Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, July 17, 2002


Page 3


Board Again Votes to Appeal Verdict in Case Alleging Beating by Deputy


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The county Board of Supervisors yesterday voted for the second time in as many weeks to seek appellate review of adverse decisions in a jail inmate’s excessive force lawsuit and two county employee actions alleging a sham payroll scheme.

The board voted to appeal a jury verdict in favor of Javier Rocha, who sued Sheriff Lee Baca and each member of the Board of Supervisors for what he said was an unwarranted beating at the hands of Deputy Sheriff David Sameyah at the Pitchess Detention Center in Saugus on March 17, 1999.

The supervisors also voted to seek a writ overturning Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy’s June 21 decision in the class action filed by Robert Shiell, a county lawyer who charged that he was improperly denied a deputy county counsel’s salary, benefits and promotions by being put on the payroll of a county-created agency. The board took a similar action in a suit by “contract” employees in other county departments who say they have worked as county employees for years without the rights or benefits of an employee.

The vote in open session mirrored a July 9 closed session action, except that Supervisor Gloria Molina—who was upset that last week’s action took place without her—was present this time.

Molina, who arrived late to the closed session, apparently was unaware that her colleagues already had voted to move forward with appellate review.

County spokeswoman Judy Hammond said Molina was especially interested in the Rocha decision and believed, after a conversation with County Counsel Lloyd Pellman, that the item was to be continued.

The misunderstanding was compounded when the board’s executive officer, Violet Varona-Lukens, failed to report the board’s actions when the supervisors reconvened in open session, leading Molina’s staff—as well as the public—to believe that no action had been taken on any of the three lawsuits.

Varona-Lukens did report on action taken in closed session on other suits.

Molina had the item put on the agenda a second time after her staff learned that a vote was recorded. The second vote went the same way—except that Molina voted against appealing the Rocha decision.

County attempts to dismiss the case on immunity grounds and avoid a trial were previously denied by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Calls to the County Counsel’s Office late yesterday were not returned.

Attorney Stephen Yagman, who represents Rocha, said the county is not yet able to file an appeal because a second part of the suit that was severed from the damages claim has yet to be tried.

That portion is a claim of personal liability on the part of Baca and each member of the board.

“All claims with regard to all parties have to have been resolved” before an appeal can be filed, Yagman said. “They obviously don’t understand what they are doing, which is not unusual.”

In the Shiell case, McCoy rejected a county argument that the matter must first be decided by the Civil Service Commission, which already had the case in front of it but declined jurisdiction. A previous county demurrer had been sustained on the ground that administrative remedies had not been exhausted, but this time McCoy overruled the demurrer .

“While plaintiffs apparently argued to the [Civil Service Commission] that the Commission possessed the authority to decline to exercise jurisdiction, that conduct does not, in this Court’s view, constitute a failure to exhaust administrative remedies of the sort that would justify sustaining the demurrer here,” McCoy said in the statement of decision in the case.

The county has moved most lawyers on the Auxiliary Legal Services payroll to employee status, but disputes remain over back pay and benefits.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company