From supervisor to rank and file and back again
Nursing Supervisor, Mario Lenzi recently found himself on the receiving end of a proposed demotion from supervisor to a rank and file position. Mario had over 20 years of service with the State with only a handful of counseling memos in his file. Nevertheless, the administration of the Salinas Valley Psychiatric Program felt it necessary to demote him after he failed to have a broken lock fixed which was reported to him two days prior. The cabinet on which the lock was broken contained patient files but was located in an area where inmates were never allowed unsecured. Mario was also not the only supervisor with access to the cabinet or who could have had the lock repaired. In addition to this, the Notice contained several other allegations which turned out to be completely groundless and based largely on assumption. This is often what happens when the department fails to conduct a proper investigation.
Goyette attorney Dan Thompson represented Mario at his Skelly hearing regarding the proposed demotion. Dan exposed several flaws in both the Department’s evidence and conclusions. Additionally, Dan argued that for a supervisor with such tenure and no prior major offenses, that the principles of progressive discipline had been completely ignored. Rather than properly rehabilitate and correct a good employee, the Department instead made hasty conclusions based on assumptions and harshly penalized him instead.
As a result of the Skelly, the decision to demote Mario was overturned and numerous sections of the Notice of Adverse removed. The discipline was also modified to an official letter of reprimand, which is a far cry from a demotion.
These types of cases only continue to stress the importance of thorough and aggressive representation at Skelly hearings and the fact that the state often fails its employees with improper disciplinary decisions. These off-base disciplinary actions cost thousands of dollars to the tax payers and cause extraordinary emotional and financial strain on the employee. Is it any wonder our state is broke?[Mario’s name changed to protect his privacy]