I am the attorney representing Dick Luman in the appeal of his termination by Mono County. I am taking the unusual step of writing about this proceeding before it is concluded because the case is the subject of considerable public discourse. Notwithstanding the excellent reporting of Lara Kirkner for The Sheet, there are certain key facts that were not captured in her reports. I offer the following information, all from testimony and official documents in the case, to supplement and clarify information in The Sheet articles:
* On October 3, 2011, a physical altercation occurred between Dick Luman and Brett McCurry at the Bridgeport Road Shop. Dick Luman suffered a fractured rib and had a hernia operation as a result. Brett McCurry suffered an abrasion/cut on his nose when his glasses came off.
* Mr. Luman and Mr. McCurry each accuse the other of being the agressor in the altercation.
* There were three (3) eyewitnesses to the incident: Jim Kerby (Mechanic III), Mike Rhodes (Parts Dept), and Jerry Vande Brake (Fleet Services Supervisor).
* Eyewitness Jim Kerby provided sworn testimony when interviewed by Mono County about the incident. He testified McCurry grabbed Luman “pushed him back into the corner of the door” and “grabbed him, and spun around, and threw him into the tool chest on the outside of the office.” Mr. Kerby provided a consistent account when interviewed by Mono County Sheriff’s Department on the morning of the incident. In June, Mr. Kerby will testify in this proceeding and detail what he witnessed.
* Eyewitness Mike Rhodes has testified that he saw Brett McCurry shove Dick Luman against the tool cabinet: “…next thing I knew I heard scuffling, and I looked up and Brett had Dick pinned up against the specialty tool bins outside of Jerry’s door.” Mr. Rhodes provided a consistent account to the Mono County Sheriff’s Department on the morning of the incident, and has twice provided sworn testimony.
* Eyewitness Jerry Vande Brake is the supervisor in whose office the physical assault occurred. The Sheriff’s Department report taken on the date of the incident summarizes Vande Brake as reporting Luman was “walking towards the door to leave but Brett McCurry was in the doorway not letting him out” and he witnessed “as Brett grabbed Dick’s shoulders and shoved him into the office and into the book shelves.” A supplement to Sheriff’s report was written after Deputy Hansen was directed to review the transcripts of interviews conducted by an investigator for Mono County’s workers comp insurance company. The Supplemental Sheriff’s report states “…it appears that Jerry Vande Brake’s statement in the transcript differed from his initial statement to me on the day of the incident”. In his testimony a week after the incident, Vande Brake described Luman’s approach to the door as “…it was pretty rapid in what I would consider an aggressive move.”
* According to the report of the Sheriff’s Department, the physical altercation occurred when Jim Kerby and Dick Luman were in the office of their supervisor Jerry Vande Brake. According to the Sheriff’s Dept. report, Vande Brake indicated the meeting was to discuss Kerby’s complaint that “he had a problem with Brett McCurry the Thursday before and he and Dick needed to talk to him [Vande Brake] about the incident.” Vande Brake related that Kerby “was making a complaint that Brett has been constantly intimidating him and causing a lot of problems in the shop.”
* Joel Erickson, Lead Mechanic under Vande Brake, testified before the Personnel Board that group meetings had been held with him, Vande Brake, and the mechanics to discuss concerns about McCurry’s behavior at work and the negative impact it had on the work environment. Luman confirmed that he had attended at least one of the meetings. Vande Brake testified that he did not document the complaints of the mechanics and did not document the meetings.
The hearings resume on May 16 for a half day, to be followed by the anticipated conclusion of the hearings in late June. Upon conclusion of the hearings, the Personnel Board, composed of Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger, Supervisor Tim Hansen, and Ken Goode, will decide whether the County was justified in terminating Dick Luman as a result of the incident on October 3, 2011.
Katie Maloney Bellomo
Attorney for Dick Luman