour workdays and was working seven days a week. He says he sought psychological counseling and that a doctor recommended he take time off to deal with depression and anxiety.
The period in question was perhaps the most troubled time in the district’s history. Several staff members left amid complaints of financial mismanagement that included misplaced checks and the purchase of computer equipment that was never installed. Meanwhile, the Local Agency Formation Commission reaffirmed in 2015 that the Harbor District had “zero sphere of influence” and was therefore inefficient and duplicated existing county services. LAFCo stopped short of calling for the dissolution of the district.
During the period, Commissioner Nicole David stepped down, citing health concerns.
In a statement issued on Friday, Brennan writes that the tort claims filed by both Galarza and Grindy are “unsubstantiated.” She writes that the most recent claim followed a letter from Grindy’s attorney requesting a severance package in exchange for a release of all claims. The district declined to make such a payment, she writes.
“A pattern of attacks on my credibility were first instigated by past General Manager Peter Grenell,” Brennan wrote. “For over 17 years, a culture of hostility flowed down the chain of command. Today the district’s culture has shifted in a positive direction and General Manager Steve McGrath is building a complementary team.”
Reached on Friday, attorney Martin Horowitz declined to specify what Grindy might ultimately seek in compensation. He said Grindy was not seeking re-instatement in his former position. Grindy is currently a harbor manager for the city and county of San Francisco.