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EXCLUSIVE: Lawsuit Alleges Wrongful Termination of Montebello Unified Personnel Commission Employee by Superintendent

 

BY BRIAN HEWS

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News has obtained a complaint filed against the Montebello Unified School District by its own MUSD Personnel Commission outlining the unlawful termination by Superintendent Anthony Martinez of the commission’s Director of Classified Human Resources Pierre N. Demian.

The writ of mandate was filed by the Tafoya Law Group, Robert Tafoya and Anthony Willoughby II.

MUSD uses the Merit System which governs classified school personnel, insuring that employees are selected, promoted, and retained without favoritism or prejudice, on the basis of merit and fitness.

In California, and at the MUSD, the Merit System is administered by the Personnel Commission, an independent body composed of three persons appointed for three-year staggered terms.

The Legislature passed the merit system to prevent school boards from interfering with both the functioning of the Personnel Commission and with classified employees of the Personnel Commission as well.

Under state law, Personnel Commissions operate wholly independent and are expressly exempted from board supervision, and the supervision of personnel commission staff is expressly within the control of the personnel commission itself.

Demian was the individual tasked with carrying out the actions of the Commission, including the administrative, financial, and management accountability for classified employees.

The complaint alleges that Superintendent Martinez and the Board wanted to get rid of Demian “so that it may return to its improper practices of the past without any check or balance from the Commission.”

On January 28, 2020, the Commission appointed Demian to the position of Director of Classified Human Resources.

Within a month, Demian began to discover “issues” which required immediate attention.

Demian presented these issues by email to Superintendent Martinez on February 20, 2020 but did not receive a response, so he went to the Board on February 24, 2020.

Among other things, Demian stated that staff members were being placed into eliminated classifications; the Commission’s Classified Human Resources was not being consulted on issues related to classified employees; and that the board had committed repeated violations of Fair Employment Standards Act as to school officers and management positions.

The retaliation started soon thereafter perpetrated by Director of Human Resources Jose Alarcon and Assistant Superintendent Allison Garland.

Only days after the presentation the two handed Demian termination papers saying he had been terminated by Superintendent Anthony Martinez.

Demian told Alarcon and Garland that he could not be fired under state law but that did not stop them. The two demanded that he immediately leave the premises and followed him into his office asking for his keys.

Demian testified that he resisted, and alleged Garland said she would call the police and have him escorted off the premises, so he left.

At the next meeting the commission attempted to reinstall Demian as Director of Classified Human Resources but when he went back to work he learned that Superintendent Martinez had taken his keys to the Commission offices.

He also discovered that he had been locked out of his email account.

Demian proceeded to draft a letter to be delivered to Garland requesting that all those involved in his illegal termination refrain and return both the keys and access to Demian’s accounts.

An hour later, the Montebello Police arrived to remove Demian from the
premises.

The complaint contends that “it is well-established law that the governing school board has no authority over the personnel commission,” and cited many precedent cases and the
California Education Code.

That part of the code states that “[n]o governing board shall remove a position from the classified service by title assignment or otherwise which would then require an incumbent to be credentialed if such position is not required by this code to be
designated as certificated.”

Tafoya and Willoughby wrote, “Despite this complete lack of authority, the MUSD has taken it upon themselves to physically and forcefully remove Demian from his position as Director of Classified Human Resources…and are attempting what can only be described as a hostile take-over of the Commission.”

The result of the retaliation has placed Demian in a precarious financial position.

“Demian has rent and other bills which remain unpaid, failure to pay will lead to his removal from his home. He also has personal health issues for which he now cannot afford to continue treatment on his own. His health insurance is directly funded by his employment at MUSD and he cannot afford health insurance otherwise.”

The writ asked for an injunction and restraining order to prevent any further actions including removing Demian from school grounds and preventing him from carrying out his duties.

It also demanded a reinstatement of Demian to his position with back pay and benefits and all applicable access to property.

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2 Responses to EXCLUSIVE: Lawsuit Alleges Wrongful Termination of Montebello Unified Personnel Commission Employee by Superintendent

  1. Pingback: Lawsuit Alleges Wrongful Termination of Montebello Unified Personnel Commission Employee by Superintendent - 2UrbanGirls

  2. Smitty Reply

    April 17, 2020 at 7:46 am

    I guess the Montebello bond money has worked its way into the Montebello PD

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