Supervisor Bill Horn's chief of staff announces her retirement - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Supervisor Bill Horn's chief of staff announces her retirement

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Joan Wonsley and Bill Horn Joan Wonsley and Bill Horn
Joan Wonsley at Horn's vacation home on the Colorado River in Parker, AZ (from Facebook) Joan Wonsley at Horn's vacation home on the Colorado River in Parker, AZ (from Facebook)
Horn's vacation home on the Colorado River in Parker, AZ Horn's vacation home on the Colorado River in Parker, AZ

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - The woman behind the political persona of San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn has announced her retirement.

Joan Wonsley has served as Supervisor Horn's chief of staff for more than a decade. It's a relationship that raised some eyebrows on more than one occasion over the years.

Horn, 69, was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1994 and for the past 17 years Wonsley, 56, has been by his side.

She started out as a policy adviser in Horn's District 5 offices and was promoted to chief of staff 13 years ago.

The last time Wonsley agreed to an interview with News 8 was in 2006, when she talked about her job and personal life.

"I might earn a pretty good salary at the county as a government employee, but I am a divorced mother of three children," Wonsley said at the time.

Wonsley currently earns $152,000 per year as a county employee, not including benefits. Her total compensation package including all benefits and county retirement contributions amounts to $238,900, according to county spokesperson Tammy Glenn.

Back in 2006, a News 8 investigation revealed that Wonsley and her children were living in a Carlsbad home valued at more than $1 million; a home which Horn had purchased separately from his wife in 2003.

Horn got into trouble with a state watchdog agency and was eventually fined because he had failed to report rental income he received from Wonsley. Horn claimed the income was received as part of a private, rent-to-own agreement with Wonsley, which was never made public.

"I just happened to have something that was available. It was in her price range and she was willing to pay the price. And, she pays market rent I guarantee you," Horn told News 8 in 2006.

At the time, Wonsley's neighbors had reported seeing Horn's truck parked at the home at night, leading to rumors of a romantic relationship between Horn and his chief.

Wonsley denied the allegations in her earlier interview with News 8.

"Those are rumors and I have very truthfully characterized my relationship with him (Horn) as a business relationship," Wonsley said.

In recent months, News 8 has been looking into a vacation home that Bill Horn owns on the Colorado River in Parker, Arizona.

Photos posted on Facebook in 2010 show Joan Wonsley vacationing at the home with her children and family members. Other photos show Wonsley water skiing on the river, and having drinks on the patio of the riverfront home owned by her boss.

Another photo shows Wonsley's son and his friends jumping of a nearby roof into the river and "mooning" the camera.

Horn and Wonsley were not seen together in any of the photos and both declined to comment for this report.

In a statement earlier this week announcing Wonsley's retirement, Horn wrote:

"My staff and I will miss Joan's professionalism, leadership and sharp political insight. We will miss her compassion and infectious laugh. Joan has worked very hard for many years and deserves the opportunity to enjoy more time with her family, children and grandson. I hope you will join me in wishing Joan health and happiness in her retirement."

Currently, Wonsley and Horn have been working together on a project called Prosperity on Purpose. Members of the group include developers who want to build homes in Horn's district.

Supervisor Horn gave Prosperity on Purpose taxpayer grant money totaling $236,000 through the county's Community Enhancement Program. The group used the money to produce an 81-page Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy report, released earlier this month.

Joan Wonsley will official retire from the county on Friday, July 27. There is speculation she may be looking to run for a seat on the Carlsbad City Council in November.

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