Some observers of an on-the-job fight in Mono County Public Works that led to two firings and then two appeal hearings call it a case of “he said, he said.” One man got his job back, the other did not. Lawyers on either side see things differently. So do eye witnesses.
Katie Bellomo represented Dick Luman, a 15-year county mechanic. She says her client did nothing wrong and did not get a fair shake. She said McCurry attacked Luman. One witness in the same room agreed, another did not. Bellomo points to the “good old boy” system and said Luman was the fall guy.
We contacted Deputy Mono County Counsel John Vallejo, who had declined to comment during both appeal hearings. Asked for his side of the story more recently, Vallejo said, “It’s not appropriate to comment on an ongoing personnel matter.” He did add that “the County put on a very consistent case.”
After Luman lost his appeal based on the allegation that he made a verbal threat to McCurry, who was one of his supervisors, Bellomo said she believed the “fix was in.” She pointed to the Personnel Appeal Board for McCurry that she said had two of his friends on it.
Vallejo points to the personnel rules which county government does not control, he said. The rules allow the Union to pick one member of the Personnel Appeal Board, the County picks one and then there is a coin toss to pick the third. The Union won the coin toss. Jerry Frederick, the Union representative, has not returned our calls.
Beyond that, Vallejo said, “The record speaks for itself.” Luman had said that McCurry attacked and injured him during a meeting to discuss McCurry’s “aggressiveness and bullying.” Part of the audio questioning of Luman on the record seems to show him changing his story. In one interview Luman said he pushed McCurry back and he hit a tool cabinet. In another interview Luman said that he himself ended up on a tool bin, pinned by McCurry.
Another employee, Jim Kerby, was suspended by Mono County for allegedly lying about what he saw happen between Luman and McCurry. Kerby, who was in the room during the incident, had testified that McCurry grabbed Luman and pushed him.
Why did the Appeal Board re-instate McCurry? Vallejo said the details of the hearing were in closed session, and he could not comment. Luman’s Appeal Board had fallen short of accusing McCurry of creating a hostile work environment. They did say the County should have acted sooner to address McCurry’s “inappropriate conduct in the workplace.”