Attorney Bellomo pulls pitch for putting client on administrative leave
During its regular meeting this past Tuesday, Mono County’s Board of Supervisors was to have taken up an agenda item, sponsored by Supervisor Tim Hansen, on the Reinstatement of Richard Luman. In particular, the item involved whether Luman could be placed on paid administrative leave, restoring his salary and benefits, pending a decision by the Personnel Appeals Board on the termination of his employment on December 13, 2011.
Luman’s Personnel Appeals hearing is one of three against the County regarding the disciplinary action that followed what the county deemed a mutual fight in a County workplace on Oct. 3, 2011. Apparently Luman’s attorney, Katie Maloney Bellomo, decided that it wasn’t wise to spread their legal resources too thin, and pulled the item.
Luman served as a Mechanic for Mono County for more than 15 years. On the morning of Oct. 3, he joined his co-worker Jim Kerby in their supervisor’s office. Kerby had asked Luman to join him as a witness to what he was going to report to Fleet Services Supervisor Jerry Vande Brake.
During the office meeting, a scuffle ensued between Road Operations Supervisor Brett McCurry and Luman. Afterward, Kerby was suspended, and McCurry and Luman were both terminated.
The hearings have been plagued by key ruling reversals, including what evidence and testimony would and would not be allowed, as well as heated exchanges between witnesses, attorneys, those involved in the altercation (Luman, McCurry, Kerby and Vande Brake), and even the tribunal hearing the appeals, including Hansen, Ken Goode and Ralph Obenberger, as well as various conflict of interest implications.
According to a statement read into the record by Board Chair Vikki Magee Bauer, Bellomo cited talks between International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 representative Jerry Frederick and County Counsel Marshall Rudolph. Even if the Board wanted to hear the agenda item and take some form of action, Rudolph advised, the union thinks Bellomo’s request on behalf of her client qualifies for what’s called a “meet and confer process,” which would legally have had to be followed. It sounds rather simple and quaint, but as legally defined, “meet and confer” is fairly elaborate.
Essentially it’s a variation on collective bargaining, required by the courts before a judge will hear certain types of motions and/or petitions. Lawyers (and sometimes their clients) must “meet and confer” to try to resolve the matter or at least determine the points of conflict. Its benefits include reducing the time spent on arguments, and making lawyers and clients face the realities of their positions.
On the other hand, it also can prove to be a non-starter for the parties and their attorneys, especially when emotions involved run very high.
Rudolph said that the time and delay involved could actually end up longer than the entire appeal process. That drawback was one of the main reasons Bellomo deemed the item too cumbersome, and subsequently withdrew it from the agenda.
Luman’s hearing is set to continue on May 16.
Board briefs …
The Board unanimously voted to move its regular meeting next week, which would normally have been held in Mammoth, back to Bridgeport to be part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death of Mono County’s first Sheriff, N.F. Scott, along with all those law enforcement personnel who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The Board will participate in a ceremony starting at 11 a.m. in front of the Bridgeport Courthouse, followed by a barbecue, as part of the nationally National Law Enforcement Memorial Day, scheduled on May 15 this year.
The Town also adopted the County’s debt policy, but both Chair Vikki Magee Bauer and Finance Director Brian Muir emphasized that in now way does adopting the policy means the County has any intention of incurring or taking on any debt in the foreseeable future. In fact Muir said that based on his budget projections, it would be, under worst case circumstances, at least a couple of years or more before the County, which currently has no bonded debt, would have to even consider the possibility. Bauer added that extensive public and Board action would be involved in any sort of debt deliberations, assuming things even got to that point.