Former SLO County public works director resigns after harassment allegations

May 21, 2019

San Luis Obispo County’s legal department has released more information about the recent resignation of the county's public works director. The documents include several written complaints about a sexually-inappropriate management style of a department head who held the job for over a year.

Daniel "Colt" Esenwein was officially hired by the county board for supervisors at the beginning of April 2018, and began his role as public works director later that month. His base salary was roughly $15,000 a month, totaling more than $180,000 a year, not including benefits. With benefits, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports, his total compensation equaled $285,000 a year. 

On Tuesday, County Counsel Rita Neal released copies of written complaints about Esenwein’s job performance. The copies are heavily redacted to protect the identities of the employees who filed them, Neal told KCBX News, because the county wants employees to know they can feel safe coming forward with management issues.

The complaints mention a first meeting where Esenwein allegedly used vulgar descriptors such as "bending over and taking it," and "grabbing your ankles," to describe how he conducts business. Others describe harassment of female employees and Esenwein having the ”behavior of an immature high school boy.”

Many other comments describe Esenwein as a manager who was inappropriate, with poor communication skills and who fostered a sense of low morale in his employees.

County administrative officer Wade Horton issued a statement saying, “the former public works director’s actions and leadership style were not aligned with my expectations of a county department head. I appreciate the courage it took for staff to come forward and express concerns.”

Esenwein resigned at the beginning of May after being placed on administrative leave, during which he continued to be paid. This week, the county officially started the search for a new public works director.

Esenwein did not respond to a KCBX News request for comment.