Judge grants continuance in Stone case
Visiting Lassen County Superior Court Judge C. Anders Holmer granted a continuance in the $1 million wrongful termination case brought by Tom Stone, the former Lassen County administrative officer during a hearing in the Lassen County Hall of Justice Tuesday, April 30.
Stone told the court health issues had forced his Reno-based attorney, Treva Hearne to retire unexpectedly due to various medical issues and he had no idea what the legal process was. He said at her advice they filed a document April 4 in which Stone became his own attorney. Stone said both he and Hearne were seeking another attorney to represent him in the matter, but the effort “put the ball in my court to change horses in midstream.”
Holmer asked Stone if he had read and understood the request by Lassen County’s attorney Kathleen Williams, and he said he had, but he had to research to find out what a demurrer meant. He asked the court to grant him time to find a qualified attorney who was willing to come to Lassen County to represent him.
Williams argued the court could dismiss many of the claims made in Stone’s complaint as a matter of law because “they will not survive” and “they can’t be cured.”
Holmer asked if the three members of the board of supervisors who fired Stone July 13, 2011 — District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle, District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman and District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson — would be prejudiced if he granted a continuance.
Williams' answered they would not suffer any prejudiced per se.
Holmer expressed his reluctance to ruling on the demurrer and granted a continuance.
He ordered Stone to file an opposition to the county’s demurrer by June 3.
Williams was ordered to file a reply to Stone’s court filing by June 12.
He scheduled a hearing for 8:30 a.m. June 17 in Department 2. The judge said depending upon his calendar he may appear by telephone and in keeping with Lassen County rules, he would not issue a tentative ruling.
Stone alleges the county fired him because he revealed violations of state and federal law regarding the administration of grants to be used for economic development in the Herlong area.
Stone alleges violations of the government code, the labor code, inducement of employment contract under false pretences, violations of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 2A of the California Constitution, slander of professional reputation and denial of due process and equal protection.
“This is an action for damages by plaintiff against his former employer based on multiple claims arising out of his employment relationship based on numerous wrongful acts including termination without cause, fraudulent inducement of employment contract, wrongful termination based on public policy and violation of Government Code Section 8547 et seq., in that a motivating factor in the decision to terminate the plaintiff was his having protested violations of federal and state law regarding the use of funds belonging to the county or from the federal government for specified purposes,” Hearne, wrote. “Plaintiff further alleges he was subjected to religious discrimination and interference with his family’s right of free speech and association. Plaintiff seeks damages for past and future economic losses, general damages for emotional distress because of (the) violation of his rights and statutory attorney fees.”
According to the complaint for damages filed Jan. 29, Stone seeks more than $500,000 “for damages due and owing to plaintiff for the wrongful deprivation of his individual rights,” more than another $500,000 “for general damages” and a “declaratory judgment” that his rights were violated. In addition, Stone seeks “compensatory damages, liquidate, exemplary damages and such other monetary relief as may be deemed appropriate in amounts to be determined at trial … pre-judgment interest as may be determined by statute and rule … costs, including reasonable attorney fees together with other such remedies provided by law … a trial by jury on all issues of fact … and, other and further relief as it (the court) deems just and proper.”
The county alleges Stone was fired because he received $5,758 health benefits to which he was not entitled and spent $2,650 for a training session that was not authorized by the board.
The case was filed in Lassen County Superior Court after a federal court judge rejected the case because Stone’s contract requires any disputes to be settled in a Lassen County Court.
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