Board member’s impartiality called into question … again
Dick Luman briefly took the stand in his own appeals hearing on the afternoon of April 6. But before he could really get into his testimony the bias of one of the Personnel Appeals Board members was called into question. The question forced the hearing into a premature recess until Monday, April 9.
As Luman was being asked by his lawyer, Katie Maloney Bellomo, to recount some occasions in the workplace that showed the demeanor of Brett McCurry, Luman’s alleged assailant, Mono County’s Counsel, John-Carl Vallejo objected to prior instances of conduct being used to determine the incident at hand.
The incident at hand is a fight that occurred between Luman and McCurry in the Mono County workplace on Oct. 3, 2011. Luman contests that it was not a fight, but that he was assaulted and then unfairly terminated from the County. Read The Sheet’s earlier story by clicking here.
The Appeals Board Chairman, Tim Hansen disagreed with Vallejo.
“You’ve gone back into everyone’s behavior,” Hansen said, referring to a story that Vallejo had earlier in the hearing asked Mono County CAO Jim Arkens to recount about Luman’s erratic driving behavior. The story showed Luman in a negative light.
Hansen then stated that with Luman’s testimony the Board was finally getting down to the facts after three days of listening to other testimony.
Shortly after his statement, his fellow Appeals Board member, Ken Goode asked that the three Board members be allowed to meet briefly in closed session.
When they returned from behind closed doors, Goode explained that he had raised a concern about Hansen continuing as the Board Chairman. He made a motion that Hansen step down as Chairman and that the third board member, Ralph Obenberger, be appointed the position.
It came out that Hansen’s comment about finally hearing the facts had seemed prejudicial to Goode and made him think twice about Hansen’s position. He felt that Hansen was making the statement that now that Luman was on the stand, those listening to the hearing would finally be getting the truth.
It was the second time in three days that Hansen’s impartiality was called into question. On the first day of the hearing, Vallejo had objected to Hansen sitting on the Board because of his friendships with many of the people involved in the hearing.
On Friday afternoon, Hansen responded to Goode’s concern by saying that his comment had been misinterpreted and that the stuffy room and the long day were making it difficult to concentrate and express his thoughts accurately.
Two questions then hung in the air: what were the exact words Hansen had used, and was a change of Chairman in the middle of the hearing allowed?
The Board decided to take a recess until Monday morning in order to allow Clerk/Recorder Lynda Roberts to download the digital recording of the hearing and transcribe verbatim the words that Hansen had spoken.
The hearing will reconvene Monday, April 9 at 9 a.m. at the Bridgeport Courthouse.