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Weisner v. Santa Cruz County Civil Service Comission

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

June 22, 2016

JAMES WEISNER, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, Defendant and Respondent COUNTY OF SANTA CRUZ Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

         Santa Cruz County Superior Court No. CV179070 The Honorable Paul M. Marigonda Judge

Page 341

         COUNSEL

         Steven P. Cohn and Sean Bothamley for Plaintiff and Appellant.

         Thompson, Kontz & Brenner and Thornton Kontz for Defendant and Respondent

         Dana McRae, County Counsel Betsy Allen, Assistant County Counsel, for Real Party In Interest and Respondent.

         OPINION

         RUSHING, P.J.

         This appeal arises from the 2008 termination of appellant James Weisner’s employment with the County of Santa Cruz (the County). Several years of litigation followed the termination, with Weisner eventually reinstated to his County employment without back pay.

         In this appeal, Weisner seeks reversal of a 2014 order denying his petition for administrative writ of mandamus. The writ petition asked the superior court

Page 342

to order the Santa Cruz County Civil Service Commission (the Commission) to award back pay and other benefits as part of the reinstatement of Weisner’s County employment. The superior court denied Weisner’s writ petition as moot, finding that the Commission lost jurisdiction to grant relief because Weisner resigned from his reinstated employment with the County. As set forth below, we conclude that the matter is not moot, and we reverse.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         For over seven years, Weisner worked as a heavy equipment mechanic at the County’s Buena Vista Landfill. At the same time, he owned and operated a construction hauling business. At three different times in 2008, Weisner used County employees and equipment to remove trucks full of construction materials from the landfill. As a result of these incidents, Weisner was investigated by the County. Following the investigations, on May 12, 2008, the County dismissed Weisner for violations of County rules and Public Works Department policies. Weisner appealed his dismissal to the Commission.

         In December 2008, the Commission found that there was just cause to terminate Weisner’s employment. In April 2009, Weisner filed a petition for writ of mandate that asked the superior court to set aside his termination. The superior court granted Weisner’s writ petition, concluding that only two of the Commission’s five findings had sufficient evidentiary support, Weisner’s termination was excessive punishment, and the Commission’s decision to uphold Weisner’s termination was an abuse of discretion. The superior court ordered the Commission to rehear evidence and determine appropriate discipline.

         The County appealed the superior court’s order on the writ petition. This court affirmed the order in September 2011. (Weisner v. Santa Cruz County Civil Service Commission (Sept. 6, 2011, H035387) [nonpub. opn.].)

         Following a hearing in March 2012, the Commission again upheld the termination of Weisner’s employment. Weisner filed a petition for administrative writ of mandamus that asked the superior court to set aside the Commission’s decision. On December 12, 2012, the superior court granted Weisner’s writ petition. The superior court ordered the Commission to conduct a de novo hearing limited to two charges, unauthorized use of public equipment and engaging ...


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