Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Judge Sets Contempt Trial Date for 10 Beverly Hills Deputies
Courthouse Officers Who Called in Sick Face Charges Along With Union and Its Officials
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
A judge in Santa Ana yesterday set a Dec. 8 trial date for 10 Beverly Hills courthouse deputies who may be charged with contempt for calling in sick last Wednesday.
Orange Superior Court Judge John M. Watson said he will decide at a Nov. 6 hearing whether the county has made out a prima facie case of contempt against the 10, their union, and nine union officials. If so, the trial will go forward and the deputies, if convicted, could be jailed for five days and fined $1,000 for each act which violated a preliminary injunction against the deputies’ sickout Watson issued Oct. 14.
The injunction bars the deputies and their union from participating in any job action, including the sickout which began late last month and has intermittently snarled operations in the courts and jails. The case was assigned to Watson after all Los Angeles Superior Court judges recused themselves.
Watson ordered the county’s lawyers, Assistant County Counsel David B. Kelsey and Principal Deputy County Counsel Rick Brouwer, to file and serve affidavits laying out the contempt case by noon Friday. Kelsey and Brouwer must show that the contemnors willfully disobeyed a valid court order of which they had actual knowledge and with which they had the ability to comply, the judge said.
Watson called the case a “hybrid” between a civil and a criminal proceeding, and told the deputies they have a constitutional right not to provide any evidence which could incriminate them but are not entitled to a jury trial.
He gave the lawyers representing the 10 deputies and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs until Nov. 3 to file papers alleging defects in the charging affidavits.
The 10 are represented by Richard G. Hirsch and Vicki I. Podberesky of Nasatir, Hirsch, Podberesky & Genego in Santa Monica. ALADS and its officers are represented by Harold A. Ducote Jr. of Ducote & Frasca in Costa Mesa and Richard A. Shinee of Green and Shinee in Encino.
Sheriff’s officials reported last Wednesday that all 11 deputies assigned to the Beverly Hills courthouse had called in sick, but only 10 were summoned into court yesterday. Hirsch said the other deputy’s absence had been scheduled in advance.
The absences came the day after Watson issued his preliminary injunction. City News Service reported last week that Brouwer said the timing of the absences was a factor in the decision to seek contempt sanctions.
Three of the four deputies assigned to the West Los Angeles courthouse, nine of 20 deputies assigned to the Santa Monica courthouse, and 11 of 24 deputies assigned to the Inglewood courthouse were absent on the same day, according to sheriff’s officials, but none of those deputies face contempt proceedings.
One of the Beverly Hills deputies, John Pinnow, has worked at the courthouse for over 16 years, Hirsch said. Another, Kyle Cox, has worked there for nine years, and a third, Sonia Montejano, for five years, the attorney added.
The other Beverly Hills deputies facing contempt charges are Anthony Gruener, Walter Hart, Gaynell Lyons, Marquette Oliver, Nora Patockova, Steven Strauss, and Leslie Sutton. All but Strauss, whose absence Watson said he had approved, were in court.
ALADS President Roy Burns, Vice President Steven Remige, Secretary Pete Brodie, Treasurer E. Myrtle Williams, and Directors Robert Connor, Floyd Hayhurst, and Armando Macias also face charges, as do two civilian union employees, Executive Director John Rees and Assistant Executive Director Dave Hepburn. All were in court.
But Watson told the contemnors they will probably not have to appear before him again until Dec. 8.
Burns reiterated after the hearing that ALADS is not behind the job action, in which on some days hundreds of deputies have failed to report for work. Union officials have ascribed the sick calls to employee frustration over stalled contract bargaining.
The union’s pay contract expired Jan. 31 and its fringe benefits contract expired Sept. 30.
Burns said each deputy who called in sick has a doctor’s note verifying the reason for the absence, and he called the county’s action in seeking contempt sanctions “inappropriate.”
Asked how all the deputies at a particular courthouse could have called in sick without some coordination by the union, Burns responded:
“I can’t explain that.”
Burns said county supervisors “should be held accountable” for the labor strife, and said the union plans to target Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke by backing an opponent to her in the March election. He said the union will announce “within a week” who it will back in the race, adding that Compton Mayor Eric J. Perrodin may run.
Perrodin’s office did not return a call seeking comment.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company