Stone’s attorney asks to file amended lawsuit
June 11, 2013 — Tom Stone, the former Lassen County administrative officer who filed a pair of $1 million wrongful termination suits against Lassen County and the three supervisors who voted to fire him, has a new attorney who has asked the court for permission to file a new amended complaint.
A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday, June 17 in the Lassen County Hall of Justice.
Some of Stone’s more incendiary allegations of violations of his First Amendment rights — that the county discriminated against him because of his Mormon religion and that the free speech rights of he and his wife were violated because he refused to curtail his wife’s involvement with Tea Party politics — are gone.
Elisa W. Underman, Stone’s new attorney from Sacramento, also asked the court to dismiss Lassen County District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman and District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson from the lawsuit in one of several court filings she made May 31, but her intention is uncertain because she also includes them in her proposed amended complaint.
In Stone’s first two complaints — one filed in federal court and the other filed in the Lassen County Superior Court — the three supervisors who voted to fire him July 13, 2011 were named as defendants.
If Chapman and Hanson are dismissed, only District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle and the county will remain as defendants.
A federal court judge rejected Stone’s case because it was filed in the wrong jurisdiction. According to Stone’s contract with the county, any dispute between the parties would be heard in a Lassen County court.
Stone filed essentially the same complaint in Lassen County Superior Court, but then his attorney retired and Stone asked for a continuance to find a new attorney.
While Chapman, Hanson and Pyle cast votes to terminate Stone, District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick voted no and former District 4 Supervisor Brian Dahle abstained.
According to the new complaint, Pyle slandered Stone’s personal and professional reputation with comments he made to the newspaper and others.
The new complaint alleges Pyle, “in the course and scope of his position of county supervisor and as an agent of the county, falsely reported to the newspaper and other persons in the community words with the gist or sting that as county administrative officer, plaintiff had abused his position and improperly taken benefits from the county to which he was not entitled … (and) further stated that plaintiff was nothing more that a ‘flim flam man,’ insinuating/ implying that plaintiff was dishonest, unscrupulous and without integrity.”
The complaint also alleges Pyle made “non-privileged statements with the gist or sting that plaintiff had abused his position, was dishonest, unscrupulous and/or without integrity” and got “his hand caught in the cookie jar.”
In addition, the complaint alleges the defendants “knew the statements were false when they were made,” or they “acted in reckless disregard of the truth of the statements, lacking reasonable grounds for believing (the) statements were true … (Pyle was) advised by legal counsel in a non-privileged setting and others that the statements were incorrect before they were made … for the purpose of discrediting plaintiff (and) diverting attention from the disclosures made by plaintiff.”
The new amended complaint alleges a violation of California Labor Code section 1102.5, slander of professional reputation per California Civil Code section 46, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of California Government Code Section 12653 and violation of California Government Code section 12650.
The allegation of a violation of Labor Code section 1102.5 applies only to the county.
Stone alleges the county fired him because he disclosed what he believed was “a violation of federal law and/or state law or regulation” regarding the county’s economic development department’s alleged illegal diversion of more than $250,000 in restricted federal funds.
Stone alleges he suffered and continues to suffer damages from lost wages and benefits, a loss of earning capacity and emotional and physical distress from the slandering of his professional reputation.
In addition, Stone alleges the county fired him in retaliation for his disclosure of the alleged violation of state and federal law.
The new complaint alleges “an employer may not retaliate against an employee for disclosing his reasonable beliefs of a violation of state or federal regulation,” and, “an employer may not retaliate against an employee for engaging in efforts to prevent frauds upon the government.”
According to the new complaint, the law reflects the board public policy interest in encouraging workplace whistle-blowers to report unlawful acts without fearing retaliation.
Stone asks the court for a jury trial and relief for all actual, consequential and incidental financial losses.
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