Thursday, June 27, 2013

Granados v Dona Ana County Day 4

[Again, PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS if you are a juror in the case.  It's one observer's view.  You absolutely should not look at it -- particularly since it might include extraneous information that's not part of the case as tried.  If you are a friend, relative, or spouse of a juror and happen to see this, please do not even mention this to him or her until after the trial is over.   It would waste a bunch of public funds if this case had to be retried months from now. 
So please do not read this or any other accounts of the trial.
If you're not a juror, feel free.  This is a very rushed account of a very full day, but I hope it's coherent. (For background: Tuesday's post  covered Day 2, and provides basic information on the case, as does Diana Alba Soular's good article on the opening of the trial.)  Yesterday's post covered Day 3.]

         County citizens listening to today's testimony would not feel particularly proud of county management.
         Three county employees, each of whom admitted some level of concern about possible retaliation by the county, testified to facts that provided varying levels of support for Plaintiff Jorge Granados's claim of ethnic discrimination and illegal retaliation.
         Then former DAC Internal Auditor Milton Duran testified to doing a specially expedited audit of the Public Works Department and finding no misappropriation, no misconduct, no suspected misuse of funds, and nothing material.  He said Ms. Padilla had reacted with disappointment, questioning whether he'd done all he could, whereas most managers are pleased by a clean bill of health from an auditor; he contrasted this with his audit of Health and Social Services, where he'd found misuse of funds, possibly illegal, and that while the HSSD director remained in her job, the County had quickly gotten rid of the young Hispanic "whistleblowers" who'd given him true information; and he said he'd seen then-County Manager Brian Haines and then-Assistant County Manager Sue Padilla demean Granados at meetings.
         Finally, Interim County Manager Sue Padilla started her testimony.  If there's a chief 'villain" in Plaintiff's portrait of the county, it's she.  When her name was announced, the jury sat up straighter in anticipation and one or two murmured an involuntary "ooohh."   However, her testimony so far involved preliminary matters.  If the jurors found that disappointing as drama, it was compounded by a couple of times when she and the examining attorney from Plaintiff's side both got honestly confused about what was going on.   (There was time for a question-and-answer establishing that while her married name is a Hispanic name, her husband's family comes from Spain, not Mexico.)

         Up first this morning was Defendant's cross-examination of county employee Robert Armijo.  (As discussed in last night's blog post, Mr. Armijo had conceded very frankly that he feared possible retaliation by the County if his testimony were not to the County's liking.)
         Defendant made a strong effort to negate Armijo's damaging testimony concerning whether or not county consultant Cliff Richardson said that a presentation honoring road workers would "ring hollow when the county hasn't given them a raise for years."    (The importance of the conversation was that Mr. Granados had said it happened; but then one of the grounds for firing him seemed to be an allegation that he'd lied when he said that.)
         Counsel showed that Mr. Armijo's notes for Road Meetings didn't include notes for a meeting on May 6, 2010 the day he'd said the comment was made at such a meeting.  Counsel also pointed out that Armijo's 2010 written statement didn't contain the words "ring hollow."  The statement read, "Mr. Richardson said something to the effect that management's and county commissioners' cannot claim to value employees . . . and not give pay raises for them years in a row," adding that while he wasn't sure of the precise phrasing, "I believe that the message of his words were that management and the Board of County Commissioners cannot claim to support and stand behind the employees of Dona Ana Couny when they are acting in a contrary manner to their words."
         Despite questioning by Defendant, he insisted he recalled the discussion.
         Regarding Sue Padilla's conduct toward his department, he said "couldn't say" that her "bias" and "vindictiveness" was race-based.  Regarding Mr. Granados's informal complaints about being discriminated against, he said that "happened more after he was terminated" than before.
         Redirect started simply:
          Q. You have not complained of discrimination, have you?
          A. I don't recall having complained about discrimination to upper management.
          Q. And you still have your job, correct?
          A. Yes.
          Q. And you never complaiend re hostile work environment?
          A. Not directrly, no sir.
          Q. And you still have your job?
          A. Yes.
          He was then shown Mr. Granados's pre-termination notice, which related the allegation of dishonesty, apparently with regard to the Richardson conversation.  He was asked whether he 'd been aware Mr. Granados had been fired based partly on an allegation  that Mr. Richardson never said what Granados claimed he had.   He was surprised.
            Q. Do you find that odd?
            A. Yes.
            Q. If a person is being fired by someone, shouldn't the person doing the firing investigate the reasons?"
            A. Yes.
            He was then asked about the discrimination/retaliation issues.  He neither admitted discrimination by the county nor denied it.  Asked to confirm that he was "not telling the jury there was no retaliation, right?" he responded, "That's correct, yes."
            When the questioning touched again on retaliation, and whether he felt some tension in testifying in a case between his "mentor" and his employer, he testified "I have a feeling there may be [retaliation]."
             Asked [though my notes aren't clear whether this was today or in earlier sworn testimony quoted today]  if there was anything else he considered retaliation, he replied "Just him getting fired."

             Next up was Albert Racelli, who works on grants and has been with the county for 25 years.      
             He testified concerning an affidavit he'd signed trstifying that Ms. Padilla "accused me of lying, cheating, and being incompetent"; that she'd denied him approval for training when others, many of them Anglos, got "more elaborate travel" approved; that "I strongly believe these acts by Ms. Padilla against me are based on discrimination," and that she had replaced minority employees with Caucasians."
             He also said that he saw Mr. Granados almost daily during Plaintiff's employment by the County, and that he "was very professional, brought a whole new way of thinking about the work, . . . and much-needed new thinking into the engineering department.  He termed him "the epitome of a good leader who recognized problems and tried to address them head on."
              As to honesty, he said "I've never seen any dishosety or any conniving or being less than honest and truthful" from Mr. Granados.
              Asked if he could say the same of Ms. Padilla, he said, "Unfortunately, I cannot.  I cannot, I'm sorry."
              However, there has been testimony suggesting that he and Ms. Padilla had clashed earlier in the utilities department, when she ran that, and that the clash might have caused him to transfer.
              Regarding her allegedly targeting the Department of Public Works because of the high concentration of Mexican-Americans, he said it was "not so overt as 'We just don't like you people,' but that budgets were drastically cut, without explanation, despite the department's successes. It was "always indirect," he testified.  ":The people who are doing these things are a lot more sophisticated than that."
              On cross-examination, Defendant established that Raceli's sworn affidavit had initially been written, and proffered to him, by Mr. Granados; that Mr. Raceli had made unidentified changes to it; and that he couldn't recall with certainty a notary public, although the document appeared to have been notarized.
              When he was pressed on facts regarding harm to him from alleged discrimination, he said, "I'm not asking for anything.  I'm just quietly accepting what's happening.  I'm not making a fuss over anything."
              Told it was his obligation to report discrimination if he indeed saw it, he replied "How many people would complain to the very people who were in control?"
              Cross-examination also esablished that he had been accused by Ms. Padilla, many years ago, of lying to the Board of county Commissioners.  Asked if he'd been found guilty, he said "there was no trial, no attorneys" and "a biased investigation" by someone appointed by the County Manager.   The hearing officer found him guilty of lying.   Redirect established that this incident had occurred ten years ago, and that Raceli "told the truth to the Board of County Commissioners" and stood by what he'd said.

              Third came Dickie Apodaca, the Road Superintendent.  A native of Garfield, he was a lot less inclined to say that testimony unpalatable to the county could lead to retaliation.  After denying he was afraid to testify because of possible retaliation by the county, he said, "I'm not afraid, but I know it can happen, because it has happened before."
              He generally denied any awareness of ethnic discrimination, improper retaliation, or any other misconduct my his superiors, but did say Mr. Granados had mentioned discrimination to him "quite a bit" and that Mr. Granados "seemed to be truthful."
              His testimony on one issue, whether or not one Jason Ireland had actually complained of discrimination, his testimony tended to help Plaintiff.  Ireland "didn't like Victor Valles speaking in Spanish" to him.  Mr. Apodaca didn't think of it as discrimination, and told Mr. Valles to give instructions to Mr. Ireland in English.  He said Ireland "was never discriminated against" and confirmed that no one had told Mr. Granados that Ireland had been discriminated against.
              He said Sue Padilla came to his oiffice and said that Valles should be disciplined for speaking Spanish to Mr. Ireland.  Apodaca said he didn't do anything wrong.  Ms. Padilla allegedly told Mr. Apodaca to make him go to anger management classes.  Mr. Apodca said he told her that if he did that he'd have to send all the supervisors to the classes.

          Then came Duran's testimony.  It was not positive about the County.  Notably, he testified that when he did his job, and turned up information management didn't want to here, bad things happened to him; but that he failed to find any major problems at the Department of Public Works when he did an audit Ms. Padilla had sought to have expedited.  (Plaintiff Granados was Director of DPW at the time.)
          "In my opinion, she was disappointed there were not more things -- bad things -- to report."  He said this was unusual, because more often managers welcome such findings.  Instead, Ms Padilla "was very disappointed and questioned me whether I had done enough digging."
          Asked on cross whether Ms. Padilla could merely be expressing suprise that "Gee, after all the citizen complaints" there was no problem, Mr. Duran replied quietly, "it would have been nice if I had heard that.  She verbalized that I had not found anything and questioned my procedures and my testing. .Later he said she "kept drilling me, did I do any additional work?" . She appeared to him to have hoped for a finding of misappropriation or other misconduct "in order to take some action."
          By contrast his HSSD Audit had turned up Level 3 findings, including a stiuation where there were funds from some separate source earmarked for DWI, and Director Sylvia Sierra had moved the funds out of that area into other functions to support the growth of those functions.  He said the law was very specific that the funds must be used for the specific program they're earmarked for.
           The HSSD Director remains in her position.  However "four Hispanic ladies" who had been frank and honest with him were "very shortly asked to resign or moved out."  He added, "I had told them I would try to protect them as whistleblowers," against management.
            Asked if he'd personally observed discrimination by Ms. Padilla against Mr. Granados, he said he had.  He cited monthly commission open forums where the commissioners heard from management.  Several times, he said, he saw Ms. Padilla and Mr. Haines treat Mr. Granados poorly in public.  The treated him "unprofessionally . . . when he was speaking they would look at each other and on ocasion make faces . . . it was very demeaning.  With other personnel they didn't act that way."
          On cross, Defendant established that Mr. Duran had been reprimanded by County Counsel for "discourtesy" in what had initially been an allegation of sexual harassment, and later for a breach of human resources rules involving inappropriate disclosure of confidential information.  Mr. Duran denied that the sexual harassment/discourtesy charge had any validity.  Defendant also established that Mr. Duran had voluntarily relinquished his CPA license in 1996.
            Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. Ms. Padilla will continue her testimony.


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