April 9, 2013 — Lassen County residents who follow our local judicial system and are interested in witnessing spectacular developments in local politics firsthand should have an interesting couple of days at the courthouse next week. The court’s decision in one case could allow a recall election of District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson to move forward. And the court’s decision in a second case involves the risk of at least $1 million of taxpayer money.
First up is the matter of a request for a writ of mandate filed last summer by South County resident Tom Hammond seeking an order from the court to compel the Lassen County Clerk to accept 70 pages of recall petitions the county rejected because the clerk said the proponents used a form that had been previously rejected. The clerk is adamant she clearly rejected the form, directed the recall proponents to make corrections and told them they could not use that form.
On the other side, Hammond is just as adamant it was the county clerk who made the mistake and told the recall proponents they could use the previously rejected form to collect signatures.
In any case, Hammond claims the error on the rejected form is so minor no one signing the recall petition would be confused and the will of some 700 Lassen County voters to seek the recall should trump the clerk’s refusal to accept the form.
Former Lassen County Superior Court Judge F. Donald Sokol did not rule on the request for the writ before he retired, apparently because the file was incomplete. Once the lawyers resolved that issue earlier this year, newly elected Superior Court Judge Tony Mallery recused himself. The case was assigned to Charles H. Ervin, a visiting judge who set the matter for a hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 16 in Department 2.
Ervin will issue a tentative ruling by 1 p.m. Monday, April 15, and if attorneys wish to argue his decision, they will be allowed five minutes in court. If they do not wish to argue, the tentative ruling will become final. However, insiders close to the case expect oral arguments no matter what the judge rules.
Then there’s the case of Tom Stone, Lassen County’s former county administrative officer who has filed a $1 million wrongful termination lawsuit against the county and the three members of the Lassen County Board of Supervisors who voted to fire him in 2011.
Stone’s case will be heard at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, April 18 in Department 2. Kathleen Williams, the Sacramento-based attorney representing Lassen County, has indicated she will appear at the hearing regarding her demurrer of Stone’s complaint telephonically.
Stone alleges violations of the California Labor Code, inducement of employment contract under false pretences, an infringement of his First Amendment rights regarding his wife’s involvement with the Tea Party, a violation of his First Amendment rights due to his religious preference, slander and due process and equal protection violations.
In the demurrer, the county argues Stone fails to state causes, statutes or information necessary to support his pleadings, and the county and the three named supervisors enjoy absolute immunity for the decision to fire Stone. The county’s attorney also notes Stone was an at-will employee who could be fired any time three members of the board of supervisors decided to let him go — for any reason or no reason at all.
We’ll watch both of these cases closely. No matter what the judges decide, the rulings could have a major impact on the local political scene for years to come.
|< Prev||Next >|