Unresolved issues still remain, however
The long-awaited outcome to the Dick Luman personnel appeals hearing was announced Monday. With 2-1 votes across the Board, all disciplinary actions against Luman were sustained, “based on the evidence provided.” This means Luman will not be reinstated in the Mono County workplace at this time.
Personnel Appeals Board Chair and Mono County Supervisor Tim Hansen was the lone vote against sustainment of disciplinary action.
The Board met in closed session for its deliberations, but planned to work with County Counsel Stacey Simon to produce a written statement of facts that would eventually be disseminated to the public to explain how it came to its decision.
Following the reading of the decision, Luman’s lawyer, Katie Bellomo stated one last concern for the record.
Bellomo felt that Appeals Board member Ken Goode should have recused himself from the hearing panel when his wife came under investigation for embezzlement from the County.
“I didn’t want to bring this up before because I didn’t want to offend Mr. Goode and have him vote against my client,” Bellomo said. “But he should have recused himself due to this conflict.”
In April, the Mono County District Attorney’s Office was alerted to an allegation of misappropriation of funds from the Bridgeport Public Utility District. The DA’s Office then conducted an investigation, which revealed that former General Manager Cheryl Goode issued herself numerous unsubstantiated payments. On May 17, Goode turned herself in at the Mono County Jail.
Simon stated for the record that she did not believe a conflict existed.
On Tuesday, in a phone conversation, Luman told The Sheet, “The outcome was what the union and the county had to have.”
“It was what I expected,” Luman said. “The outcome had to set the County apart from the allegations.”
Luman expected that Brett McCurry’s hearing (which is currently being scheduled) would only last a few days and that McCurry would be put back to work. It is what the County and the Union have to have because McCurry is a Union shop steward, Luman said.
He did not, however, believe that things for him were over.
“There is still more to come out,” he said, in relation to his worker’s compensation case.
According to John-Carl Vallejo, who represented the County in the Luman hearing and will also serve as its lawyer in the McCurry and Jim Kerby hearings, each individual has a choice of whether or not to have their hearing held in open or closed session. Luman chose open session, as has Kerby. McCurry’s hearing will be held in closed session. Kerby’s hearing dates are also currently being scheduled.
As for the outcome of the Luman case, Vallejo declined to comment until after the Appeals Board’s report was disseminated.
During her June 11 testimony in the Luman hearing, Mono County Director of Facilities and Risk Management, Rita Sherman revealed that the County had begun to investigate whether or not Luman had been collecting unemployment and disability checks, concurrently. Collecting two forms of compensation from the County at the same time is not permissible and could be a felony, Sherman said.
Bellomo asked why Sherman had not reported the issue earlier, and Sherman explained that the County had not received the disability information until the previous week.
Sherman provided the document with the information in question. The mailing date on the documents was May 22, 2012. It was a notice of Lien Claim from the Employment Development Department (EDD) to Mono County. In the document it states, “Because you [County] are not paying this individual Worker’s Compensation benefits or are paying benefits at less than EDD’s weekly rate of $637, EDD began paying UCD [Unemployment Compensation Disability] benefits on 11/24/11 and is continuing to pay benefits.”
Sherman and the County were investigating because Luman was not terminated from the County until last December 13. The overlapping dates appear to show that Luman was receiving administrative leave pay and disability at the same time.
On June 11, Bellomo stated that the issue would need to be resolved before the conclusion of the hearing since it spoke to Luman’s credibility.
On Monday prior to the lawyers’ closing statements, the issue had yet to be resolved. Bellomo stated that she had at first planned to put Luman back on the stand to rebut Sherman’s accusations of double dipping, but since the accusations were not relevant to the case at hand, Luman would not go on the stand again, but he would be “expecting an apology from the County.”
“The Board needs to decide if these vague but outrageous accusations are within the scope of the hearing,” Bellomo said. She suggested Sherman’s testimony regarding the issue be stricken from the record.
“You can’t just throw out defamatory accusations without any due diligence,” she said. “These types of accusations would have consequences in a courtroom.”
Vallejo disagreed with striking the information from the record, as this would leave the door open for the Board to strike other evidence as well.
“The Board will decide the relevance,” he said.
Appeals Board members Ralph Obenberger and Ken Goode agreed that the information should remain on the record.
“There has been a lot of stuff brought up during this hearing that has nothing to do with the incident,” Obenberger said. “County paperwork does have cross dates [between disability and unemployment pay]. The Board will give the testimony the weight it deserves.”
Hansen, on the other hand, was in favor of striking the testimony from the record.