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The Los Alamos County Council terminated County Administrator Tony Mortillaro Tuesday night. The council voted 5-2 to fire Mortillaro with councilors Mike Wheeler and Nona Bowman voting against the firing.
“Although we all know that the world is not fair, at least we can try to make it fair when we have a chance,” Bowman said. “Mr. Mortillaro’s termination is an unjustified and tragic event for Los Alamos County. It is the final significant action rushed through by a council that will lose four members in two weeks. So the revolving door continues …”
Council took the personnel action at the opening of its regular meeting at Fire Station 3 in White Rock following on the heels of a second closed door executive session Monday night, which addressed the matter.
“Council has taken the action to terminate Tony Mortillaro’s employment as county administrator under the terms of his contract,” Council Chair Michael Wismer said at Tuesday’s meeting. “While the county has conducted its review of an investigation into allegations made by a staff member, we report tonight that the end of the employment relationship with Tony is not based on any one finding or any specific acts.
“Simply stated, the council has determined, after a long and thoughtful debate and deliberation, that a separation of employment with Tony is necessary so we can move the county in a direction that best serves the citizens.”
Wismer publicly thanked Mortillaro for his service to the citizens of Los Alamos County, his hard work for the council and he wished him well in his future endeavors.
Council appointed County Attorney Randy Autio as acting county administrator at a salary of $146,200 in a 7-0 vote.
“To preserve continuity of operations and to ensure a smooth transition while the search for a new county administrator is underway, we have, tonight, appointed Randy Autio as the acting county administrator,” Wismer said.
The move to replace Mortillaro, 56, is the culmination of a 12-week independent investigation into more than 80 allegations that were leveled by Asst. County Administrator Diana Stepan.
The 135-page investigative report has been redacted and released to the public as promised by county officials at the onset of the investigation.
Stepan’s claims range from discrimination to abuse of power to saying her duties were reduced to that of a highly paid clerical worker to suggestions that “moms should stay home.”
Mortillaro was out of town on a planned trip Tuesday. However, in a pre-prepared statement Mortillaro said, “I am pleased that the independent investigation of the allegations has been concluded. The report exonerates me of discrimination, inappropriate action or any ethical violation.”
The report also cleared the former county administrator, Max Baker, former county attorney, and several members of the county council who were also named in the report, Mortillaro said in the statement.
“It is unfortunate that Ms. Stepan chose to conceal her concerns when they arose, going back as far as 2005, decided to be loose with the facts and failed to use the appropriate administrative avenues available to her to address her concerns,” Mortillaro said.
Stepan’s husband, Tom Stepan, said previously that his wife would not be commenting on the matter.
Autio stated at the onset of the investigation in September that there were no allegations of sexual harassment, or that appeared to be of a criminal nature at that time.
“At the end of the day, the report has shown that there is no evidence of a culture of gender discrimination in the county as alleged and no pattern or practice of misconduct by any individual,” Wismer said. “However, there are issues that the management of this county and the council must address to help the county chart a course forward with new policies and practices to better serve the citizens. Mr. Autio and the council will begin the steps to accomplish the necessary changes.”
Stepan has been on paid administrative leave, at her own request, during the investigation. It is unclear when and if Stepan, who has an EEOC complaint lodged against the county will return to her duties.
The top job at Los Alamos County has a history of high turnover, with at least five county administrators in the last 10 years. Mortillaro’s termination comes at a particularly pivotal time for some key county initiatives, such as negotiations with North American Development Group relating to the Trinity Site Redevelopment project.
|MortillaroReport Redacted Summary Version.pdf||13.04 MB|