Following two separate Skelly hearings, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges recommended that Monterey County Deputy Sheriff Marie Evans be returned to work on July 21, 2009, reversing a proposed termination. The Monterey County Sheriff’s Department had initially proposed a10-day suspension for misconduct. Upon learning of this proposal, Deputy Evans immediately requested her pre-disciplinary Skelly hearing. During the first Skelly hearing before Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, on June 12, 2009, Evans and her attorney presented facts and argument in mitigation of the allegations against her. Kanalakis advised he would take the matter under submission and provide Deputy Evans with his decision on the following Monday.
Contrary to his assurance, Kanalakis did not render his decision until July 2, 2009 – nearly three weeks after Evans’ Skelly hearing. In his decision, Kanalakis determined that the appropriate discipline was now termination. Deputy Evans was then placed on paid administrative leave. After rendering his decision, at Evans’ request, Kanalakis provided Deputy Evans with a second Skelly hearing, this time before the Sheriff of San Luis Obispo County, Pat Hedges. Sheriff Hedges heard the same facts and argument in mitigation as presented at the first Skelly hearing, and decided to set aside the decision of Sheriff Kanalakis and impose the original 10-day suspension. Sheriff Kanalakis Recommends Termination in Retaliation: At the first Skelly hearing, Deputy Evans and her attorney admitted to some of the conduct alleged and provided facts in mitigation of others. Still other allegations were outright denied and facts in rebuttal were given. Deputy Evans and her attorney were respectful and courteous to Sheriff Kanalakis and requested that the 10-day suspension be set aside and that a “Letter of Reprimand” for the admitted conduct be given as the appropriate discipline under the circumstances. In Sheriff Kanalakis’ July 2, 2009 decision to terminate Deputy Evans, he stated “You did not appear to take responsibility or ownership for the allegations against you of insubordination, rudeness and unprofessional behavior. “Your continued failure to recognize your ongoing inability to identify your inappropriate behavior is indicative of why prior attempts to discipline you and correct your unacceptable behavior mandate your termination at this time. It is obvious to me that the 10 working day’s suspension would fail to get you to correct your behavior.” Sheriff Kanalakis did not provide any additional information, evidence or argument to support his drastic change in decision from the 10-day suspension to termination. There were no admissions made during the Skelly hearing to indicate dishonesty; nor did the sheriff perform any additional investigation which could have revealed that the proposed discipline was no longer warranted and that termination was required. His entire reasoning for terminating Deputy Evans was that she did not come to the Skelly hearing prepared to admit responsibility for every allegation. Sheriff Kanalakis’ statement that Deputy Evans did not take ownership for the allegations serves to prove this point.
The entire purpose of a Skelly hearing is to take ownership of allegations that the employee has admitted and rebut or deny responsibility for allegations that the employee feels should not be sustained. Kanalakis purportedly reasoned that the purpose of discipline is to ensure that the conduct is not repeated and that such a result could not be accomplished by discipline short of termination because Evans failed to admit to each and every one of the allegations. The sheriff’s reasoning created a very precarious slippery slope. With his reasoning, a Letter of Reprimand given to an employee could become a termination if the employee does not agree with the findings and provides a rebuttal denying the allegations. The sheriff’s actions were clearly an attempt to punish Deputy Evans for rebutting any of the factual findings that the investigation noted. After the decision, many other employees were afraid that a proposed suspension would evolve into a termination after the Skelly hearing. Talk of avoiding the use of a representative or attorney ran rampant, for fear that if an officer retained counsel, they might be terminated. Further, in an attempt to remove the possibility of retaliation by the sheriff in the form of more severe discipline or even termination, the idea of appealing any discipline to the Skelly hearing was also discussed as something to avoid. San Luis Obispo Sheriff Pat Hedges Sets Aside the Decision of Sheriff Mike Kanalakis: On July 9, 2009, during her second Skelly hearing, Deputy Evans and her attorney met with Sheriff Pat Hedges of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department. Information was again provided in mitigation and rebuttal of many of the allegations against Evans, and she took responsibility for the factual determination, admitting she did the alleged acts. Sheriff Hedges was respectful and very professional. He asked probative and relevant clarifying questions, which indicated a real concern for Deputy Evans and her situation.
After a few days of consideration, Sheriff Hedges issued his decision, on July 17, 2009 – that the decision to terminate Deputy Evans should be set aside as excessive and inappropriate. Sheriff Hedges indicated that a provision in the MOU, Section 10.3.2, stated in relevant part that “In order to implement either the proposed disciplinary action or a lesser disciplinary action based on the same cause(s), . . .” increased disciplinary action taken by Sheriff Kanalakis is precluded. At the time of this writing, the administrative case has not been concluded because Deputy Evans has appealed the10-day suspension, arguing that such discipline is also excessive, in light of which allegations can be sustained and which cannot. While that appeal is proceeding, Deputy Evans has been returned to work, placed back on full duty. Deputy Evans and the Monterey Deputy Sheriff’s Association extend their sincere appreciation to Sheriff Pat Hedges of San Luis Obispo, for his involvement, professionalism, and ultimate findings.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sean D. Howell is a PORAC LDF panel attorney with Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick, Miller & Johnsen. He represented Deputy Marie Evans in her administrative appeal through the PORAC Legal Defense Fund.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund, This email has been weighing on my heart and should have been sent a long time ago. However, time seems to move fast even though your life has been put on hold. I have been on administrative leave since December of 2012. In April of 2013, I was arrested for the performance of my duties. Since the administrative side this case has not been resolved, I won't be getting into specific details regarding my case. However, I will say that I never thought that my life would turned upside down by doing the job that I love, and doing it in a way that I had been trained. I have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years, and I have been paying my monthly dues all along. I never really understood how important paying dues might be for me, I just thought it was the "cost of business". After being arrested, I understood the real worth of that investment. Because of politics, my case was given the "full court press". On January 3rd of 2014, the case against me was dismissed. It took no less than 5 experts to convince the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office to request dismissal. The time, effort, and money that this case cost couldn't have been endured by me as the sole provider of a family of four. LDF was there, big time. The panel attorney's under LDF were the best in the business. In the uncertain time during the criminal process, I couldn't have imagined how much help they could be. What a relief to know that LDF had my back. I am used to defending those who can't defend themselves. That's my job. When I was defenseless, LDF and the attorneys assigned to my case were my advocates and defenders. I thank you. My criminal attorney said it best at the conclusion of my criminal case: "Adam and his family are thankful that they can now move forward. The evidence showing Sgt. Laird was innocent was overwhelming. The expert EPD hired said that the suspect was rising up when Sgt. Laird pushed him back to the ground. The two experts that the DA’s office hired said that the force was reasonable and appropriate. The defensive tactics instructor who trained Adam said he acted consistent with his training in apprehending a high risk suspect in a dangerous situation. In total, five separate police practices experts reviewed the case and unanimously said Sgt. Laird acted appropriately". "It is hard to imagine what it must be like to risk your life apprehending a known gang member only to be charged with using excessive force when the suspect stated that he did not even feel the contact at issue. It is simply bizarre that Sgt. Laird was ever charged with a crime". Thank you. My family and I will forever be grateful for your service, Sergeant Adam Laird
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The LDF responded immediately upon my request for counsel. LDF provided the best representative I could receive! When I called LDF for advice, I was given advice again immediately. Thank you LDF for your concern.
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When I first contacted LDF re: my case I was unsure of how well/poor I'd actually be represented. I was impressed beyond belief. From the timely responses from my attorney, his knowledge in my case, advising me what my rights were and where I stood. I felt like I was genuinely being protected from unwarranted and unfounded accusations and believe, as long as I am in the right, I have someone fighting for me. Thank you, Thank you.
- Dwayne Sue Oakland POA
[My representative was] great! She kept me informed and was very professional. She would be my choice if I should need her services in the future! (But I hope I won't) Thanks!
- Kristen Patterson Contra Costa Co Prob. Assn.
[My representative] was helpful and made me feel supported. I got the results I desired. Very pleased with the process.
- Michael Shephard Suisun City POA
LDF is a very valuable resource. I would not do this job without it.
- Malcolm Norrington LA School PA
I am very pleased with LDF and would use and recommend them again and again and again.
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- Christopher Connally Assn of LEA
To whom it may concern: Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the opportunity to join the PORAC Legal Defense Fund. This is a great benefit for our membership. During the past twelve months I was fortunate to have access to the Legal Defense Fund through MPCA. Earlier this year I was both surprise, and disappointed, when realized that I needed to provide counsel to mediate pending litigation. In accessing the Legal Defense Fund I found your staff to be very professional and reassuring. The staff felt that [my representative]., would be the best ft for the situation. I would like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for being represented by [Rick Barry]. Not only was he a good fit for the circumstances, at times it seemed as if he was the only attorney out of several involved that really had a grasp on the issues. Again, I would like to thank the PORAC staff, and know that I could not have been better served than by what was provided by [my representative].
- William Pryor Statewide University PA
Very helpful program. Helped keep department personnel focused on the issue regardless of their personal issues.
- Jason Boust Sanger POA
My rep was very helpful in explaining the processes and stayed in contact throughout the ordeal.
- James Walker Yakima Police Patrolsman Assn
This attorney and her legal team were one of the best I’ve seen and interacted with. I was always in the loop and constantly updated on the case status. I would use (my attorney) again if the need came and recommend her to anyone.
- Nancy Page Aurora PA
I didn't end up needing his service but he was awesome in what conversations we had before the matter was resolved. Very valuable - LDF!
- Kenneth S. Blonski East Bay Regional Parks PMA
I was very pleased with my representative.
- Martha Tschetter Carson City Sheriffs PA
The LDF process was painless and I was able to get immediate representation in an urgent time of need. Thank you LDF
- Kerry Carlson Midpeninsula Ranger POA
I have held leadership positions in our POA most of my career. Because of my role as President and Vice President I have been a target to management. I feel that if it were not for LDF I wouldn't have a job
- William Burdette Newport Beach PMA
26 years and I have never needed a LDF rep, but the one time you need one, it was worth the fee’s paid.”
- Chad Sakamoto National City POA
Although this incident was unfounded, it's still stressful. My LDF rep kept me informed and kept "work" at work.
- Rachel Tyner Transit EOA of San Diego
All the LDF representatives were very courteous and attentive with a punctual response to all of my concerns, inquiries and appointment scheduling. My representative was very informative about the legalities and kept in contact with me regularly. He was also very patient and straight forward. I would definitely want to use the LDF again and felt more confident through my proceedings because I had representation!
- Chris Lyon Tulare Co DSA
Very thorough group of sharp/smart government concerned [attorneys]. They understood what was happening and briefed me on everything. I was very impressed.
- Tigran Topadzhikyan Glendale POA
[My representative] is an excellent attorney. I would use him again. He communicates with his clients and is very competent.
- Miguel Masso Oakland POA
[I'm very satisfied and grateful] for LDF representing me. My attorney was professional, honest, and very knowledgeable of his profession. During these tough times my attorney would contact me on a regular basis to see how I was doing. This was obviously not part of his job description, but it kept me at ease and not losing my mind. I'm thankful that I was represented by LDF.
- Marco Flores Ventura County PPOA
Great program. I was lost until the attorneys explained the situation. I was very impressed and satisfied. Thanks LDF.
- Steven Moorehouse Redding POA
You guys are Great! Very professional and well informed. THANK YOU!
- Diana Drummey Coronado POA
I so appreciated my LDF rep - his kindness and understanding re my case during an embarrassing and uncomfortable time - he was so caring.
- Doug Plumhoff Ridgecrest PEA
Great job by all! Always great to know LDF is there when needed.
- Derwin Longmire Oakland POA
Outstanding [law firm] - incredible firm. And, LDF was easy to work and correspond with.
- Tyler Robins Pasadena City College POA
At a time when no one cares about you it's nice to have someone on your side who does. (My attorney ) made a stressful six months a lot more tolerable.
- Christopher Delaney Upland POA
Your rep was very personal. Even though my case involved something minor, your rep made me [feel] my case was his most important. I am very satisfied with my LDF team.
- David Heller Yolo County DSA
The charges against me, if sustained, would have likely ended my LE career. I was rightfully exonerated on all charges. I was well represented by [My Representative] and thank him for a job well done!!
- Gary J. Foppiano Oakland POA
[My representative] has been in my corner for 28 years. I have been represented by this firm probably 6 times in my career from minor to major discipline cases with a great outcome for me. They're batting 100%
- Gina Romines San Joaquin Co Corr POA
I couldn't have been more satisfied with the representative!
- Douglas Mansker Bakersfield POA
(My attorney) is a very good attorney, despite his young age. He kept me well informed throughout my legal matter and returned phone calls in a prompt manner. I was very satisfied with his performance and would not hesitate to be represented by him again.
- Steven Mayorga Ventura County DSA
I was well represented and very glad to have LDF. Thank you.
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent representation. [My representative] is a great attorney.
- Rich Stepper Montana PPA
[ My representative ] was very knowledgeable regarding dept & legal rules regarding officer involved shooting. Provided good legal advice & was very supportive.
- Byron Kies Santa Barbara Co DSA
Everything was great!
- Wendy Morrow Chico Public Safety Association
I had never been through an I.A. in my 21 years. I was scared and ashamed and humiliated. ( My attorney ) was excellent. He helped me through one of the worst times of my life. Had great outcome and I am grateful.
- Raymond Fisher Colorado State Patrol Assn
I have known for sometime that PORAC would provide the services I needed at the time I needed them. This is a professional competent organization prepared to handle the appropriate legal matters our officers face in today's environment.
- Noe Cordero San Diego POA
Thank you for your help. I feel very secure as you assisted me.
- Ronald J. Danison El Monte POA
The LDF is a tool available to me which I hope never goes away. It makes me feel that much more confident to do my job knowing LDF has my back when police work gets ugly. And it usually does..
- Nick Bannister Phoenix LEA
I was extremely grateful for professional representation provided by ( my attorney ) during this extremely stressful situation
- Ron Ruddy Riverside POA
- Christopher Adams Modesto POA
Thank you for all your help!
- Larry Fitch Shasta Co DSA
My LDF rep was great, always returned my calls quickly and kept me up to date with what was going on with the case. Thank you.
- Chris Moore Palo Alto POA
No Complaints. Great Resource.
- John Tinder Chino POA
Having an LDF attorney who is experienced, knowledgeable and professional is an outstanding quality. [My representative ]exhibit all of these qualities and more. They are outstanding and I would not entrust my career to anyone else!
- Juan Espinoza Fresno DSA
[My representative] did a great job. He is both thorough and well educated. I would use him again.
- Alex Camarillo LASchool P A
[My Representative] did an excellent job with my case. He was very professional and kept me well informed throughout this case. Thank you for an awesome job.
- Ken Burbank Shasta Co DSA
[ My representative ] was professional, articulate and prepared, but most importantly he understood the emotional impact the investigation was having on me as a person and peace officer. I highly recommend [my representative].