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Los Alamos County’s top official, County Administrator Tony Mortillaro is undergoing an independent investigation into allegations leveled by Assistant County Administrator Diana Stepan.
Stepan could not be reached for comment. Her husband, Tom Stepan, said Tuesday that she is meeting with investigators, which likely will “take all day.”
“I can tell you that Diana has walked a tightrope at the county for many years, which I believe should never have been the case,” he said. “What is unfolding today is simply a result of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The Los Alamos Monitor obtained an internal memo that Mortillaro e-mailed to county staff Monday in which he stated that the county attorney was notified of “allegations involving my office.”
County Attorney Randy Autio addressed the allegations Tuesday: “There are no allegations of sexual harassment and there are no allegations at this time that appear to be of a criminal nature.”
Mortillaro did not specify Stepan’s allegations and declined further comment.
He said that, at her own request, Stepan would be on paid administrative leave from her duties until the investigation is concluded.
“Employees participating as witnesses in the investigation shall participate and provide honest and open answers and will be protected from any retaliation,” Mortillaro said in his memo.
County Council Chair Mike Wismer said in a written statement to the Monitor Monday, “The council believes that all levels of county government must meet the highest standards of conduct and credible allegations must be investigated. This investigation is being conducted by an independent investigator and will be concluded as expeditiously as possible.”
The investigator was in town on Monday.
Stepan’s allegations against Mortillaro are a personnel matter that council can’t comment on until the investigation is concluded, Wismer said. He added that county employees have a right to confidentiality during personnel investigations.
Wismer also said the council will make the findings by the investigator public, and if warranted, will take appropriate action based on those findings.
Mortillaro was appointed to the county’s top post last October from assistant county administrator. His salary was increased from just under $144,000 to $156,000 plus benefits – the midrange pay for that pay grade at the time.
Mortillaro was appointed by and serves at the discretion of the council. He is the chief administrative officer of the county.
Mortillaro’s responsibilities include daily oversight of the Capital Projects and Facilities Department, Public Works Department, including transit, traffic, pavement and fleet management. He is also in charge of the Community Development Department, which encompasses planning and zoning, building inspections, affordable housing, code enforcement, business licensing and comprehensive planning and development.
Mortillaro oversees the Los Alamos County Airport and the Environmental Services Division, which includes environmental sustainability initiatives, solid waste and the county landfill and eco station operations.
Mortillaro also has responsibility for legislative oversight, economic development, re-development and tourism programs, and federal, state, local and tribal governmental relations.
Mortillaro’s staff consists of an office manager, two senior office specialists, a records administrator, an economic vitality administrator and an assistant to the administrator – a position he recently created.
Stepan joined the county in 2001 as administrative services director.
She was promoted to assistant county administrator at the same time Mortillaro was hired as an assistant county administrator in 2004. She did not apply for the county administrator position last year.
Memo from the county administrator
All County Staff
Important Msg from Tony Mortillaro
In the interest of keeping our employees informed about items that may soon receive media attention, I would like to apprise you that the County Attorney was recently notified of allegations involving my office and therefore, an investigation will be conducted of the allegations. The allegations were brought by Assistant County Administrator, Diana Stepan. An independent investigator will begin working immediately with the County Attorney to follow up on this matter as expeditiously as possible. As with any personnel actions under review, I would remind our employees that it is important to respect the right to confidentiality and privacy for all parties involved. Employees participating as witnesses in the investigation shall participate and provide honest and open answers and will be protected from any retaliation. During the pendency of the investigation, Ms. Stepan will be on paid administrative leave at her own request.
Watch for more details on this developing story.