Former county employee accuses Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt of bullying, abuse

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Kern County Planning Director, Lorelei Oviatt, has come under direct fire in recent months from a former planning department employee who said he had to quit after years of being bullied on the job by Oviatt.

When asked to consider any large-scale development project in Kern County, county supervisors turn to Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt to do the heavy lifting, the analysis and the recommendations on how to proceed. Perhaps no single person who is not elected has more influence on land use decisions in Kern County than Oviatt.

Former county employee, Shawn Beyeler, stood before county supervisors today, demanding action. Beyeler, who officially filed a complaint against the County of Kern in 2018, went in front of the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, accusing the county of not doing enough to investigate his claim.

“During my 12 years of employment with the planning department, Director Oviatt has continued to foster a work environment that is counter to multiple county mission statements,” Beyeler said. “Her words and deeds have negatively affected planning department staff, and I am not alone in this observation,” he added.

“I am obliged to express my dissatisfaction with and frustration as to the county’s purposeful mishandling of the investigation as to not accurately reflect director Oviatt’s true nature over the last decade.”

Beyeler alleged that Oviatt manages her department through fear and intimidation; the planning department, he claims, has suffered because of her behavior. Beyeler claimed the abuse was so prevalent that he had to seek medical attention from his physician, and he says he was not the only victim.

“I cannot stand idly by when I see tears welling up in the eyes many current planning staff, and hear the frustration in their voices as they confide in me that the planning department is a negative toxic environment,” he said.

Beyeler’s wife, Robin, also spoke in front of the Board on Tuesday.

“Bullying and abuse are not OK in Kern County,” she said. “Bullying and verbal abuse should not be praised, encouraged, or ignored. To ignore it is to condone it.”

KGET reached out to director Oviatt to get her side to the story. She released the following statement:
“I respect the confidentiality of all employment matters for all county employees.”

Meantime, Beyeler noted the county’s director of human resources was supposed to release the report detailing the investigation into his claims, but he said the report has yet to be released.

Megan Person, director of countywide communications, issued the following statement about the investigation.

“The County received notification of a claim and complaint.  All claims or complaints involving personnel matters are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. We’ve performed our investigation and analysis, and any appropriate actions have been or will be implemented. All our employees are a valuable part of the Kern County team and enjoy a right to privacy where their personnel files/records are concerned.  For that reason, we do not release the records of our employees.”

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