Tuesday, November 30, 2010 – 10:00 a.m.

San Bernardino County executives have come down hard on one of their own employees who also operates a local political blog.

A blog popular with readers, but not county leaders.

Sharon Gilbert, an almost thirty-year county employee, has taken on county government with great success through her website www.iePolitics.com. A widely-read blog in Southern California’s Inland Empire, which consists primarily of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Ms. Gilbert has a network of sources that aid her in routing out issues with local governments and exposing problems. A resource that has contributed to the blogs success.

However, Gilbert has paid a steep price for her crusading.

More than a year ago, at the direction of ousted county administrative officer Mark Uffer, county human resources officers overrode a physicians off-work order and pulled the plug on Gilbert’s disability benefits coverage.

An off-work order, which had the concurrence of a county-approved physician.

Last year the county directed the Hartford Insurance Company to deny Gilbert disability payments, while at the same time the county terminated her workers compensation treatment access.

Even though Gilbert has accepted the gracious offer of San Diego County-based attorney Ed Faunce to fight for her benefits, the county continues to play hardball.

Recently, the county board of supervisors, at the request of staff, approved a contract with the law firm of Meyers Nave Ribacksilver & Wilson to deal with Gilbert.

The cost? Tens of thousands of dollars.

In Gilbert’s latest workers compensation hearing, an attorney for the county told Gilbert and her attorney that the county would not give Gilbert anything unless her blog was shut down.

A stunt that routinely occurs in the private sector, but a local government hurting an employee over free speech is another story.

So far the county has denied more than $19,000 in disability payments to Gilbert, who has been surviving on a hardship withdrawal from her retirement savings.

But now with that resource exhausted Gilbert once again lives with no heat, no medical access, and a broken down vehicle.

Her latest request to be assisted with transportation to medical appointments through a county program was also denied.

First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt’s staff attempted to intervene on Gilbert’s behalf but stopped when, as chief of staff David Zook reportedly put it,”we were making too many enemies in the county administrative office.”

Yes, a county supervisor!

It’s time for newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux to put an end to this mean-spirited treatment.

Merry Christmas from San Bernardino County.

A county that should change its seal from an arrowhead to an eight ball.