Don’t be a butt!
On a recent hike from the Mammoth Lakes Library to Hayden Cabin Museum we counted 114 cigarette butts and 4 empty cigarette packs! These findings astonished us. Something should be done about this problem because it makes the town and people of Mammoth Lakes look bad.
We shouldn’t be finding cigarette butts around the beautiful scenery we have here. This problem is unacceptable. People do not want to come here and find cigarettes all over town. We don’t want to ruin the paradise we live in.
Another realization that needs to be faced is that this is not good for the animals that live in this town. This town has ashtrays but obviously people are not using them. We ask that all smokers please use an ashtray or pick up your used cigarette butts. This problem needs to be brought to the attention of the town and to an end. We would like to thank you for reading this.
Maria Lampariello Haven Peabody
Healthy Minds and Bodies Camp
At the wonderful memorial service for Skip Harvey this past Saturday, the attendees were given a four page memorial statement with some great photos and reminiscences about the high points of Skip’s life.
One item not mentioned was how Skip was a driving force behind creating the Main Street Farmer’s Market. Skip asked Kathleen and I to become involved when Skip wanted to expand the market beyond the small area that he had in front of Base Camp Cafe. After that, we attended meetings which Skip arranged and led with Town Government officials, a farmer’s group in Bishop, Sandra DiDomizio, the event planner, Main Street merchants, Town employees who would handle the road closure, and lots of others who would help the Farmer’s Market become a reality on Main Street. Without Ski’s leadership, however, it doesn’t happen.
Skip knew that the Market would be just as fun and important to locals as it is for out-of-towners. The Market is a place to buy fresh veggies, craft items, cookies, organic coffee, you name it; whatever people like and enjoy while living the good Mammoth lifestyle outdoors in perfect weather, (the only kind we have!). Skip was tireless in advocating for the market, even when he knew his health was failing, and he had to push himself just to come and make the arrangements for the farmers, or the road closure, or all the other things that must be done and that he was used to doing, come rain or shine.
The simple fact is that Skip devoted much of his life to Mammoth Lakes and, after the memorial service, we were glad to see that many people in Mammoth were aware of that, and appreciated it. It is also well known that some of those in positions of responsibility thought that Skip’s faith in integrity and fairness made his views “impractical” and overly idealistic.
With the clarity of hindsight, we can now see that if Skip’s approach were taken more seriously a decade ago, we might not be in the mess we are in today. A shame that Skip’s legacy has to be what he stood for alone instead of what our Town stands for together.
Given the tower of strength that Skip was and the significance of his beliefs and his leadership, our contribution to that legacy will seem puny and unimportant, but we are proud to say that our dedication of the former Farmer’s Market to Skip’s memory is not a one-time event, but rather a permanent change. We have no idea how long we’ll be able to keep the market going or whether it will become a permanent fixture in Mammoth, but, for as long as we can manage to keep the operation going, the former Main Street Market will henceforth be known simply as “Skip’s Market.” We hope that your readers will come out and enjoy Skip’s Market, especially with the knowledge that each time they stop by and say hello, they are enjoying a very small part of what Skip contributed to our town.
Paul and Kathleen Rudder
The system’s rigged
I am deeply disturbed by the conduct of Mono County management at the recent Personnel Board hearing of my client Dick Luman. The ultimate decision of the Personnel Board to sustain the termination of my client, despite evidence he was assaulted by a supervisory employee, is unjust. However, equally disturbing is the manner in which “justice” was dispensed. The hearing was a farce, a kangaroo court, and a depressing display of corrupt government.
This kind of corruption tends to benefit those at the top – which does not include taxpayers. For those who want funds to support air service to Mammoth, or for senior or other services, take heed. Penn State is not the only public employer with a cover-up mentality that can end up having unintended costs down the road.
I have been a licensed attorney for more than 30 years. The recent hearing was the most bizarre and disturbing proceeding in which I have ever participated. None of the most basic principles of fairness were observed. The proceeding resembled a hearing before a tribunal in communist China where the purpose of the hearing is to tell the world that the accused was given a hearing, but the outcome is pre-ordained and the hearing rules are adapted to ensure that the accused will be found guilty.
From the outset, the County maintained that there was absolutely no reason why the Personnel Board members had to be unbiased, uninvolved persons. Two of the three members of the Personnel Board had serious conflicts of interests/bias such that they would have been disqualified to sit on a jury on this case – and yet they sat as judges.
Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger sat on the Personnel Board. Yet his office and staff working for him investigated the assault that led to Mr. Luman’s termination, and he himself directed (per statements he made to me) his staff to review reports favorable to the County, which puts him squarely in the investigation of the controversy. Additionally, a deputy, a sergeant, and a lieutenant testified on central issues in the case over which Obenberger, their superior officer, presided. Yet he declined to step down off the Board.
That a second Board member, Ken Goode, had two serious conflicts came to light during the hearing. His wife was being investigated for criminal misconduct by Undersheriff Obenberger’s Department and she was ultimately charged with a felony while Mr. Goode sat on the Board with Mr. Obenberger, whose office was investigating his wife and possibly even him to the extent jointly held funds could have been at issue. Furthermore, while the case of Mr. Goode’s wife was in active prosecution, both then-District Attorney George Booth and current District Attorney Tim Kendall testified on key issues in the case before Mr. Goode.
The foregoing was ample reason enough for Mr. Goode to step down from the Board, if for no reason but to eliminate the appearance that he could not be fair in judging the testimony and credibility of his wife’s prosecutors and the Sheriff’s Department involved in his wife’s arrest. Still, yet another circumstance came to light that should have caused both Mr. Goode and Jim Arkens, CAO, to require Mr. Goode step down from the Board. I remain astonished this did not occur.
The facts are as follows. Mr. Goode is employed by the Assessor’s Office. During the hearing, Jody Henning resigned as Assessor. Pending replacement of a head of the Assessor’s office, newspapers have reported Jim Arkens took over as the head of the office. This then placed Jim Arkens as the direct report and boss of Ken Goode. The whole purpose of the hearing was to determine if Jim Arkens’ decision to terminate Dick Luman should be overturned. In order to find in favor of Mr. Luman, Mr. Goode would have had to find that the head of his department had acted wrongly.
Examples of utterly astonishing events at the hearing abound and there is not room to detail them fully. It was clear that some witnesses lied to the Board without consequence – it was unclear to me whether the County was actually suborning perjury or simply benefitting from it.
In an astonishing display of misuse of power, the County withheld evidence that tended to establish the innocence of Dick Luman, and then argued it had the right to do so. Fairness was of no apparent concern to the County’s attorney. Under the County’s personnel rules, the terminated employee (Dick Luman in this case) has no right to see what evidence the County has that could assist the employee in his defense (the County attorney argued enthusiastically that the employee has no discovery rights.) As the hearing progressed, rules written by the County were interpreted by the County in the County’s favor. A crucial ruling was changed by Obenberger and Goode (over the objection of Personnel Board member Supervisor Tim Hansen) partway through the hearing when the County’s case began to look weak and the County sought to bolster its position.
As the hearing progressed it became clear to me that Mr. Luman would lose despite the evidence in his favor. That is what happens in kangaroo courts when the majority of participants either are protecting their boss, trying to avoid retribution for not supporting their boss, or currying favor with the boss.
Several things were conclusively established, for me, at the hearing: 1) it is not possible for a Mono County employee to receive a fair hearing before the County’s Personnel Board; 2) the County is run by the office of the CAO, the Finance Director, and Director of Risk Management; 3) the currently sitting Board of Supervisors exercises scant control over any of the day to day operations of this County; 3) some in upper management and legal are intoxicated with their own power and flaunt that power without regard for justice or equity toward others; 4) the upper management team will continue to rule this County as a private fiefdom for as long as the Supervisors permit.
I anticipate that at some future time, Mono County will be faced with one or more significant lawsuits brought by wronged employees. If this occurs, it could be very expensive for County taxpayers. This is why all citizens and business owners should be concerned about how the County manages its personnel.
As for the specifics of Dick Luman’s termination – the Personnel Board voted 2-1 to uphold the termination of Dick. Undersheriff Obenberger and Ken Goode voted for termination, and Supervisor Hansen voted against. The Decision finds that supervisor Brett McCurry engaged in inappropriate conduct in the workplace over time, and that the County should have acted to address the inappropriate conduct. The inappropriate conduct included yelling, using profanities toward employees, getting in the personal space of employees, and creating what several employees perceived as a hostile work environment. The Board found that complaints had been made about McCurry’s conduct but they were not addressed.
The evidence at the hearing showed that on the date of the incident in question (October 3, 2011), Jim Kerby and Dick Luman were in the office of their supervisor for the purpose of complaining about McCurry’s conduct. McCurry arrived, became angry about the complaints, called them “bald faced f— liars.” In response Luman asked McCurry if he had previously referred to Luman as a “motherf—,” to which McCurry replied that if he were to call Luman that he would have the “b….” to say it to his face. Luman replied that if he was to have the “b….” to say it to his face, he’d probably be falling down his stairs again, in what Luman testified was a wisecrack reference to Brett having fallen down his stairs at home when allegedly drunk, which had been the subject of much joking among employees (as testified to by several witnesses).
Brett asked Luman if he was threatening him, Luman stated I’m not threatening you (as overheard by independent witness Mike Rhodes who heard the two men). Luman was then heard by two witnesses to say he was going to leave the room. After stating he was going to leave the room, he approached the door and McCurry assaulted him (according to Kerby who was standing near the doorway, and Rhodes who saw McCurry throw Luman across the hall and pin him against metal cabinets).
As for Brett McCurry, it is worth considering the status of his employment. Testimony of witnesses established that he created a hostile work environment; employee complaints to management about his conduct were ignored; ultimately he assaulted Dick Luman, cracking his ribs and causing him to undergo a hernia operation. McCurry was terminated and appealed his termination. His appeal hearing has been postponed to allow for negotiations – I am informed the County has offered him a monetary settlement if he’ll drop his appeal. Rumor has it they haven’t offered enough money. If we don’t see McCurry back at work, we can be fairly certain it’s because he’s been given a big (secret) payoff. After all, he was only doing the County’s dirty work as a supervisor wasn’t he? Surely he is owed a payoff of public funds.
I received a lovely bouquet of flowers delivered to my office after Luman’s hearing concluded. A note thanked me for my efforts on behalf of County employees and was signed “Demoralized and (not so) intimidated employees of Mono County.” The note reads, “We agree that the County has been managing through intimidation and arrogance, and we are hopeful that with the three new County Supervisors we will see improved employee relations and working conditions.” Mono County taxpayers should join in this hope.
Katie Maloney Bellomo