Questions about Mono investigation in termination appeal hearing

MONO COURTHOUSEAttorney Katie Bellomo who represents a fired Mono County mechanic in a wrongful termination appeal, said what should have been a simple personnel hearing has grown complex and lengthy.  She thinks part of the reason is that Mono officials are “used to controlling the personnel process.  They have not had this level of resistance,” she said. “I don’t know when a personnel hearing has happened in Mono County in the open with a lawyer.”

It’s happening now, and after a few days of the open, public appeal hearing of Dick Luman, it was revealed that Mono Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Hanson had investigated a reported physical fight between Luman and Road Operations Supervisor Brett McCurry which led to the firing of both men. The fight happened at a meeting to discuss problems with McCurry. Deputy Hanson spoke to eye witnesses, closed his investigation and had it signed off.  Luman’s attorney, Bellomo, said the Deputy had concluded that McCurry was the aggressor.

Then, she said, higher levels in the Sheriffs Department got involved. Deputy Hanson was required to review reports on the incident by the County’s Insurance investigator, York Insurance.  A Mono Sergeant said he was ordered by Lieutenant Rob Weber to give the insurance company report to Deputy Hanson to re-open his investigation. The insurance report showed one witness had changed his statement, calling Luman the attacker and not McCurry. This witness was Jerry VandeBrake, a Supervisor in Public Works who had heard complaints about McCurry’s aggressiveness and bullying but never documented them. Before questioning by the insurance investigator, VandeBrake had reportedly told Deputy Hanson that he could not see who started the fight.

Mechanic Mike Rhodes had testified that he saw McCurry throw Luman against a tool cabinet and pin him down.  Jim Kirby made a statement under oath that he saw McCurry start the fight and assault Luman.

Bellomo said, “The county’s argument is all supposition based on their choice not to believe eye witnesses.”  Bellomo says it looks like the County is trying to first maintain control of the situation instead of looking for the facts and the truth of what happened.

Mono CAO Jim Arkens testified that Rita Sherman in Administration delivered the insurance investigation transcripts to the Sheriff’s Office.  Bellomo still feels that Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger, who sits on the Appeals Board along with Tim Hansen and Ken Goode, has a conflict of interest since, Bellomo said,  “Actions of his department and men are central to the case.” She also expressed concern about the insurance company report which might have a financial bias in favor of the County’s position.

Bellomo said, “Rather than conducting an objective evaluation of this situation, the County wanted a certain result.”  When asked why his Administration wanted the investigation re-opened for the insurance company report, Mono CAO Jim Arkens said, “I was told it was common practice.”  He said Rita Sherman of Administration took the report to the Sheriff.

Now, public speculation over the potential of poor personnel investigations has led to an old lawsuit involving County Administrator Jim Arkens and an employee termination in New Mexico 8 years ago.  Arkens says it has nothing to do with the current Mono County case. Luman’s attorney, Katie Bellomo said the New Mexico case could be relevant if Mr. Arkens were involved in the investigation and appeal hearing.  She called it the same style of personnel issue.

The New Mexico case centered around Holy Cross Hospital where Arkens was the Human Resources Director.  It was a case that involved termination, appeal, arbitration and reinstatement of a nurse related to an infant death. Court documents quoted the arbitrator as saying the investigation of the incident by the hospital was similar to a “kangaroo court” and a “hanging.”  Asked if he were responsible for this investigation and hearing, Jim Arkens said he prepared documents for the hospital attorney and for the arbitration case.

Does he have a history of poorly prepared personnel cases, including the current one?  Arken said he had very little to do with the Holy Cross case.  He had only been employed there for two months.  He said that at the hospital, officials could not use what’s called the peer review process as part of the investigation of the nurse.  Instead, they used interviews of people involved.

As for the reported bullying of workers by McCurry and the potential for a hostile work place maintained by the County, Arkens said that “swearing is not uncommon in a male dominated work place.”

This issue will go back to hearing on May 16 in Bridgeport.

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HOLD THE PRESSES!
HOLD THE PRESSES!
9 years ago

Has anybody heard of Mono County being served papers in a federal lawsuit? I just heard that one was filed last week.

Last Word
Last Word
9 years ago

It is so easy to get drawn into the small town politics and let things become personal. There are rules,regulations, and laws that apply to every employer and that includes hot dog stands with 1 employee to make things fair and equal. Unfortunately, there are times when even a good… Read more »

Truth or Consequences
Truth or Consequences
9 years ago

Mono is a small county so how many of these kinds of hearings are held per year? Why don’t they select a panel from professional arbitrators and let the chips fall and get the show over. Coverup? How about imcompetence? Be careful something stinky might stick to their shoes….and it… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
9 years ago

I did speak with Rita Sherman who said she called in the York Insurance investigators who did put together the report that she carried over to the Sheriff’s Office after their report was completed. Benett Kessler

Hi Larious
Hi Larious
9 years ago

This is hilarious. First of all, Obenburger did not ask to be on the panel. He was chosen to be on the panel. Katie Bellomo is a rambling woman. She is probably forever tied up in the politics of Mono County and will be a financial drain to taxpayers. Tim… Read more »

Redneck culture
Redneck culture
9 years ago

When grown men act like ignorant rednecks and start hammering on each other at work knowing full well this sort of violent behavior is not tolerated in society – they get to experience the results of their behavior. They both knew the rules. “I Get It’s” comments clearly show the… Read more »

Bo Duke
Bo Duke
9 years ago

Why don’t you root for self defense? Would you just stand there and take the beating?

I GET IT~
I GET IT~
9 years ago

Mono County makes the rules as they go along as they are exempt from the law (so they think). The CAO had better save money to pay the legal fees and fines….and not give raises.

Where is Sheriff Scholl? Is he a puppet for Obenberger and Sherman?

Just the facts
Just the facts
9 years ago

It seems to me Tim Hansen has a problem with educated, (sometimes multiple degrees) experienced (sometimes a decade of experience or more) managers and of course, the salary that accompanies this situation. I thought EVERYONE knew that advanced degrees get you better jobs. He and Larry Johnston are pulling the… Read more »

Scotty Brown
Scotty Brown
9 years ago

Looks like the county lawyer must have written some of these comments… are you “just the facts”? Appreciate the coverage about the questionable county conduct!

What the ...?
What the ...?
9 years ago
Reply to  Scotty Brown

Looks like Bellomo must have written some of these comments.. are you “Scotty Brown?” Appreciate the coverage of small town corruption and sour grapes against management (and authority) per se!

Eastern Shield
Eastern Shield
9 years ago

As I sit in the courtroom listening to all this ..I’m so thank full that real courts of law are not ran like this Kangaroo nightmare..In my day we called this not law & order but nothing less than vigilantes run a muck…. Allot of time and money and jobs… Read more »

What the ...?
What the ...?
9 years ago
Reply to  Eastern Shield

How in the _____ can Tim Hansen make the claim that he is “fair and impartial” when it is a friend of his being accused of a wrongdoing?

This is small-town corruption at its best.

A girl in the know @ Another girl in the know
A girl in the know @ Another girl in the know
9 years ago

I wanted to respond to what you had to say about what I said. First of all, I do agree with one thing you said and that is that maybe all the panel members should be subpoenaed. If they are all involved,, then yes I agree with you. I spoke… Read more »

Bo Duke
Bo Duke
9 years ago

Lt. Weber is the Mini Me of Dan Paranick.

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago

When you are dealing with unionized government workers – every firing is going to go the route of “wrongful termination.”

just the facts Part 2
just the facts Part 2
9 years ago

Public-employee unions are quickly becoming a major and, indeed, imminent threat to American democracy. While union membership has been declining for more than 50 years in the private sector as the economy moved away from manufacturing and into services and high-tech industry, union membership among government employees has soared. It’s… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago

Just the facts part two- seems to me the working class people in this country did a lot better when unions were strong. Before all this trickle down crap destroyed the American dream for 99% of us.

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago

The main reason why so many state and local governments are bankrupt, or on the verge of bankruptcy, is the combination of government-run monopolies and government-employee unions. Government-employee unions have vastly more power than do private-sector unions because the entities they work for are typically monopolies. This case is a… Read more »

Wilfred S.
Wilfred S.
9 years ago

Voting doesn’t work for comments. Might want your web person to look at this.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
9 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred S.

I have notified the webmaster. Stay tuned. BK

Rhea
Rhea
9 years ago

I just want to put this out there. The Union that represents the employee’s for Mono County refused to provide my husband with an legal representation, therefore we had to employ Jim’s legal representative out of our own pocket. The Union and the County tried to coerce my husband to… Read more »

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago
Reply to  Rhea

Nobody coerced anybody to have closed hearing.
Bellomo has turned the whole thing into a self-serving circus and even distributed flyers to the public trying to paint management as the evil empire.

Bo Duke
Bo Duke
9 years ago
Reply to  just the facts

just the facts is clearly a Mono County Troll!

Ruddy
Ruddy
9 years ago

Was cousin cletus in the garage at the time? I’ll move to Bridgeport if Daisy’s around!!

California going broke
California going broke
9 years ago

California’s public sector workers have the highest average compensation of public sector workers in any state, and they also have one of the highest rates of unionization. It’s not a coincidence that the state is having severe budget problems and that it finds spending restraint very difficult to achieve. In… Read more »

Another Girl in the Know!
Another Girl in the Know!
9 years ago

I wanted to respond to what you had to say about what I said. First of all, I do agree with one thing you said and that is that maybe all the panel members should be subpoenaed. If they are all involved,, then yes I agree with you. I spoke… Read more »

True History
True History
9 years ago

The true history is that the former sheriff Dan Paranick in his quest for empire building convinced the county supervisors that he should take over the paramedic program. When he took over the paramedic program he said he needed a second lieutenant to run it. Paranick’s management of the paramedic… Read more »

Another Girl in the know
Another Girl in the know
9 years ago

“Undersheriff Obenberger is on the panel by chance? I think not!” And what do you say about Tim Hansen? Unbiased towards one of his friends? Highly doubtful. “Now he is refusing to testify at the hearing even though he was subpoenaed…. think this is a coincidence? I guess he knows… Read more »

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago

The decision to give unions such credible power in California is a travesty in today’s times. In this case where the perps clearly violated the non-violence in a public workplace should be a no-brainer. They broke the rule they signed and agreed to follow and they are fired (as they… Read more »

additional insight
additional insight
9 years ago

Ralph Obenberger did not ask to be on this panel. He was assigned from a pool of personnel identified as potential hearing board members. He would much rather be doing his regular work duties, but is willing to serve the county as he is needed. In fact, his wife is… Read more »

Mike
Mike
9 years ago

Is Mono County required to follow federal law? Employer Liability for Harassment The employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. If the supervisor’s harassment results in a hostile work… Read more »

Movie analogy
Movie analogy
9 years ago

In the classic Clint Eastwood film “High Plains Drifter” (filmed in Inyo and Mono Counties) a stranger rides out of the hot desert into a small town in the wild west. The towns people are scared of him, and 3 gunmen try, unsuccessfully, to kill him. He takes a room… Read more »

RoadRage
RoadRage
9 years ago
Reply to  Movie analogy

Inyo County?

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago

There is a growing reputation of The Mono County Government County Seat that it is filled with some very nasty people.
It’s time the outside world finds out just how nasty.
People simply have too much time on their hands and and idle mind is the devil’s playground.

hisierragal
hisierragal
9 years ago
Reply to  just the facts

once again I am very curious about where you live and where you get your “facts” – do you live in B-port?

Mike
Mike
9 years ago

Just the Facts….you must be reading a different story. You are ignoring the facts…. A deputy does an investigation and made a decision to close his investigation. He could have arrested both parties and let a judge/jury decide who was at fault, but didn’t. Somebody filed a worker’s compensation claim,… Read more »

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike

I would agree with “Mike” that a completely neutral panel should be put in place.
(But that panel must be made up people from arbitrators outside the area)
Do you really think that could happen in “our small town” as one Bridgeport person said?

A girl in the know
A girl in the know
9 years ago

    Bravo Bennett for bringing this story out in the open….. it is about time that someone publish the shady antics of Mono County government.   Hmmm does anyone know that LT Weber is long time friends with McCurry… and then he sends Deputy Mark Hansen out to do… Read more »

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago

Hopefully after posting comments such as, “so-and-so is related to so-and-so;” and “Lt. so-and-so knows so-and-so,” and Rita so-and-so will do …” Home girl/aka girl in the know perhaps may now understand my analogy of a town that the whole mess in Bridgeport resembles an incestual family. But if she… Read more »

hisierragal
hisierragal
9 years ago
Reply to  just the facts

it is small town – where do you live?

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago

Sorry “a girl in the know” – the sheriff was NOT subpoenaed.

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago

Tim Hansen is good friends with one of the people let go, yet is allowed to be “fair and impartial” in this case. And now the incestual-like Bridgeport community is going after the big, bad management to keep the union powerful so the mere thought of firing any union employee… Read more »

Home girl
Home girl
9 years ago
Reply to  just the facts

Really offended by the incestual-like Bridgeport community comment. Only one of these men live here. EVERYONE ELSE involved lives elsewhere in mono County. So maybe you should gather just the facts before you insult a community you no nothing about

just the facts
just the facts
9 years ago
Reply to  Home girl

No offense intended Home girl. But the fact remains almost the entire town of Bridgeport works for the Mono County government and whines to their union officials on a daily basis. It is doubtful their hands are always clean on such matters as always filing grieviences when exposed for their… Read more »

Home girl
Home girl
9 years ago
Reply to  just the facts

Also NOT TRUE, once again Just the facts are some work for CHP, (state) some work for Cal- trans (State) some work in the restaraunts and hotels and gas stations. A lot of folks from ALL of the towns in Mono County work for the County. We are small after… Read more »

hisierragal
hisierragal
9 years ago
Reply to  just the facts

dear “just the facts” – do you work in B-port? Live there? Then where do you get your “facts”?

Bo Duke
Bo Duke
9 years ago

It looks like Boss Hog and Roscoe P. Coletrane are alive and well and living in Mono County.

tax dollars at work
tax dollars at work
9 years ago
Reply to  Bo Duke

You got that right, Bo Duke. Almost everyone in Bridgeport works for Mono County. Generation after generation. Father/Son. Mother/Daughter family after family. Way too much time on their hands so bash management every chance you get. And of course you can thank Governor Brown for giving government-union employees way too… Read more »

Red Rose
Red Rose
9 years ago

This case is about more than just the firing of employees for fighting. It is also about the county taking action against an employee filing a complaint. It is against the law to terminate an employee for filing a complaint; however, I have seen over and over again companies abuse… Read more »