Letter to the editor: “Depressing display of corrupt government”

MONO COURTHOUSETo:  Mono County Board of Supervisors, Supervisors-Elect Alpers and Stump, and the Citizens of Mono County

From:  Katie Maloney Bellomo, Attorney at Law

Date:  7/24/12

Re:  Mono County Personnel Board hearing of Dick Luman

I am writing this statement because 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.  Let there be no mistake about it:  this 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 over thirty 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 was 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 regardless of the evidence.

As one might expect in a dictatorship, but would hope not to find in the U.S.  where citizens have Constitutional rights, 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.  And yet he declined to step down off the Board to allow substitution of a person with no pre-involvement in the case.

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 to 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.   So much for a fair hearing before a person able to vote his conscience without fear of reprisal.

I am bewildered that Mono County’s management and legal team did not insist that the Personnel Board be composed of persons without conflicts, bias, and prior involvement in the investigation of the case.  The fact this was allowed is evidence, to me, of the sad fact that Mono County is used to doing just as it pleases, fairness be damned.

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 to the County’s favor.  A crucial ruling was changed by Obenberger and Goode (over objection of Personnel Board member Supervisor Tim Hansen) part-way through the hearing when the County’s case began to look weak and the County wanted a chance 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 Board of Supervisors permits it to do so.

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 “bold faced f— liars”.  In response Dick 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 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.)

The majority Decision of the Personnel Board concluded that the County did not prove that Luman engaged in mutual combat with McCurry.  They nonetheless decided to uphold firing Dick Luman on the basis that he threatened McCurry by the “falling down the stairs” remark.    Deputy Hanson who investigated the incident and prepared the Sheriff’s Department report testified that he did not believe Luman’s words were a threat in the context in which they were made.  The Deputy stated they were a rude remark; Jim Kerby who was present testified he understood them as a “dig” and he had to refrain from laughing; Mike Rhodes testified that he heard Luman say he was not threatening McCurry; Dick Luman testified they were a wisecrack intended to refer to McCurry’s having allegedly recently fallen down drunk.

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, Attorney at Law

P.O. Box 217

Lee Vining, CA 93541


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27 Responses to Letter to the editor: “Depressing display of corrupt government”

  1. Todd July 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Wow… suck it up and dont fight at work…

    • Reality Check July 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      Todd I think what you meant to say is “Suck it up and submit to the assault when attacked at work. You have no right to self defense.”

      • Tourbillon July 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

        Todd would have said that if his reading comprehension skills were a little sharper. Which I assume must be the case because far be it from me to accuse anyone of being a county stooge.

  2. Sour Grapes July 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Sounds to me that Ms. Bellomo has a severe case of Sour Grapes.
    And in keeping with a current movement to “Storm the Bastille,” (aka hatred for all government) she appears to be putting the blame on her defeat on the Evil Empire, aka any government official, government program, government workings, government employees, government this, government that …
    Following this story from the beginning, it would appear that Ms. Bellomo might entertain the classic line uttered by Pogo Possum – “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We all will be waiting patiently for the release of her book.
    Meanwhile, be careful when you decide to enter into a fisticuffs in the workplace.
    That sort of BS is only acceptable in the cowboy movies.

  3. Scholl Bowl July 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Amen Katie Bellomo! This is exactly what has been going on for years and Kudos to you for having the guts to say it!!! These supervisors that are continually allowed to bully and intimidate their employees. They are allowed to do whatever they want with no repercussions whatsoever. If you complain then you amazingly will find yourself their next subject of their tyranny. These people are so intoxicated with their own power and completely over estimate their own self worth. It is downright sickening that this travesty of justice is allowed to continue. There are a select few Supervisor’s that are so out of control in this county that they are criminals in my opinion. They are corrupt liars that will go to any length to cover up their own wrong doings and will do anything to complete their agenda.

    The Mono County Sheriff’s department is the worst offender and Undersheriff Obenberger’s actions in this matter is proof of this. CAO Arken’s has and will be the downfall of the entire county. He is as corrupt as they come and his action’s prior to his employment in Mono County prove that also. One thing is for sure Mono County is in for a earth shaking.

    Thanks again Katie,,,, taxpayers please take notice. It is the same names that come up over and over when anything corrupt goes on in this county. BOS you should do something about it!

  4. pecking order July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    “Scholl Bowl” sounds like your typical underachiever who believes life has dealt him dirt because he was never promoted to a supervisory position.

  5. vince Townsend July 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Love it or Leave it 🙂

    • fishy July 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

      we’ve been leaving in case you havent noticed all the vacant homes and taking our consumer & property tax money with us 🙂 So happy all the real estate the mammy pigs bought is worth diddily squat now….now im just waiting for the cano to blow

  6. Scholl Bowl July 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    To “Pecking Order”
    On the contrary, I am an administrator for a large entity that Supervises more employees than Mono County has employed . We are watching with great interest the unlawful conduct by certain administators in this county. I feel sorry for the Mono county taxpayers and that is what prompts my comments.

    PS I am a woman imagine that!!!!!

  7. Trouble July 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Katie- if I ever need a attorney, I want want you. That’s if my cousin Vinnie isn’t available. Really I like the way you are standing up for your client and our community. Thank You.

  8. Slackers on parade July 25, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    To Scholl Bowl

    As “an administrator for a large entity that Supervises more employees than Mono County has employed” and judging from your numerous posts and time of those posts(on your company’s dime), I feel sorry for the chumps you work for as you slack off from your supervisory duties while fooling around on the Net.
    I know, I know … you’re presently on vacation, taking a break, or on sick leave.
    (boisterous laughter)

  9. Want to Vomit July 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    you naysayers don’t get it. Those supervisors have way too much power. The judges in this had way too much power.

    Gee I wonder why the Tax assessor left and resigned. It seems to be coming more clear to me now. I had originally thought that either she did something wrong or the powers above her asked her to do something unethical or she saw corruption and did not want to go down with the sinking ship. My gut said that the county was corrupt. After reading this letter I see the light.

    The county is corrupt, people think that they are far from the authorities and can do what they want.

    Watch out Mono and the Town of Mammoth lakes ……

  10. Waste of taxpayer's $$$ July 25, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    She never had a case and knew it.
    This is another waste of taxpayer’s money (tens of thousands of dollars as a matter of fact) squandered by an attorney trying to make a name for herself. No wonder the county is in trouble.

  11. Scholl Bowl July 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    To Pecking Order

    Did you ever consider it is part of my job? Thanks for paying attention though! Worried? You should be!

  12. esfotoguy July 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    Thanks…the next time I assault a co-worker and get fired Ill call you.

  13. Rules July 25, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    Thanks for playing the broken record.

    But, the real question is what are you going to do about it?

  14. upthecreek July 25, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Most governments are corrupt..

    Just look around …As the budget crunch continues across the land. We will see many cockroaches coming out of the walls.


  15. keoni July 26, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    This is EXACTLY how Mono County is run. Strong work Katie!

  16. All but forgotten July 26, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

  17. Applauding.... July 26, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    HOORAY FOR BELLOMO. About time someone stand up against corruption.

    @ Scholl bowl – don’t listen to slackers on parade. He is one of the corrupted one’s that is working for our county. Obviously, he is one that is knee deep in crap and just angry because he is getting caught. That is obvious in how angry and upset he is writing.

    @ Slacker – Your attempts at bashing Scholl Bowl are pathetic. Just like the bully on the playground, pick on people that don’t agree with you. Get over it!

    Maybe this could be a movie or a reality show, MONO COUNTY – THE CORRUPT FILES!

    • fishy July 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      couldnt have said it better!!

  18. john July 26, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Dear Katie,Welcome to Mono County.
    Someone, (probabably the Mono County Sherriff Coroner at the time) lodged a complaint against me with Code Compliance, regarding the use of my property. I requested to see a complete copy of the complaint so that I might know who my accuser was. I Cited California Public Records Act with my request for disclosure. Not only was my request denied, but I was served with an Administrative Citation, which meant they were fining me $500.00 per day. I had the right to appeal the Administrative Citation, which I did. when I walked into the Board of supervisor’s room for the Appeals Hearing, the first thing that came out of the Hearing Officers mouth was ” You’re just like Saddam Hussein, aren’t you? I don’t believe I received a fair hearing. I could go on with my story, but It would take too long, and I’m sure you get the picture anyway.

  19. Knowyourfacts July 26, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Katie, please stop whining. Very few care. And those that do, get a life. Grown men got in a fight at work. They broke the rules.

    Moving right along…

  20. Knowyourfacts July 26, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    And Katie, where is your paragraph on how biased Tim Hansen is? He is a dear friend of yours. And, he is a close friend of Luman! How is this not biased?

  21. Applauding.... July 26, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Seems that the corrupted are getting defensive. Funny how they can’t sit quietly! True colors are showing upon us! Amazing….. I honestly believe this will be a great book or movie someday. Almost as good as V for Vendetta or heck, Deliverance!

  22. Disneyland aka: Mono County July 26, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Mr. Knowyourfacts or Just the facts….. What is wrong? You react like you have been snakebit. Do you really believe Mr. Obenberger and Mr. Goode ride white horses and wear big white hats? Oh yea….they are just boys being boys…right?

    Believe me you are backing a losing horse…..wrong is wrong!

  23. Rules July 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    only the GODS can do better. Bravo. It’s Jimmy!


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