As chief deputy of the Monterey County Public Guardian’s Office, Teri Scarlett and the staffers she oversaw were tasked with managing the affairs of about 200 people who had been “conserved” into the court system. The conserved are people who, due to advanced age, mental condition or lack of competent family help, the court has deemed unable to take care of their own finances or make decisions about their health care or living arrangements.
As Scarlett described it in a 2015 interview with the Weekly, the Public Guardian’s Office was fraught with stress, some of it brought on by the challenges of managing the lives of people who couldn’t take care of themselves, and some of it brought on by a manager who Scarlett claims was unwilling to take the advice of people who had worked in the guardian system a lot longer than him.
That manager, Ray Bullick, was the county director of health, and according to Scarlett, he was so intent on retaliating against underlings who questioned him that he harassed several of them out of their jobs. Bullick retired in 2016 citing personal reasons; in his wake, he left a handful of lawsuits filed against the county by Public Guardian and Health Department workers who ran afoul of him on the job. One Behavioral Health employee, Robert Jackson, who had been put on administrative leave by Bullick then left there for 18 months, died by suicide.
Even though Bullick’s been gone for three years, the lawsuits continue. On Aug. 29, Scarlett sued the county, alleging that after she testified in front of an unemployment compensation board hearing on behalf of Jennifer Empasis, another Public Guardian employee who claimed Bullick had harassed her, she in turn was harassed as well, placed on paid administrative leave and ultimately fired on Sept. 1, 2017.
In a complaint filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Scarlett wrote she filed a series of discrimination and harassment complaints against Bullick, alleging he specifically discriminated against female staffers. The complaints, she added, were investigated and she believes they were sustained, leading to Bullick’s retirement.
“The county’s decision to fire me… was retaliatory for my earlier complaints about Mr. Bullick,” she wrote.
Scarlett, a Carmel Valley resident now working as an attorney representing domestic violence victims, declined to comment and referred questions to her attorney, Maggie Melo, who did not return requests for comment. Bullick did not respond to a voicemail.