Evidence suddenly revealed, new concerns about conflicts of interest and surprising testimony – the Dick Luman appeal hearing in Mono County continues.
Mono County fired the 60-year-old Luman last October. He had worked as a mechanic in the Road Department for 15 years. Luman says that Road Supervisor, Brett McCurry, assaulted him at work during a conversation among four people about what Luman described as McCurry’s “management by intimidation.” The County fired both Luman and McCurry. Luman requested an open appeal hearing which started in April and will continue through the end of the month with the next hearing scheduled for Monday.
At last week’s hearings, Risk Manager Rita Sherman testified and revealed that there were written notes by eye witnesses prepared the day of the incident in question. Attorney Katie Bellomo did not know of the existence of one of those sets of notes. Sherman produced notes made by Road Manager Jerry Vande Brake. He did not name Luman as the aggressor in the confrontation with McCurry. In a later County investigation, Vande Brake changed his story.
When asked about the new evidence of written notes, Bellomo said, “I was floored. Through all of the hearings, the County never produced these statements. It’s very disturbing that they concealed this from me and from the Personnel Appeals Board.” Bellomo said this raises the question of what other unrevealed evidence may exist that is relevant to Luman’s defense.
In other testimony, Jim Kerby of Public Works said that he listened to tapes of the interviews the County’s Insurance Investigator made of witnesses to the incident. Kerby said that he compared the tapes to the transcript of the interviews and found discrepancies.
That same insurance report said that Vande Brake named Luman as the aggressor. Earlier, Vande Brake had said he couldn’t see who started the fight. Risk Manager Rita Sherman gave that report to Mono Sheriff’s Lieutenant Rob Weber who said he passed it on to a sergeant and the investigating deputy.
Lt. Weber testified that a supplemental Sheriff’s report was then issued. He also said that Rita Sherman had called and asked if the Sheriff’s Department could make a finding as to who the aggressor was. Weber said he ordered a second supplemental report. The original Sheriff’s report said McCurry was the aggressor. The supplemental reports said it was unclear who was the primary aggressor.
A District Attorney’s report on the whole fight incident was part of last week’s testimony. DA Investigator Wade McCammond had interviewed Jim Kerby who said plainly that he saw McCurry assault Luman. With reports and Kerby’s interview, McCammond concluded that it was a mutual fight.
Last week, Jim Kerby testified that when he met with McCammond they got into a conversation about their common interest of bow hunting. Kerby confirmed that as he was leaving, McCammond said, in effect, “I hope you sue Mono County for what they’re doing.” Mono County had earlier disciplined Kerby, alleging he lied about what he saw McCurry do to Luman.
The case gets more complex with news that Brett McCurry’s appeal hearing will take place in a closed procedure at the end of the month. Sources say that choices for the appeal board include two close friends of McCurry. We have emailed a request for comments from the employees union which made those selections.
Mono County Counsel John Vallejo had earlier said he could not comment on this case since it is a personnel matter in progress.