My name is Maria Hernandez. I am a Santa Clara County resident and taxpayer. After learning that my story is one of many abuses happening at the hands of Santa Clara County’s government I have decided to write this blog about my story hoping to: 1. Bring light to the dark face of fake progressive politics in Santa Clara County’s government 2. To inspire others to come forward with their personal stories, many of which I have personally learned from those who live in constant fear of retaliation and further abuse.
Not long ago, I was introduced to a very well-known and respected political figure in Silicon Valley. I was asked by this person why I had decided to run for office, so I explained that it was because so much corruption and wrongdoing were happening to good people at the expense of our tax dollars. When I started to mention the culprits and condoners of this abuse, this person interrupted me and told me to shut up and stop pointing out fingers. This person did not even want to hear about it. This person told me that I am charismatic and that being quiet on this subject would advance a future political career and chances of success.
If this person’s advice is an indication of the political establishment in Santa Clara County, that is a crude awakening and explains of why, despite years of complaining by citizens and public employees about the corruption in the County, nothing has been done and nothing has changed.
For the record, when I filed to run for office a week before the dateline and did not start to publicly campaign until just two months before the election, I did not do it to enter a congeniality contest or to be accepted as member of the old boys club. I did it because I could no longer bear seeing others suffer through what my family and I have suffered, financed with public tax dollars. So, respectfully to that person, I will not be silent because the need for justice speaks louder than any political correctness, opportunism, mocking, laughing, threat, prosecution or fall from political grace.
Before I continue, I am stating a disclaimer about my blog:
I am documenting this journey of bullying and abuse by the County of Santa Clara without my husband's blessing or consent, but since I have also been a victim of all this abuse for years, it is my right to speak up the truth as I see and experience it. I refuse to live in a state of fear, bullying, and intimidation. It is also my hope that others who came to me with their personal stories will get the courage to speak up. Bullies thrive when victims are silent. Some of the content in this blog I took from documents my husband has sent to the County Board of Supervisors, which are public record.
My husband, Evan Dowling is a government whistleblower and this is our story, which I have decided to document in this blog so that those who have yet reached out to me with their stories or are too afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation realize that being silent has not done anything for anyone suffering from government bullying, corruption, and intimidation. And for the many others going throughout the same oppressive experience, whether they are ordinary citizens or government employees, to realize they are not alone. And this is also for County taxpayers and everyone interested in justice, government accountability, and fiscal responsibility in the local government, so they can learn about the facts of Santa Clara County's government fake progressive politics and what it does to those who speak up against government corruption.
I am a factual person and all what I am writing here comes from documented evidence of all the wrongdoings and systematic corruption by Santa Clara County's Executive Management, condoned by our elected officials and paid with your tax dollars. Thus, setting aside my fears, embarrassment, and the personal pain of writing about the abuse my family has for years endured I present to you our story.
Please click on the underlined words and phrases to open documents, photos and other media.
On January 14, 2002 my husband Evan Dowling is hired as Management Analyst in the Department of Capital Programs by the County of Santa Clara.
The Beginning of Hell
For some time things were good for my husband at Capital Programs. Until March 2007, when one evening while attending an office party at a coworker's home, my husband experienced an embarrassing situation when I was dragged off from my husband's lap onto the floor by one of his female coworkers who then proceeded to do a lap dance, while grabbing his cheeks trying to kiss him. While I was on the floor trying to get up on my feet this woman's husband was entering the living room and by the look of his expression one could tell he was furious to see his wife on my husband's lap behaving in such way. And the worst part of this: the man was my husband's boss, and he and his wife worked together in the same department with my husband, and my husband conducted some of this woman's work including project and County Counsel billings, and report on that work to this woman's husband, who happened to be my husband's immediate boss. Nepotism anyone?
The next four years brought up an unimaginable amount of bullying, retaliation, and abuse towards my husband for the incident in which he was sexually harassed by his boss' wife, by now, for a second time during an employee office outing. My husband experienced increased and unreasonable amounts of work with very short deadlines; he was labeled incompetent and insubordinate by his boss. My husband's work environment grew increasingly negative and he was written up on numerous false charges by his boss which were ignorantly validated by another County Manager following my husband's filing his claims at DFEH in July 2010.
Although written up and handed out in paper to my husband, charges made against him were nowhere to be found in my husband’s employee record, proving that this was management’s personal guerilla warfare against my husband for pursuing justice.
The Toll of Bulling
On April 22, 2010 due to the accumulated work stress of the sexual harassment and the endless retaliation my husband suffered at work my husband ended up in the hospital's emergency room.
Previous to April 22, 2010, my husband had missed only two sick days in over eight years of employment with the County of Santa Clara and had no record of mental health services prior to this date.
After this incident I urged my husband to speak with Ken Rado, Capital Programs Manager and supervisor of my husband's boss and his wife. Along with my husband's then union representative Prudence Slaathaug, my husband and I met with Ken Rado at the end of April. During that meeting I explained to Ken what happened at these people's house during that specific office party, which my husband and I had attended. I explained to Ken Rado of the terrible situation my husband was cornered between my husband's boss and his wife. Since he had to work for and report to those two. I asked Ken Rado to please remove my husband from reporting to his supervisor since his supervisor and his wife had crossed ethical lines and private space at work with my husband.
Ken Rado's immediate response was shockingly dismissive. He told my husband to shrug off the sexual harassment and retaliation he was suffering at the hands of this couple. When my husband's union representative told Ken Rado that sexual harassment in the work place was a serious matter, Ken Rado responded that my husband did not have a case. I could not believe my ears. When I threatened to take the story to the San Jose Mercury News, Mr. Rado challenged me by declaring “go ahead and take your story to the Mercury News!” After pressure from my husband's union representative Ken Rado was forced to report my husband's claim to the County's Equal Opportunity Division department.
Not a Credible Witness
I witnessed both times when my husband was harassed by this female coworker. The first time I was thrown off by her to the floor from my husband’s lap, the second time I was behind my husband when this same female coworker slapped my husband’s buttocks. The second incident was also witnessed by my mother as we both were standing together behind my husband during one of his office outings. Yet when my mother and I were interviewed by the County’s Equal Opportunity Division (EOD) handling my husband’s sexual harassment complaint, we were deemed a “not credible witnesses.” In contrast, the people harassing my husband were given all credibility to their claims without ever even questioning the nepotism involving husband and wife working together in the same office. Such is the weight carried by power tipping off the scale of justice regardless of the evidence.
The Power that Silences
During my husband’s fight for worker’s compensation he was questioned by Deputy County Counsel Catherine Abate. The dynamics of these depositions left my husband trying to reconcile his preconceptions of justice and a fair system against the intimidating, unapologetic and brutal authoritarianism he experienced during these depositions. My husband was yelled at every time he tried to make a statement, laughed, scoffed, pressured into negating his reality and the truth and evidence he was armed with. Perhaps one of the things that left a forever imprint on my husband’s mind and my mind after learning about it, was the fact that this County Counsel attorney paid with taxpayer dollars had used her authority to wipe off from the official deposition transcript every trace of her abusive statements against my husband by simply stating to the transcriber “this is off the record.”
What followed after that was extreme bullying and spying on my husband by this power couple, and all sorts of abuse including:
- The County's illegal termination of my husband's union dues payment so that he would not have union representation.
- Wage theft.
- Abrupt notice of employment termination while we were on family vacation.
- Then bottom-down demotion, offering my husband an entry level low wage position within the County, also this while our family was on vacation.
- Management's spying, following, and shadowing every movement of my husband at work, instead of focusing on their own work. The sexual harasser taking a photograph of my husband while at work, which County Manager Dave Snow tried to use against my husband.
- Conspiracy by another Executive Manager from another department operating within the same building to smear my husband's reputation and character through false and unfounded accusations against my husband.
- Management forbid my husband from seeking assistance from anyone else he would otherwise receive help from for completing any work task without first asking permission from his boss, and that if his boss was not available then completion of the task was delayed, according to the vitriolic mandate of Mr. Snow. Prudence Slaathaug was a witness to this mandate and waste of county resources which purposefully reduced my husband’s productivity and value as an employee among his peers, and this was done to punitively single him out in revenge for his filing sexual harassment and retaliation charges.
The Cost to Taxpayers
Meanwhile a large number of professional consultant project agreements were retroactively executed; meaning that in many cases work was being conducted for many days, weeks and sometimes months by an outside consultant without a signed contract. Capital Programs Manager, Ken Rado, as a part of this ongoing complot against my husband’s productivity, delayed approving a retroactive contract that my husband needed to process by expressing uncertainty as to where to allocate $2 dollars, while these retroactive contracts were costing thousands of dollars to Santa Clara County taxpayers. By the way, Mr. Rado was the main person in charge of the highly over-budget and delayed renovation of Valley Medical Center during this time. As taxpayer and Santa Clara County resident I am sick to my stomach knowing my taxes have been supporting such managerial ineptitude and abuse of power.
Reaching Out for Help
All this was happening while I was in my final year at UC Santa Cruz and serving an internship with the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA (WPUSA). Even though I tried as hard as I could to hide the problems and abuse my husband was suffering at work, it became very evident to some people in WPUSA that something was wrong. Finally I confided to Steve Preminger, who back then worked there, about the horrible situation we were going through. He spoke with Cindy Chavez, who was the head of the South Bay Labor / WPUSA about what I had confided in him, and then asked me to reach out to Cindy Chavez for support. I was desperate, for despite the clear violation of the County’s bylaws and the years of wrongdoing against my husband nobody was there to help us. Given that my husband is a union member, I decided to reach out to Cindy Chavez. I briefly explained to her my husband's situation at work and she responded saying "we are family."
Fired, Demoted, Unemployed, Demoted
On July 2011 while we were on a family vacation my husband was notified he had been terminated from the County due to his position being eliminated by his boss. I remember listening to the phone call and breakdown crying. My mother was on the back seat with us and she learned what had just happened to my husband. She started crying with me. And I felt terrible, so bad that I could not project a stronger face for my mother and husband. Unfortunately, I knew too well the whole situation to try to ignore it. As we kept driving my husband received another call where he was notified that the County had found a maintenance position for him. I was in shock; this was the equivalent of offering a Medical Doctor the position of Nursing Aid; even worst, for my husband has never worked in maintenance. Hours later he received another phone call informing him that such position was no longer available and he was out of the County. Later he got another call from the County informing him that they had found an Associate Management Analyst A position with the County’s Mental Health Administration, which was a demotion from his current position. My husband had to take this demotion as the County did not have anywhere else they wanted to place him. As I was videotaping our trip, I recorded my husband’s last reaction and phone message to his new boss in the demoted position. It has been so long since I recorded this video that I found it extremely painful and hard to watch again and see my mother’s sadness for all what my husband was being put through during what it was supposed to be a precious enjoyable family time together. This is what Jeff Smith’s and the County of Santa Clara “Just Culture” do to male victims of sexual harassment and their loved ones.
The Quest for an Attorney
After my reaching out to Cindy Chavez nothing changed. If anything, things got worse for my husband. By then he had been given a right to sue notice by the state of California, which had a one year statute of limitations. Meaning that after the year, if he did not sue, his right to a lawsuit would be permanently waved. Here is when things became increasingly frustrating. The reality for government whistleblowers and workers suing the government is that very few attorneys want to take a lawsuit against the government, especially regarding public employees when the worker has not been terminated.
To add injury to the assault, some of these attorneys told my husband that although it was horrendous what was happening to him, no judge or jury would take his accusations of sexual assault seriously because he is a man. Some of these attorneys told my husband that if he was a woman or even perhaps a man of color the turn out of his case could be different. As Latina, I found it truly disgusting to see the hypocrisy, discrimination, and double standard against a victim of sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace due to him not being a member of a legally protected class.
So, most of the attorneys my husband reached out to declined to help him. The local nonprofit law firms in Santa Clara County would not take my husband's case either, as they are well connected and friends with the County and some of them receive funding from the County, and as they say, you do not bite the hand that feeds you.
Then, an acquaintance of my husband recommended him one of her friends. She said that if someone could help my husband, that would be a friend of hers. After such beaming and magnificent recommendation from this person we contacted this attorney.
This attorney corroborated what his referral had said, by stating that he knew how to be heard by the County. And since he was such great attorney, he did not work on contingency basis, so that we had to pay upfront for all his representation. After charging us a retainer, he told us that my husband did not have a case. The only thing that this so called "expert" attorney ever did for my husband was to send a letter to County Counsel ridden with grammar mistakes that even I, whose English is my second language could've done better without having to pay such hefty sum of money.
Finally, when it seemed that we would never be able to get an attorney to represent my husband, we found an attorney who after reviewing my husband's extensive documented evidence decided to take the case. This attorney also reiterated that despite the overwhelming evidence of abuse and harassment against my husband it would be a difficult case given that my husband is a white male. So, let's get this straight: the system prides itself in fighting for the rights of women and minorities like myself, but deliberately discriminates and prejudices against white males. This makes me sick to my stomach, for in my understanding of justice, justice should be given to all victims, all who have suffered injustice and wrongdoing despite of their skin color, sex, and any identity profilers. However, this was the reality we were faced with.
At the beginning things seem to finally be moving in the right direction and my husband's attorney got a couple of responses from County Counsel. But after that, things came to a complete stall. Despite my husband pressuring his attorney for action, the attorney kept saying that my husband needed to wait for the County to respond, all this while the deadline to file a lawsuit against the County was rapidly approaching.
Reaching Out to County Executive Jeff Smith
As time went by and things remained stalled, I grew up frustrated to the point that I decided to contact County Executive Jeff Smith. On September 12, 2011 I wrote him an email explaining my husband's situation and asking him to meet with me so that I could present him with evidence about my claims. Days went by and nothing happened. So on September 22, ten days later after my first email I wrote County Executive Smith another one with the following heading: "Not a Joke, Please Read: SCC Sexual Harassment & Retaliation." In that letter I notified County Executive Smith that Ken Rado had dared me to go to the San Jose Mercury News.
Less than an hour after I sent this email I received a response from County Executive Smith who said he had not seen the previous email, but now that he knew about it, he would immediately work on it. And he did. A few minutes later I received a phone call from County Executive Smith's Executive Assistant asking me for a time to meet with him.
The following week I went to the County's government center to meet with County Executive Smith. He received me and ushered me to a conference room. As we got closer to the entrance of the conference room I saw Cheryl Stevens, the County Counsel Attorney paid with our tax dollars to defend the power couple and those perpetrating against my husband. I abruptly stopped right outside the conference room, turned my face to County Executive Smith and asked him what Ms. Stevens was doing there, as I had the understanding I would be meeting alone with him. County Executive Smith replied that since the charges I had brought up to his attention were very serious, he could not meet alone with me.
So I responded "let's think about this, you are an attorney, Ms. Stevens is an attorney, and I am just a lone ordinary citizen." I felt I have walked into a set up, and a two-to-one ratio in this meeting certainly was not what I had in mind given previous experiences with other Executive Management who had twisted my words to fit the bullies own narrative. So I thanked County Executive Smith for his time and walked out of there without setting a foot into the conference room.
An Offer from the County to Settle
After months of silence, almost immediately after my failed meeting with County Executive Smith, my husband's attorney called him to express his disbelief and upset that I had contacted County Executive Jeff Smith. He also revealed to my husband that he and County Counsel Stevens had cordial relations and that the County had offer to settle my husband's lawsuit out of court, by offering my husband $15,000, a meager amount, that would be smaller after cutting a share for the attorney, an amount that did not began to cover all the loses that my husband and family had suffered due to this injustice and abuse extending for years. Someone brought up to my attention that County Executive Smith may have offered this amount so that it would not have to be approved by the County Supervisors. The County also wanted that my husband entered in accordance that the County and the power couple with their allies had done nothing wrong against my husband. Yet, contrary to what the County stated, below is a summary of the wage theft and loses my husband experienced:
Lost Social Security wages……………………………..………$14,778.56
Expenses, including attorney fees………………..…………..$6,658.92
2 years of inability to cash out STO……………………..……$6,374.24
Discriminatory & retaliatory premature demotion,
June 27 thru 30, 2011……………………………………..$364.80
Discriminatory and retaliatory demotion,
July 1, 2011 thru August 7, 2011,
involving 5 weeks and 1 day (July 1),
difference in wage rate between
Management Analyst and
Associate Management Analyst A…………………$2,371.20
SUBTOTAL AMOUNT ON LOSSES………………………………..$31,006.21
66 vacation hours missed
37.568934 missed accrual of vacation hours
276,2 hours of sick time missed
11.1194 missed accrual of sick time hours
45.3 days of service missed
All of the above in addition hundreds of hours of precious time that should have been spent with me and our family, along with my husband's character, professional image, reputation which since then have been dragged and smeared throughout the County.
So, my husband and I found the County's settlement insulting and disgraceful. Please know that in no moment did my husband or I tried to bleed the County for money, or wanted to be rich at the expense of taxpayers. When all this started, the only thing that my husband and I asked was for him to be removed from the middle of this power couple. I had asked Ken Rado to have my husband report directly to him, instead of his boss given the conflict of interest, and hatred this man and his wife had developed against my husband. But instead of doing the right thing, Ken Rado escalated things not only by forcing my husband to continue report to his vindictive boss, and continuing doing work for his boss' wife, but on top of that he and other Executive Managers sided with this power couple to increase bullying and retaliation against my husband, which led to our many losses.
Ironically, on December 11, 2018 I received this email from Working Partnerships USA titled: "Tackling wage theft in Santa Clara County," in which WPUSA's Deputy Executive Director addresses the epidemic of worker wage theft and the exciting news that on December 4, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve founding to pilot the County's inaugural Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement (OLSE). The County should be reminded that best practices begin at home, and the County has failed miserably to so many workers like my husband.
No Justice, No Settlement
My husband and I realized that the County's offer was a hard slap on our faces. In a response to his attorney my husband provided an analogy that summarized our situation: "If an intruder were to break into your home and with a ball bat deliberately and maliciously smash all your windows, your china, your television, your kitchen appliances, and all your family portraits and then his attorney stated that you cannot recover your damages but rather settle for a trivial amount at far less than 50 cents on the dollar so you can get on with your life because the criminal should not to be held accountable any further than that nor admit responsibility, would you accept that proposal? I think not."
The precious time we had wasted thinking that my husband would achieve justice through this attorney, who turned out to have a cordial relationship with County Counsel, and informed us that the $15,000 offered to my husband was all what we would see back from the County had left us only with a few weeks before the DFEH deadline to file a lawsuit. While it is common that most of the lawsuits brought up against the County get settled outside court, in our particular case, the County had dragged their feet in responding to my husband’s lawsuit to have the DFEH statute of limitations pass, and repay nothing at all from what had been stolen from my husband.
After the local attorney experiences we had my husband started looking for attorneys outside Santa Clara County. The encouraging feedback he received from law firms about the strength of his case against the County, unfortunately also came with the acknowledgement that there was not enough time for these attorneys to review all the amount of evidence in the case and therefore most of them declined to take my husband’s case.
In the meantime bullying, harassment and retaliation at work continued for my husband, which took another toll on his health forcing him to take time off from work.
Reaching Out to Ken Yeager, County Supervisor District 4
Increasingly frustrated by the pressing injustice my husband and our family were experiencing I decided to reach out to Supervisor Ken Yeager who until December 2018 represented the district we live in. The bad treatment I had received by some County staff and Executive Management during the course of my seeking justice, paled in comparison to the treatment I received by Jim Preston, Supervisor Yeager’s Chief of Staff. During our late August 2011 phone conversation, Preston was very dismissive and condescending and when I asked him for a meeting with Supervisor Yeager, Preston responded that Supervisor Yeager was a very busy man and his agenda had more important use of his time than meeting with me. Ouch! Not in a million years was I expecting such a response. I am certain when Supervisor Yeager was a candidate asking for people’s vote he was more receptive and respectful to voters than this. Sadly, fast forwarding to the present time, I realize that a meeting with Supervisor Yeager would have not help my husband to achieve justice. As you continue reading this blog you will learn why and the evidence that sustains my claim.
Reaching Out to Dave Cortese, President of the Board of Supervisors in 2011
After my failed attempt to meet with Yeager, the County Supervisor representing our district, I decided to reach out to Dave Cortese, who back in 2011 was the President of the County Board of Supervisors. On September 1, 2011 I emailed Supervisor Cortese after having a phone conversation with Mike Donohoe, one of Supervisor Cortese’s staff members two weeks before when I had tried to get an appointment to meet with Supervisor Cortese, but similar to Supervisor Yeager, his agenda was too busy to meet with an ordinary citizen. Before this situation had forced me to want to meet with an elected official, I had no idea that politicians once elected to office would become so busy to meet with the people. Yet, in later years I have learned that this is the case, at least for ordinary citizens. Maybe things are different for big campaign donors, community leaders, or other more notable and important people seeking to meet with our elected officials.
So, on my September 1, 2011 email to Supervisor Cortese I explained to him that I had requested and appointment to meet with him, but so far I had heard nothing back from his office and that as suggested by Mike Donohoe, today I had delivered a package of evidence to his office to Lara McCabe.
I never received any email response from Supervisor Cortese acknowledging the documents I delivered to Lara McCabe in person or the same documents I emailed Supervisor Cortese. So, I checked his public agenda and found out he was having a presentation at Evergreen Senior Community Center. Although I had not met Supervisor Cortese in person he seemed to be a good man, so I thought that perhaps if I attended the event I would be able to have at least a couple of minutes to speak with him. When I arrived I was immediately spotted by Ms. McCabe and as Supervisor Cortese was getting ready to speak. Ms. McCabe approached Supervisor Cortese, whispered in Supervisor Cortese’s ear while pointing at me. For the look on their faces it was like they had seen a ghost. I have always believed that perhaps Supervisor Cortese and Ms. McCabe though that I would make a big scene during his presentation. However if such were their concerns they must have been relieved when I remained quiet during Supervisor Cortese’s presentation. Almost at the end of Supervisor Cortese’s presentation I had to take a phone call outside and I almost missed him, as he seemed to be in a rush to get out of there. Being such a busy person, it is understandable. I ended my phone call and rushed to reach out to Supervisor Cortese. I yelled his name and he stopped and looked back at me. I introduced myself and reminded him that I had personally left a package of evidence for him with Ms. McCabe, and that I had emailed him the same evidence. I also personally handled him another set of evidence. He took it, thanked me for my time and left.
That was the last contact I had with Supervisor Cortese or any other elected official.
Aftermath from Reaching Out to Elected Officials
I truly wish I could write in this blog that after my many attempts to seek justice and presenting our elected officials and all those who are supposed to enforce the law and ensure a “Just Culture” within the County my husband and our family received justice, but this was not the case then, just as it is now, and just as it has been for many public employees and ordinary citizens who have experienced the dark side of politics in this County.
The disheartening reality we faced was that every time we brought up the County’s corruption and wrongdoing to a new entity, more abuse and retaliation followed my husband, while my husband’s retaliatory supervisor was rewarded with sweet job promotions, in many cases just fancier titles to get a higher pay while doing the same work, so that some of these managers could retire with higher pensions. Many years later I learned from County workers in other departments what some managers had scornfully said to these workers, who like my husband had exposed corruption: “Go ahead and report me, your claim against me will help me to get a promotion.” They were right. This is the reality in Santa Clara County.
“Life is not Fair and Sometimes You Must Learn to Live with Injustice”
As my husband’s workload increased to unreasonable levels in management’s callous attempt to set him for failure, my husband and I met with his then CEMA union representative, Prudence Slaathaug, to ask her to seek into an end to all the increasing bullying and retaliation my husband was suffering at work. I told her of my trying to meet with County Supervisors Ken Yeager and Dave Cortese and she said that they are such important people that they do not have time to waste on listening to my claims. I was shocked and appalled to hear Prudence’s response, for what I was bringing to the elected officials attention was not an ordinary whimsical or crazy fantasy story to waste their time, but loads of evidence of government misconduct, abuse of power, wrongdoing, and injustice paid with our tax dollars, and while the County Supervisors cannot officially fire these corrupt officials, they could have held County Executive Jeff Smith accountable. Unfortunately after all these years that has not been the case. Supervisor Chavez once told my husband that the only people the County Supervisors can fire is the County Executive and the head of County Counsel, both of which are corrupt and use their power to protect a culture of micromanagement, retaliation, loyalism and comradery as the local news media has reported on many occasions over the years. However, rather than defend taxpayers and the people who voted them into office Supervisor Chavez and the rest of the Supervisors not only protect, but also defend County Executive Jeff Smith and County Counsel’s James Williams despite well-documented evidence of condoning abuse and neglect on the part of these highly paid and powerful individuals.
I was highly disappointed to hear this answer from a union leader. When I decided to intern with the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships I did so because I believed in social and economic justice and those they were the operating principles and final of progressive institutions, including labor unions.
When I had beginning to lose all hope in 2011 of my husband finding legal representation, a miracle happened. A young attorney from Oakland contacted my husband and agreed to take his case. This attorney did not have the connections, friendship or conflict of interest we had seen before in some of the attorneys we had come across during this ordeal. This forced the County to finally respond. It is a reality that the system is self-protective and the only way change happens in any kind of political or governmental system is action from outside.
My husband ended up settling with the County out of Court and although we did not recovered our total loses, this attorney was able to recover more than the $15k originally offered as “good will” from the County. Still, the County refused to acknowledge the abuse and any wrongdoing on the part of Executive Management and this power couple, who after creating a new work title and work under such title for a few months, my husband’s boss retired with a higher pension thanks to his self-promotion supported by upper management in Capital Programs. So, when during the primary election in June 2018 I learned about the self-righteous political mailer that the County’s Attorney’s Association was bringing to the light to denounce the City of San Jose paying $10,000 to settle a lawsuit against Councilmember Pierluigui Oliverio for allegedly verbally harassing a subordinate, I could not help to see disgraceful double standard with how County Counsel conducts themselves. Their selectively discriminatory cries for justice are a disgrace. Such double standards are what cynical identity politics are made of and what severely destroys the credibility of justice.
Transferred and demoted
In early July, 2011 my husband placed by the County with Mental Health Services with demotion and less pay. Several weeks later he was reinstated to his original Management Analyst position and transferred to Social Services Agency’s Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) Administration.
The Illusion of a Fresh Beginning
In the Social Services Agency my husband reported directly to Lee Pullen, the Director of DAAS. My husband was happy and very content with his new workplace, and seeing him so happy returned my confidence that the horrible nightmare we had lived through had ended although we did not see justice fully served and we had losses that could never be paid, such as time and peace of mind lost.
Before the New Storm
On late October, 2012, about the time my husband’s lawsuit settled with the County, my husband was assigned to assist the Public Administrator Guardian / Conservator in revising over one-hundred policies and procedures. Revising and updating the PAG/C policies and procedures was critically important as the Civil Grand Jury had issued findings that the department was lacking in many of its operations, including in their policies and procedures, which are designed to direct and assist PAG/C staff so that they can do their job and provide their best program possible in support of the public welfare. So if these employees are not doing their job is to the detriment of the public welfare. Please note that conservatees are people that are found mentally unable to care for their health and/or finances and when there is nobody, including family, friends or acquaintances, who is available or willing to provide care for them the County has the legal obligation to conserve them.
While performing multiple duties within DAAS Administration my husband was also assisting with the PAG/C policies and procedures, but because of his regular job duties my husband was not able to make a lot of the progress as expected by management. So on April 1, 2013 my husband was transferred to the Public Guardian’s Office which is within DAAS, and was assigned to work with Don Moody, former Public Administrator Guardian / Conservator to update the critically important policies and procedures which was being demanded by Santa Clara County’s Civil Grand Jury.
When my husband asked about the transfer, he was told by Lee Pullen that there was not enough work for him in DAAS for Mr. Pullen to justify keeping my husband’s position in the DAAS Administration and he did not know what to do with my husband, and that this was the only option for my husband. Having no other choice my husband was transferred to the PAG/C.
My husband knew some of the heat the Office of the Public Guardian / Conservator had been taken, but he did not know the extent of the scandal. He knew his new job would be challenging, but he was determined to help to the best of his capacities to get the job done. So for several weeks my husband would work very late after work, and he would even got special permission to go in and work on weekends. Despite my husband’s many hours of hard work to update the PAG/C policies and procedures, he did not seem to accomplish the desired results as his work would keep mysteriously and inexplicably disappearing over and over, so all the hundreds of hours of extra work given to complete the task would be wasted, setting my husband farther and farther behind. For long time he was afraid to report this to his superiors as he was afraid he would be retaliated against. He knew that his claims would be dismissed and he would be labeled incompetent.
In recent years I have learned through other County employees about similar experiences, and that the same has happened to them. In an specific case, a third person in the office, after seeing the distressed employee considering going to see a Psychiatrist, this person informed her peer, that she was not losing her mind, that in deed, her boss had been accessing her work computer and altering and deleting the employee's records to make this employee feel crazy while also writing her up as incompetent.
Working Out of Class
On July 2013 after Lee Pullen left the County of Santa Clara, James Ramoni got promoted to Interim DAAS Director and the Senior Management Analyst in DAAS had been promoted to another position. So the statistical reports that until then had been the Senior Management Analyst responsibility fell upon my husband since he already knew how to accurately and successfully do them. Given the huge workload in the department, from July 30, 2013 to early December 2013 my husband worked unpaid out of class performing key Senior Management Analysis duties, including reports required by State law, as directed by Don Moody with the approval of Mr. Ramoni, after Mr. Ramoni inquired whether my husband was able to do the work. All this time, Mr. Ramoni wanted to keep his fingerprints out of this to avoid any responsibility to pay my husband for working out of class.
More Wage Theft from the County of Santa Clara
My husband never got paid for all the hundreds of hours he worked performing Senior Management Analyst duties. So, once more, I find very sarcastic and ironic the fact that the County of Santa Clara has now formed an Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement (OLSE) to combat workers’ wage theft.
The Stigma of Being a Senior Working for Santa Clara County, an “Age Friendly County”
When the Senior Management Analyst position became open, the former Senior Management Analyst approached my husband and encouraged him to apply for the position, stating that she did not know of anyone that could do the work better than my husband since he had already successfully completed the state mandated reports for a few months without receiving any pay adjustment.
So while the County of Santa Clara publicly congratulates itself for being an Age-Friendly County, the reality for many County workers, including my husband, is that their experience, expertise, working out of class to accommodate the County’s needs, true merit, work ethic and integrity mean nothing, because what is demanded within the County above all else is comradery, friendship, political alliances, and loyalty.
On November 22, 2013, the Senior Management position went to a 31 year old David Tran, a newly hired, but highly favored employee of Mr. Ramoni, even though Mr. Tran had just finished his nine-month probation with the County of Santa Clara, as a new employee. On December 30, 2013, as a consolation prize and recognition for my husband’s dedication and hard work he was given an excellent employee performance appraisal from Don Moody.
County workers, especially those working in Social Services are mandated reporters, meaning that they are legally required to report victims of abuse, whether they are being abuse by a third party or they are self-neglecting and abusing themselves. Failure to do so can result in the employee being written-up, terminated, fined and even sent to jail. See Mandated Reporter California Law here. In Late February 2014 my husband submitted a report of self-neglect abuse of one of our tenants who was in poor health and needed help. This person had serious medical and mental issues that required urgent professional care, which neither my husband nor I are qualified to provide. The relatives of this individual were also unable to care for him. This resulted in my husband exercising his duty as a mandated reporter. He contacted Kristina Cunningham, who at the time was the Adult Protective Services Manager.
No Assets No Care
An investigation was conducted and promptly dismissed as a landlord-tenant issue. So, yes, while the same department has so fiercely fought to conserve wealthy seniors who do not need any care in order to take control of their finances and assets; the department couldn’t care less for our tenant suffering from severe mental and health issues and whose life and well-being was worthless to the County of Santa Clara’s Social Services Agency, as this individual is penniless. My husband was severely ridiculed by Don Moody, the man who had been accused of forcefully conserving wealthy seniors and isolating them from their families. Moody told my husband “why would you rent to somebody who is disabled and has those problems. You brought those problems on yourself.” Yep, that was the statement coming out of the mouth of the man leading the Office of the Public Guardian / Conservator. This was reported to the Board of Supervisors by my husband, but he never got a response from any of the Supervisors’ office staff
Forced to Do Their Job
As the family of our tenant, the abuse victim, realized the time was running out, one of his cousins who is an attorney took the matter to Probate Court to court to fight for a conservatorship for their loved one. On July 23, 2014 while at work my husband received a 28 minute call from Probate Court Investigator, regarding the abuse victim.
Retaliation for Following the Law
Following my husband’s mandated reporting, the amount of workload increased tremendously. He was directed by Mr. Moody, who also copied Mr. Ramoni, to revise all the policies and procedures and make them all accurate pertaining to three categories by August 31. Mr. Ramoni however immediately told my husband that he made the department look really bad with the policies and procedures due to my husband’s poor job performance and that therefore Mr. Ramoni expected that my husband revise the policies and procedures and reflect their current state in their totality, not just the three categories originally requested by Mr. Moody.
A Set Up for Failure
The reality of the situation is that while my husband had been working on those policies and procedures for a few months, these policies and procedures ranked low priority on Mr. Moody and Mr. Ramoni’s to do list, as my husband had been assigned multiple projects at the same time. Another fact is that my husband was told to revise and update 104 policies and procedures without any help from Program Supervisors whatsoever. So, while my husband is an excellent writer and analyst, he is not qualified, trained, educated, or knowledgeable on the complex legal jargon of PAG/C. In this particular task, even a Social Worker would have to be highly qualified and knowledgeable to successfully complete this task. This type of work would require the expertise of at least someone in the position of an experienced Assistant Public Guardian, which my husband was certainly not. Note that before my husband was assigned with revising, updating and completing the PAG/C policies and procedures, there used to be a Policies and Procedures Committee attended by Social Work Supervisors and other experts on the matter. But Mr. Moody disbanded the committee prior to my husband’s arrival to the program.
Many times I have visualized my husband as a brave soldier sent to the front lines to fight the war with his bare hands. In the years that I have been employed in the private sector I have never encountered this level of abuse and vindictive managerial leadership, which I find particularly disturbing given the fact that these people are paid with our tax dollars and their vindictive actions towards workers is to the disregard of the public welfare. By now my husband and I had realized that the corruption and abuse of power within the County is not limited to Capital Programs. And as my husband’s career with the County has continued, I realize that what I was told by other County employees is true. Once blacklisted, the employee will have miserable existence for the rest of his / her days in the County no matter how hard the employee works, how much passion, commitment, time and life he or she contributes. So, in retrospect, I realize that my husband was never offered a fresh beginning as he deserved in spite of all the abuse and sexual harassment he suffered in Capital Programs.
On August 5, 2014 my husband filed an Age Discrimination Complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). My husband wanted to file the complaint months before, but was concerned that he would be retaliated by cancelling his annual summer vacation, the only time he has every year to visit and spend time with his children.
First Disciplinary Action
On August 18, 2014 my husband sent an email to Mr. Ramoni, copying Mr. Moody about the state of the PAG/C policies and procedures, detailing a plan to revise them, as it was impossible for my husband to complete the project by the August 31 deadline. Eight days later, on August 26 Mr. Ramoni led a hostile meeting against my husband in which my husband was threatened with disciplinary action if he did not revise the 104 PAG/C policies and procedures by September 30, 2014.
In that meeting Mr. Ramoni went into a loud tirade, angrily yelling at my husband, thus, violating the County’s Prevention of Workplace Violence Policy, without any consequences to him. Mr. Ramoni’s angry behavior was witnessed by my husband’s union representative, who called Mr. Ramoni’s behavior “unhinged.” Note that although the County has covered their tracks by claiming that the County was served at a County address outside the social services agency, and according to the County my husband’s lawsuit got lost in the weeds, and that the Social Services Agency did not know about my husband’s lawsuit until September, I am convinced that Mr. Ramoni knew of my husband’s Age Discrimination complaint at the time of this meeting where he displayed such unhinged behavior as described by my husband’s union representative.
Nevertheless, such angry displays of behavior by Mr. Ramoni have for years been a recurring behavioral pattern of Mr. Ramoni against subordinates he dislikes, without ever facing consequences for his unprofessional behavior and actions.
Illegal Confiscation of Personal Property
In late August, 2014 after Mr. Ramoni’s department and County Counsel waged a fierce battle refusing to conserve the abuse victim, a Probate Court Judge ruled against the County of Santa Clara and Mr. Ramoni’s department, forcing them to do their job and conserve this person who had been renting a room in our house. This person’s mental state had deteriorated to the point of possible violence, so by then I had gotten a no trespassing notice from the Sheriff’s office to post on the front door of our house. On August 27 Carlotta Royal and Frieda Njumbe, employees of PAG/C physically removed their new conservatee from our house.
From my security monitor I saw these employees attempting to use the tenant’s front key to enter our house when they noticed the no trespassing yellow sign posted above the lock. So they rang the bell and I opened the door. They informed me that they were helping the tenant to move out. I asked them for our house keys and they refused to return them to me despite their being perfectly aware that at this point neither the tenant nor anyone representing him could enter our house without our consent. Five times I asked them to return my house keys that day, and they refused.
The second day that they were moving the tenant, I asked again, and I was told that they would give the keys to my husband who worked in the same office. However, when my husband went to Ms. Royal’s office, she slammed her door on my husband’s face and refused to return the house keys to him, even though he is the property owner. Ironically Mr. Ramoni later would claim that it was determined by the Public Guardian that the office would by dealing with me as much as possible to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest given that my husband was an employee of the Public Guardian’s Office.
The fact is that our house keys were being passed around the department. Fearing for our safety and the safety of our other tenants I was forced to change the locks. I was very upset about this illegal abuse of power.. Remember how this department had been fighting to conserve wealthy seniors? Yet, they were very angry that my husband had done his duty as a mandated reporter to help an obvious self-abuse victim who desperately needed to be conserved and which Mr. Ramoni’s department refused to conserve because this person has no financial assets.
It was only after I, on September 7, 2014, contacted Bruce Wagstaff, who was then Social Services Director, that the department tried to cover for Ms. Royal, who after being notified, about my fax to Mr. Wagstaff by Mr. Wagstaff’s Executive Assistant, frantically went to my husband’s desk to ask for my phone number. When my husband asked why she needed my phone number she replied to give me a call to deliver our house keys. My husband responded that she could give him the keys since he is the owner, but she refused. Instead had one of her Social Workers take a County vehicle and drive to our house. What a waste of taxpayer money! When she arrived I was not home and she called me multiple times, but my phone was off so I did not see her calls.
So after my having to change our house locks to ensure our safety I sent Mr. Ramoni an invoice for the $457.02 dollars I unnecessarily had to pay due to Ramoni’s department refusal to return our house keys and their passing them around to God knows who else in the department, despite of my early asking for the keys and their refusal to deliver the keys to my husband working with them in the same office.
Reporting Another Abuse Victim
And the irony of life is that two days after the first Abuse Victim was removed from our house my husband reported a second one, also living at our house. This person had been living at our house longer than my husband and I had been married and after his health begin declining his family was keeping a close eye on him, so we felt there was no need to do anything as he was been cared by his family and he was still able to care for himself. However, the family notified my husband of an incident that raised serious concerns about this person’s health and safety. So, you can imagine how much worse things got for my husband at work.
Mail Tampering by DAAS Staff
Whereas changing the locks of our house after Mr. Ramoni’s staff refused to promptly return our house keys was a necessity, I became very alarmed and upset when I learned that Ms. Royal and a subordinate Social Worker had returned to our house when we were not there and committed mail tampering. A review of our surveillance video discovered these women stealing our mail in two separate incidents. And although many people found this to be outrageous and illegal, Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County District Attorney and the postal inspector found it to be perfectly legal. The DA’s office office said to my husband that there was no crime committed, since the tampering of our house mail had not been done for monetary profit. And the postal inspector said to us that if we did not want our mail stolen we should install a lock box. I just want to imagine what would happen to me or my husband if we were to take mail from their mailbox.Below is the video surveillance:
On September 5, 2014 an article in San Jose Inside was published in which a PAG/C Supervisor, Barbara Herlihy, expressed that she felt sorry for my husband, in a leaked Civil Grand Jury testimony, as she stated that my husband would likely be blamed by Don Moody for the failed state of the policies and procedures, which were a priority of the Civil Grand Jury, but not of DAAS. Ms. Herlihy was a prophet; my husband got blamed big time for the failure to revise the PAG/C policies and procedures, even though Mr. Moody and Mr. Ramoni refused to help him and prohibited my husband from asking questions of the Social Work Supervisors who have working knowledge of the PAG/C policies and procedures. Last year, on November 21, 2018 County Counsel Attorney Jeff Gaskill admitted to my husband and his union representative that Mr. Ramoni needed a scapegoat and that Mr. Ramoni’s October 31, 2014 letter of reprimand against my husband was illegitimate. This is the reality of what County Executive Jeff Smith’s Just Culture actually is about.
My First Time Speaking at the Board of Supervisors Public Meeting
Up to this point I had, still have, very hard time trying to understand the evilness hidden under the face of progressive politics. The actions of some of the executive managers in the County are so disgraceful and reprehensible, yet those individuals thrive, get praise, recognition and accolades throughout their careers of corruption, abuse and incompetence, whereas hardworking, dedicated and honest individuals get bullied, reprimanded, scolded, forced to quit or blacklisted from any possibility of promotion.
Faced with all the abuse and atrocities happening to my husband and our family I decided to speak up at the Board of Supervisors public meeting on September 9, 2014.
Afterwards Supervisor Chavez saw my husband and told him: “I saw Maria speaking at the Board, but I could not understand her accent.” Very interesting that while I worked as a full-time unpaid intern with her at the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships, she never seemed to have a problem understanding my accent, and now that I came to her and the other Supervisors to denounce government corruption and abuse of power she suddenly had trouble with my accent. Even more interesting is that despite of her not understanding my accent, Supervisor Chavez has never cared about having someone from her office who understands my accent reach out to me, even when Supervisor Chavez since 2011 has known the hell my husband was going through at work, when she replied to me “we are family.”
Forbidden From Abiding the Law
On September 12, 2014 my husband was warned by Kristina Cunningham, the then Adult Protective Services Manager, to not provide any further information about Abuse Victim #2 or ask any questions unless someone from Adult Protective Services (APS) contacted him. On addition to this, Ms. Cunningham refused to amend my husband’s initial report when my husband told her that the victim had threatened to kill his sister, and insisted that my husband not interfere with their process and investigation. Fast forwarding to this year, Ms. Cunningham not only advanced her career within the County, but she also received a big commendation and accolades from Supervisor Chavez on January 15, 2019 during her retirement ceremony.
My Husband’s 1st Letter to the County Board of Supervisors
On September 12, 2014 my husband sent his first letter ever to the Board of Supervisors with evidence of official misconduct, disregard of the public welfare and retaliation. He never got a response from any of the Supervisors or their staff.
Santa Clara County’s Whistleblower Office
That same month my husband reached out to the County’s Whistleblower Office and had two phone conversations with an Intake Management Analyst at County Counsel regarding official misconduct and wrongdoing. At the beginning the intake person was outraged by the documented evidence and told my husband that a County Counsel attorney would be calling my husband right away. Days went by, a couple of weeks went by, and my husband never received a call, so he emailed the Intake Management Analyst informing her that so far no one had contacted him and asked her when would she think he would receive a call as she promised, but she never replied back. My husband also called her multiple times but she never picked up the phone or returned my husband’s calls. It became clear that she was avoiding any contact with me husband.
Don Moody’s Dismissal
Due to increasing pressure from the news media on September 25, 2014 Don Moody was expelled from office by security after returning from a lengthy vacation which Mr. Ramoni approved despite the need to have the PAG/C policies and procedures completed.
The following day my husband sent an email to Mr. Ramoni asking for a meeting with him, as my husband had a large stack of policies and procedures in which he needed input from Mr. Ramoni, since Mr. Moody was no longer available. By the way, Mr. Moody and Mr. Ramoni were supposed to be the experts on PAG/C policies and procedures, yet, when at the insistence of my husband’s union representative, Mr. Moody reluctantly agreed to help my husband with the technical and legal jargon, Mr. Moody himself during his final days in office had to call for advice from the same supervisors that he and Mr. Ramoni had demanded that my husband refrain from contacting. So now that it came Mr. Ramoni’s turn to prove his leadership and expertise on the subject, he absolutely refused to meet with my husband to provide any assistance and support in completing the PAG/C policies and procedures. Given all what I now know about Mr. Ramoni, I suspect he refused to meet with my husband, because he, himself was not competent enough to assist with the technical questions required to successfully complete the PAG/C policies and procedures.
Praise for James Ramoni
The following month after my September 9, 2014 speech to the Board of Supervisors where I presented evidence of abuse and wrongdoing by Mr. Ramoni and his associates, Supervisor Ken Yeager during the DAAS all staff meeting at Sanborn Park, in early October poo-pooed my claims and evidence of abuse against Mr. Ramoni to all the staff by saying that while some things had been said against Mr. Ramoni that did not make him look very good, Supervisor Yeager spoke for all the County Board of Supervisors, in that all of them had total faith and confidence in Mr. Ramoni’s abilities and that he was such a wonderful leader.
While I found Supervisor Yeager’s praise of Mr. Ramoni very insulting, many of departmental staff found Supervisor Yeager’s remarks highly aggravating and disgraceful, for many of these employees have known for years Mr. Ramoni’s abusive behavior towards his subordinates, and in one of these instances, when Mr. Ramoni bullied Mr. Ralph Hayes, a highly respected and loved Social Work Supervisor by sending him a hostile letter even after Mr. Hayes had retired. Mr. Hayes was so distraught by Mr. Ramoni's abusive behavior that he contacted his elected official who happened to be former Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager and wrote him a letter denouncing the bullying he had endured and Mr. Ramoni's violation of the law by Mr. Ramoni’s denial to reimburse Mr. Hayes for out of pocket expenses incurred while conducting County business. See the documents and evidence here.
Yet, the only thing ever happened to Mr. Ramoni for bullying a Social Worker and breaking the law by his initial refusal to reimburse Mr. Hayes incurred expenses while conducting County business was that the County of Santa Clara fearing a lawsuit, forced Mr. Ramoni to write an apology to the Social Work Supervisor.
After these employee complaints about Mr. Ramoni’s bullying, Mr. Ramoni was promoted to DAAS Director with the blessing of our elected officials.
A Hostile Transfer
On September 30, 2014, roughly a week after I sent a response letter to Mr. Ramoni for his denial to reimburse my expenses for changing our house locks, my husband received an email from Mr. Ramoni, announcing his hostile transfer, including false claims of poor job performance, particularly regarding the PAG/C policies and procedures, which Mr. Ramoni and Mr. Moody had refused to provide any significant support for my husband to complete them. In the email sent to my husband, Mr. Ramoni copied my husband’s future supervisors Terry Possley and Renae Bhader. The email read something like this: “Evan, after you did not measured up in PAG/C, and proved to be incompetent and unable to adequately perform your duties you are being transfer to In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) and will report to Ms. Badher, copied in this email. Hopefully you measure up there.”
Physical Assault and Bodily Injury
So in addition to this incredible hostile transfer letter, we eventually, through a deposition of Ms. Possley on August 28, 2017 by my husband’s attorney, found out that Mr. Ramoni and Ms. Possley had discussed at length ergonomics for my husband’s new office desk. When my husband’s attorney essentially asked why would it be a high priority to discuss ergonomics about Mr. Dowling?” Ms. Possley replied that they wanted to make sure my husband would be comfortable and safe at his new workplace. In reality, my husband was given a very low desk that would have been perfect for a midget, but not for a regular person. Mr. Ramoni’s and Ms. Possley’s ergonomic design for my husband had him cramped in a teeny tiny desk with his knees unable to fit under the desk and his back being forced into a hunch position. After such a hostile administrative transfer by Mr. Ramoni, my husband was afraid that if he complained about the unfit ergonomics of his desk he would be further retaliated against, so for about four months he worked under this physical torture which resulted in back injury and severe pain, which was noted in the ergonomics evaluation requested by my husband.
By January 2015, my husband felt a great deal of tightness and stress in his lower back, so he arranged for an ergonomic evaluation which confirmed what we already knew: his body was facing likely injury due to the improper ergonomics purposefully designed by Mr. Ramoni and Ms. Possley. Here is the second ergonomics evaluation and photo
Again, Mr. Ramoni is the Director of the Department of Aging and Adult Services, which supposedly cares for the well-being of seniors and adults with disabilities, yet, he could not set aside his personal vendetta against my husband to do what he is paid to do. Instead he purposely arranged a work space design that would result in physical injury to my husband, who is a senior. This is another example of Jeff Smith’s so called Just Culture, which is condoned and celebrated by our County Supervisors.
Threatened Again for Obeying the Law
On October 16, 2014, ten days after his hostile transfer to IHSS, my husband attended a meeting at the request of Mr. Ramoni, in which my husband was threatened with discipline due his “conflict of interest” of being a mandated reporter for our tenants while serving as a County employee. When I learned this I was very pissed to hear how Mr. Ramoni was able to distort facts to kill two birds with a stone: punishing my husband, whom he profusely hates and protect his office from conserving another innocent, but penniless self-abuse victim under their care, with all this in direct contradiction with and in violation of the County’s mandated reporter bylaws. This is Catch 22 by our local government financed with our tax dollars.
Recently while I was discussing my husband’s role as mandated reported and government whistleblower, a local community leader said to me “Wow! What your husband did is commendable! So many people see and know of abuse and victims of neglect and they do nothing. Did your husband receive a monetary reward for his actions?” When I informed this person that there is no monetary reward or any kind of financial compensation to public employees for doing what is their duty as County employees, this community leader asked me if the County had recognized my husband’s actions on behalf of these victims of self-neglect. When I responded that retaliation, intimidation, and abuse had been imposed upon my husband as result of his mandated reporting, this person was shocked and appalled.
First Letter of Reprimand
Every County employee has a personnel file in which information about the employee is placed. The personnel file of the employee is the employee’s history and permanent record of the worker’s time with the County. From employee appraisals, recognition, promotions, to negative observations and letters of reprimand, all is kept in the employees’ personnel file. A letter of reprimand is a disciplinary action against the worker and a black stain on the worker. Letters of reprimand is the County’s gateway to imposing harsh discipline, from unpaid suspension from the workplace to termination from the County. So in essence a letter of reprimand is in many cases the first step towards termination.
On October 31, 2014 Mr. Ramoni issued my husband his first letter of reprimand copying my husband’s new supervisor, Renae Bhader and IHSS Program Manager Terry Possley. The letter of reprimand was given to my husband citing insubordination and incompetence for failing to complete the 104 PAG/C policies and procedures before the deadline established by Mr. Ramoni and Mr. Moody. So, while my husband had been working on the PAG/C policies and procedures for about one and a half years, this was not his only assignment, and by orders of upper management, many times the policies and procedures had been relegated to the bottom of the priority list. Also conveniently and intentionally ignored by Mr. Ramoni is the fact that my husband had been pulled out of working the policies and procedures to do statistical reporting and other out of class work for many months. And despite my husband’s recommendation to Mr. Ramoni to get a full-time person assigned to complete the policies and procedures, Mr. Ramoni and Mr. Moody had insisted on having my husband multitask and carry many other high priority projects.
But after my husband was reprimanded for incompetence and insubordination for failure to complete the policies and procedures, Mr. Ramoni eventually hired a highly paid consultant to complete this task. Yet, a couple of years later, the famous policies and procedures were still largely unrevised, and my husband still being hammered by Mr. Ramoni as incompetent. Interestingly I never heard of Mr. Ramoni calling incompetent the person he hired to focus solely on completing the policies and procedures, and whom after almost two years could not finish them.
Retaliation Complaint to EEOC
The following month, November, 2014, my husband submitted a retaliation complaint to EEOC. The amount of abuse and bullying at the hands of Ramoni was a very direct response to my husband standing up for his rights, abiding to the mandated reporting laws and filing an age discrimination complaint against Mr. Ramoni. I felt so hopeless, knowing that Luke Leong’s EEOC office would not do its job, as it failed to do so in 2010 when my husband reported the sexual harassment and retaliation he experienced at Capital Programs. It was now clear to me that all of Jeff Smith’s Just Culture is a big fraud cloaked in his fake progressive agenda. During all these years my husband had done everything he could to do his job and avoid conflict, yet, conflict seems to follow him wherever he goes. From quietly enduring sexual harassment, abuse, wage theft, discrimination, to working long hours and weekends for free to better serve his employer, nothing had helped my husband to avoid and stop more abuse, retaliation and bullying and our entire family from suffering the injustice.
Tone Deaf to Justice and Real Just Culture
On November 17, 2014 my husband wrote a letter to soon to be Social Services Director, Robert Menicocci. In that letter my husband requested that Mr. Ramoni’s vindictive letter of reprimand be repealed on the basis of facts, which all pointed to Mr. Ramoni’s personal hatred of my husband. As expected, Mr. Menicocci, sided with Mr. Ramoni.
Over the years some people had told us that we should just give up, since there is nothing that will ever be done for the sake of justice, as these individuals protect each other. For some time I agreed. Yet, in time I have understood my husband. When you are innocent, have done nothing wrong, have been respectful of the law and your fellow coworkers and citizens it is very hard, truly hard to experience what my husband and our family had been experiencing for years at the hands of corrupt government officials and renouncing to the pursuit of justice.
Moving forward, I know that going to the County Board of Supervisors public meetings and speaking up does not do any good. I have seen many people including other County employees and many other residents go and denounce government corruption, malfeasance, and incompetence over and over, meeting after meeting, month after month, year after year, the same problems and get ignored. I have seen their hope and faith in our local government officials crushed by the tone deaf silence of the County Board of Supervisors, whom these people voted into office. I have seen the kind and polite demeanor of those asking for justice and respect for the law transformed into frustration and anger. I have also seen people, who despite of always being ignored by the Board of Supervisors, continue to go and speak during public comment. It just breaks my heart knowing that my husband is not alone. This is the reason why I have decided to expose our story.
So why do people continue to speak up at the Board of Supervisors meetings? Finally, after so long I realized some possible reasons. First in the hopes that someone, someday watching the Board meetings will listen to those people and do something about it, and second, to create a public record that clearly shows the neglect and disregard for the cries for justice of workers and citizens by our elected officials. I truly hope, something positive will come out of these people’s efforts and my writing this blog.
Perhaps that was also the unconscious decision that guided my husband to reach out to County Executive Jeff Smith on February 18, 2015 asking for the repeal of his letter of reprimand based on the facts revealing the real nature of the letter.
Small Claims Court
After Mr. Ramoni’s refusal to pay for the replacement of our house keys, I decided to take DAAS to small claims’ court. I just could not accept that given all the atrocities that had happened to us including the evidence of mail tampering by Mr. Ramoni’s subordinates, my husband and I would still have to pay for the cost of changing out house locks for justified concerns for our personal safety and that of our tenants. So on January 13, 2015 I filled a claim against Mr. Ramoni and DAAS.
The County sent a County Counsel representative to defend Mr. Ramoni and DAAS against my claim. It still is an upsetting thought knowing that those who violated the law used legal counsel against justice paid with our tax dollars. Since I had no experience filing lawsuits, as I have never done so before and I hope I never had to do it again, I did not know the protocol to file a claim. So the day of the hearing, the County Counsel Attorney Counselor representing the County asked the judge to dismiss my claim on the grounds that I failed to follow protocol.
While this judge could have dismissed my claim, she was such an honorable and fair judge that she gave me the opportunity to retrace my steps and comply with the required protocol. So the lawsuit was moved to another day. The second time it was County Counsel who asked the judge to move it again due to some technicality on the County’s part. By the third hearing, I had the misfortune of having Commissioner Lisa Steingart, who since the moment she picked up my claim and scoffed at it, I realized I had lost the case. Commissioner Steingart refused to accept the video evidence of mail tampering and evidence proving that Mr. Ramoni’s staff had refused to give us our house keys and purposely delayed it while our house keys had been passed around the office to the hand of God knows how many of Mr. Ramoni’s staff. Commissioner Steingart ruled that this was a tenant landlord issue and that the County had nothing to see with my changing my house locks. When I mentioned the results of Commissioner Steingart’s judgement in favor of the County to other people I was told that this is usually the case when people bring lawsuits against the County. Some Commissioners “do not bite the hand that feeds them.” These people told me.
Too much for justice being impartial and balanced…
Second Letter of Reprimand
On March 16, 2015, after my husband had written to Mr. Menicocci and Mr. Smith asking for justice and a repeal of Mr. Ramoni’s letter of reprimand, Mr. Ramoni issued another letter of reprimand to my husband. During the DAAS all staff meeting on March 4, 2015, Mr. Ramoni announced that he had budgeted for a much needed Management Analyst for the Public Guardian’s office, adding that for so many years he had not had one in the program. Mr. Ramoni deliberately stated this knowing full well that my husband had served a year and a half as Management Analyst for the PAG/C, which reports to Mr. Ramoni prior to Mr. Ramoni’s transferring him to IHSS.
Respectful of the decorum of the meeting and to avoid interruptions, my husband said nothing at the meeting to correct Mr. Ramoni. On the next day my husband simply sent an email respectful in tone to his department clarifying that he (my husband) had served as the PAG/C’s most recent Management Analyst up to only few months prior. This made Mr. Ramoni so angry, resulting in Mr. Ramoni giving my husband a second letter of reprimand accusing him of insubordination and creating an unharmonious work environment and thus threatening him with termination. Mr. Ramoni stated that my husband was damaging the County’s reputation by making such statements (speaking the truth).
It has been an eye opening experience to see the constant double standard with which public officials and Executive Management in the County of Santa Clara conduct themselves and implement “Just Culture.” A few days after Mr. Ramoni’s second letter of reprimand to my husband for politely pointing out Mr. Ramoni’s misinformation to less than 300 IHSS DAAS employees, my husband protested the letter to Mr. Menicocci, Mr. Ramoni’s boss. And as expected, Mr. Menicoci sustained Mr. Ramoni’s reprimand.
Yet it is amazing to see the stunning hypocrisy in that while my husband was bullied and written up for stating facts, there was never any repercussion to Mr. Menicocci for lying to all SSA staff, well over 2,000 employees, when he sent an email to all of them using SEIU 521 chapter chairin order to unilaterally declare a new sick labor policy in violation of labor agreements. Mr. Menicocci’s false statement to all SSA staff was promptly corrected by Wren Bradley, Chapter Chair, SEIU 521 when she replied “I had no conversation with you (Mr. Menicocci) regarding any county worker needing to take sick leave and you had no authority to speak on my behalf. The union takes this very seriously and considers this an act of intimidation by the County.[…] Your action does nothing to create an atmosphere of working together to settle a contract for our members, in fact, it pushes us farther apart.”
My husband informed the County Board of Supervisors about this double standard, yet, Mr. Menicocci was never reprimanded for deliberately and recklessly creating an unharmonious work environment.
Second Letter to the County Board of Supervisors
On May 18, 2015 my husband submitted a second letter to the County Board of Supervisors, which among many other details, addressed the failure of the County of Santa Clara’s Whistleblower Office to respond and investigate my husband’s claims. The next day my husband spoke at the Board of Supervisors public comment, yet nothing positive resulted from his exposing corruption and presenting evidence.
During the months following my failed small claims court suit against Mr. Ramoni and DAAS and my husband’s letters to at the Board of Supervisors and speech before them, work emails sent to my husband would mysteriously disappear before he would receive them. In one case Mr. Ramoni’s Executive Assistant inquired about the status of a ghost assignment they emailed my husband, which he never received. Other emails my husband did not receive were emails sent to all staff about promotions of some of Ramoni’s favored loyalists, for they knew that my husband would use it to present further evidence of favoritism and corruption within the department.
Third Letter to the County Board of Supervisors
On October 19, 2015, my husband sent a letter to the County Board of Supervisors copying Jeff Rosen’s office. As usual, there was no response from the County Board of Supervisors. However John Chase from the District Attorney’s office informed my husband that he did not have a case, as the statute of limitations for his claims had already passed. During all this time, for more than a year County Counsel and the Whistleblower Office had been sitting idle on the evidence and documents submitted by my husband, aware of the statute of limitations deadline. This way my husband would no longer have a case against Mr. Ramoni and the corruption he and many others had suffered at the hands of Mr. Ramoni and his allies. In Mr. Ramoni’s deposition, under sworn testimony, Mr. Ramoni stated that my husband’s complaint had gone to County Counsel, who then forwarded it back to Social Services Agency to incredibly investigate themselves!
Also through subpoenaed documents we discovered the friendly relationship of Mr. Ramoni with the Whistleblower Office and Labor Relations, and how they were in constant communication back and forth discussing my husband’s claims against Mr. Ramoni. In other words, all the information and evidence my husband had submitted to the Whistleblower Office and Labor Relations was being sent to Mr. Ramoni and used against my husband. This is the reality for Whistleblowers in Santa Clara County, whether they are employees or just ordinary people submitting submitting a complaint against the County.
To get this straight, my husband followed the County’s protocol by reporting it to the Whistleblower office and County Counsel, who then sent my husband’s complaint to the Social Services Agency to investigate themselves. This is the County’s definition of Just Culture. Interestingly enough, it is the same people doing this to my husband and other government whistleblowers in Santa Clara Count, as the ones screaming corruption against the Federal government. And no, I am not a fan of the current Trump administration, but I am not blind to see the hypocrisy on the part of our fake progressive County government.
Excellent Employee Appraisal
Despite of all this turmoil and bad blood against my husband, on November 24, 2015 he received an excellent employee performance appraisal from his supervisor, Renae Bhader. Seeing this made me think that there were still honest and ethical people in DAAS despite Mr. Ramoni’s influence.
PAG/C Policies and Procedures – Fifteen Months Later
Over fifteen months after my husband was removed from PAG/C and written up for incompetence and insubordination for failing to revise all 104 policies and Procedures within five weeks, on January 12, 2016 my husband went to speak before the Board of Supervisors to denounce Mr. Ramoni over the fact that after all this time only six policies and procedures had been revised since my husband’s removal. To illustrate this, imagine a law student, a medical student, engineer, or other professional taking their test required to graduate, and they only answer six questions out of the total one hundred and four. It is a universal fact that they would fail to graduate. But again, the facts proved to be irrelevant to the County’s establishment who support and enable Mr. Ramoni regardless of behavior and performance.
Into the Maelstrom
On March 4, 2016 my husband received several emails that day from Mr. Ramoni, in which some were used to severely bully him. Mr. Ramoni raged about how my husband had copied other stakeholders who were part of an urgent project which the deadline had been extended, and without the input of one of the stakeholders my husband could not complete the project. Then in another email Mr. Ramoni demanded an account of my husband’s time that day, knowing that my husband had met with the County’s Whistleblower Program attorney. Consequently my husband went to his immediate supervisor Ms. Bhader, currently Social Services Program Manager II at IHSS, to express his dismay at being repeatedly bullied by Mr. Ramoni. My husband asked Ms. Bhader if she knew about these emails, to what she responded she did. Then my husband closed the door of Ms. Bhader office to keep the conversation private about what had been happening to him and the bullying he had been experiencing at the hands of Mr. Ramoni.
When my husband stated that he felt Mr. Ramoni and Ms. Possley were conspiring to set him up for failure, Ms. Bhader became visibly upset and eventually asked my husband to leave her office, which he immediately did, followed by an infuriated Ms. Bhader. Within a few minutes Ms. Possley and Ms. Bhader marched over to my husband’s cubicle and bullied him by demanding that he meet with them without his union representative. My husband refused to meet with them without the presence of his union representative, Zeb Feldman, present.
On March 7, 2016, during a day off from work, my husband was reassigned to another supervisor, Kingston Lum and transferred to another building. The following day, without any explanation or due process, my husband was escorted out of the building and put on paid administrative leave by Mr. Ramoni and Ms. Possley, first under the ruse that he was under investigation, (my husband was not told what kind of investigation he was being subjected to, or given the justification for it). These corrupt officials later backtracked and instead the County decided to subject my husband to a pending fitness for duty examination due to alleged behavioral issues in order to justify his continued removal from office.
Behavioral issues such as my husband’s participating in a legal County Counsel Whistleblower investigation of Robert Menicocci, Social Services Agency Director and Mr. Ramoni, Director of DAAS and for presenting to the Board of Supervisors concrete evidence of disregard of the public welfare and contempt of the Civil Grand Jury, all connected to Mr. Ramoni’s vitriolic retaliation in direct response to my husband’s filling with the EEOC his active claims of illegal age discrimination and illegal retaliation for submitting the age discrimination claim.
Although County bylaws state that there must be a due process, in reality for many workers like my husband such process does not exist. Recently I was talking to another County worker and this person corrected me. “Maria, in Jeff Smith’s Just Culture, the due process is in reality the do you in process if management does not like you” that person stated. For many Santa Clara County workers the reality is that if they identify and report corruption and abuse happening in their departments, which affects the workers and/or the public welfare, instead of investigating, the County’s management will resort to punishing the worker by declaring war against the worker and accuse him/her of incompetence, insubordination, creating a disharmonious environment, and even hint at accusation of a crime in the case of my husband (false imprisonment). Then these workers will be written up, and in some cases sent to fitness for duty examinations before a County paid Psychiatrist, who will rule in favor of the County and threaten the employee, as I witnessed happening to my husband over the phone during a conversation with County paid Psychiatrist Dr. John M. Green, who I could hear over the phone yelling and threatening my husband.
On March 10, 2016 the County produced and mailed a second letter amending their illegal edict by adding that my husband was being placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a Fitness for Duty Examination.
Recently for the first time I watched the 2008 film Changeling with Angelina Jolie, based on real-life events, specifically the 1928 Wineville Chicken Coop Murders in Mira Loma, California. I had very hard time watching this film, because so much of what this movie explores is currently happening in Santa Clara County, 90 years later. Political corruption, elaborated cover-ups, abuse of power, silencing dissent, spreading misinformation, and forcing dissenters into psychiatric evaluations happened then and is happening now here. It is so scary to see that in almost a century the government’s modus operandi has not changed.
2018 was the year women across the country. We raised their voices and denounced abuse at the hands of men. The public national outcry from women across the country demanded justice after suffering years of abuse and neglect gave women an immense power to speak up against their aggressors, refusing to no longer live in fear of retaliation. The #MeToo movement did a magnificent thing in empowering women, and as a woman I found it very inspiring and positive, until I suffered the personal effects of this power when exerted by women with a vindictive agenda.
Renae Bhader, my husband’s immediate supervisor, whom my husband went to her office to complain about the cyber-bullying by Mr. Ramoni, accused him of false imprisonment and complained she feared for her safety after the five minutes my husband spent in her office before being ordered by Ms. Bhader to leave her office. Later, in a heart wrenching and tearful testimony Ms. Bhader stated before the County’s Personnel Board that although as a Social Worker she had worked with violent criminals, she had never been so terrified, and that her experience traumatized her for life. Ms. Bhader went on to say that she now suffers from nightmares and wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, fearful just by recalling the experience of having my husband complaining about the bullying he has experienced at the hands of Mr. Ramoni. Interestingly enough Ms. Bhader was not so traumatized to prevent her from going to my husband’s cubicle a few minutes later and bullying him along with Ms. Possley just a few minutes after she demanded that my husband left her office. But before I jump fully into this matter, I want to continue describing the actions by the County in regards to this.
Treated Like a Criminal
On the rush to get my husband out of the building he was not even allowed to retrieve lunches he had left in the freezer. He was also not allowed to open an urgent email sent by County Counsel regarding his whistleblower complaint. My husband, without ever been given due process which requires listening to both sides of the story before making a decision, was forced out of the building, and while he was out in the parking lot waiting for me to pick him up, his new supervisor, Mr. Lum demanded that my husband leave the parking lot. Not even drug addicts who use the parking lot to defecate and do drugs are asked to leave. I know that because I have seen these people on and off conducting their business without any disturbance from Social Services staff. This only happens to employees who stand up for their rights and to those who report documented cases of corruption.
Unjust Culture and Violation of Due Process
The March 10, 2016 Amended Administrative Leave letter forbid my husband from setting foot on any County premises and worksites without the County’s providing any proof for their arbitrary mandate that clearly violated my husband’s Constitutional rights. He was forbidden from setting foot on County property which includes, the Registrar of Voter’s Office, County Parks, Office of the County Assessor to pay property taxes, the County’s Court Houses, the County’s Government Center, Social Services Agency auditorium where his union conducted member meetings, and Valley Medical Center, which we are members of through my husband’s health insurance. He was also strictly forbidden from further contact with EEOC, Labor Relations, County Whistleblower Program and the Board of Supervisors. The letter stated to my husband “You are further directed to refrain from discussing [this] pending investigation with anyone other than your [union] representative.” It ended with this threat: “Failure to follow any of the [above] instructions can result in disciplinary action.”
That letter was copied to Mr. Menicocci, Mr. Ramoni, Ms. Possley, Pablo Pineda of Labor Relations and Zed Feldman, my husband’s union representative, thereby making it clear that Mr. Feldman was the only person with whom my husband could discuss this corruption.
This is the dark side and true face of Santa Clara County’s Just Culture. When for the sake of the argument, I took the names and place out of this situation, the group of people who I was discussing this with told me they felt so sorry for that poor whistleblower in Venezuela. “This is what happens to innocent people in those countries where democracy has been destroyed by dictators," they said. When I informed these people that this was happening in the United States of America, right here in Santa Clara County, the shock in their faces was priceless.
Violating the State and Federal law, the County of Santa Clara seemingly imprisoned my husband in our house during the EEOC’s active investigation of my husband’s two cases against Mr. Ramoni, where the delay in presenting evidence would be detrimental to my husband. Please bear in mind that my husband had not committed a crime and this administrative/executive management mandate from the County imposed such outlandish restrictions on my husband’s freedom without a judicial order. Even if my husband had signed an employment agreement creating a waiver of those rights, it would be illegal. So the only way to describe the County’s restrictive mandate against my husband without a judicial order is that my husband was falsely imprisoned by the County.
The same people orchestrating this punishment for my husband, Mr. Ramoni, Ms. Possley, and Ms. Bhader in recent years had tried to demote a whole group of Professional Service Aides (PSAs) by hiring a favored employee, who according to witnesses did virtually nothing as their manager besides trying to drive these older women out of the County.
Although my husband submitted evidence from each one of his claims against Mr. Ramoni and IHSS executive management, the County never investigated my husband’s claims to at least see if he was telling the truth, which he was.
Santa Clara County Tax Dollars Paid for My Husband to Stay Home
So, while the County Labor Relations unsuccessfully tried to put a case against my husband to terminate him for good from the County, for over six months we has getting paid for staying at home. I cannot understand why when there is a better need for the use of our tax dollars than to have hush money to protect corruption, and silence people. As much as they would love to fire my husband, he has not done anything wrong. He simply speaks up against the County’s corrupt culture and defends his rights and the rights of his coworkers to advocate for the responsible use of taxpayers’ dollars. My husband and I did not find it amusing that he was getting paid with public tax dollars just to be home. I am sure all of you reading this blog will agree.
In the meantime, his union representative wrote a letter to Pablo Pineda in the Office of Labor Relations, demanding that, based on the facts proving my husband’s innocence, the lack of due process and violation of County bylaws, Federal and State law my husband be immediately reinstated. They refused and continued to pay my husband with our tax dollars to stay home.
Since 2002 my husband had served as an election officer for Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters (ROV) office, but in 2016 when he was asked by ROV to work the primary election, he could not do it as he had been forbidden from setting foot on County property, by Mr. Ramoni
Furthermore, although the County encourages county voters to drop their early ballots at the ROV office, my husband was forbidden from doing so as he had done it many other times over the years.
Punished for Protesting Hush Money at the Expense of Santa Clara County Taxpayers
Being paid just to be at home without working may be a dream for many people, yet, for my husband, a man of integrity, being paid hush money by taxpayers dollars in order to keep silent about the County’s corruption felt immoral and wrong. So on August 19, 2016, my husband and I went to County Counsel and delivered hundreds of pages of documented evidence of corruption and wrong doing by Mr. Ramoni and his associates to Attorney Rob Coelho after having delivered sets of the same documents for each one of the County Board of Supervisors informing them of payment of hush money, violation of the Public Records Act, Contempt of the Civil Grand Jury by refusing to implement live scan for new hires, Mr. Ramoni’s and Labor Relations refusal to allow my husband work as an Election Officer and other reports of official misconduct, wrongdoing and retaliation. But again, there was no response from our elected officials.
Enticement to Commit Insurance Fraud
Instead the response came from Mr. Ramoni who sent my husband a mail certified letter on Monday, August 22, 2016, the first work day after my husband and I delivered the documented evidence to the County Board of Supervisors and Labor Relations, declaring Mr. Dowling too sick to work. Without any evidence but his hatred of my husband, Mr. Ramoni placed my husband on sick leave, threatening him with no further compensation and no health insurance once my husband’s sick leave bank ran out, while enticing my husband to commit insurance fraud by applying for Family and Medical Leave, when Mr. Ramoni and Labor Relations perfectly knew my husband was not sick, but a determined individual seeking justice and the enforcement of the law.
A New Letter to the Board of Supervisors
On August 27, 2016, a few days after my husband’s paid administrative leave had been terminated by Mr. Ramoni, my husband sent another letter to the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors reporting wage theft (involuntarily and illegally placed on sick leave for no medically proven reason) and enticement to commit insurance fraud (Family Medical Leave and State Disability Insurance). At this point in time, some people were questioning “What the heck was wrong with my husband. Didn’t my husband have something better to do with his life than constantly bugging our elected officials with letters about everything done to him? The answer, again, as hard as it may be for some people to process is that my husband’s clear sense of justice does not permit him to give up on what he knows is unjust, despite knowing that he has always been ignored. As hurtful and offensive as it is for me to accept, my husband, although a victim, the more we present evidence of official misconduct, waste of our tax dollars, government corruption and abuse of power, the more we are retaliated against.
During all these years of bullying and abuse at the hands of Santa Clara County corrupt executive management, and neglect on the part of our elected officials who have the power to make things right, I have had very hard time copying with this inferno my family and I had been dragged into by these vindictive managers.
I remember as a child being bullied for being an outsider in the small town where my parents moved us. I will never forget being bullied for being poor, and for being the teachers’ pet; or being bullied for so being the skinniest girl in my class. It was a very painful and traumatic experience. Now as an adult I am so glad that back then we did not have cellphones or computers, so bullying ended every day after school. And every day when I arrived home my mother would be waiting for me with a warm meal to cheer me up. I thought such bullying was in the past. I was wrong. Because in all the bullying my husband has been subjected, my family and I have been collateral. The bullying we are going through by the County of Santa Clara hurts so much more than the bullying I experienced as a child.
County of Santa Clara Whistleblower Office Fraud
It was a hard blow to our faces to learn that while my husband and our family thought that going to the Whistleblower Office would bring us justice, in reality, Santa Clara County Whistleblower Office had been using the information my husband provided to alert Mr. Ramoni and Mr. Menicocci. To cover their tracks, all the documents that prove collusion against my husband, and the casually friendly informal emails from Mr. Ramoni asking those who are supposed to investigate him about “how is the Dowling’s case,” all those documents have been marked “CONFIDENTIAL” by the County of Santa Clara, so that they cannot be used to expose the enormous corruption financed with public tax dollars.
Mr. Ramoni, County Counsel, Labor Relations and the Whistleblower office not only conspired so that my husband’s case statute of limitations would pass. They also plotted and designed strategies to castigate and go after my husband for complaining about Mr. Ramoni.
Banned from Seeing My Mother at the Hospital
The cruelest and most vindictive mandate dictated by Mr. Ramoni and enforced by Labor Relations was their unjustified mandate forbidding my husband from setting feet on County property.
For some time my mother had been sick and the terrible stress of living the years of injustice at the hands of corrupt County officials accelerated her health decline. My mother and I have been dragged into this abuse through all the years that my husband has been bullied by these corrupt managers. We have been collateral. My mother had witnessed my husband being sexually harassed by one of his coworkers. She also witnessed when my husband received the employment termination call from the employment termination call from the County onlyto be reinstated in a call to him shortly later although now demoted. My mother had seen my husband work from home endless nights to provide all the evidence the County requested from him. She had experienced firsthand my husband’s stress due to this entire situation. My mother had been a silent witness of years of abuse, and while for my husband and I it has been difficult, for my mother the abuse was devastating.
Adding to my mother’s stress was the fact that my husband could not see her while she was interned in Valley Medical Center, as per Mr. Ramoni and County Counsel illegal mandate forbidding my husband from setting feet on County property, which of course, includes the Valley Medical Center.
The only family my mother had in this country was my husband and I. It was incredibly painful for her to realize that my husband could not go to see her at the hospital due to the baseless unlawful retaliation against him as a mandate given by the man who is supposed to be caring and compassionate to seniors. It is still an overwhelming heart-wrenching, gut tearing feeling for me to remember my mother’s tears in Valley Medical Center when I told her Evan could not come to see her. She knew very well why.
My mother dying at Valley Medical Center
Bullying that Kills
On August 31, 2016 my mother, best friend and greatest love passed away to liver cancer complications. Her accelerated death was accelerated due to all the tremendous amount of stress that she endured due to Mr. Ramoni, Ms. Possley and Ms. Bhader unjustified bullying and never ending retaliation. It was impossible for my elderly mother to fight cancer while she was living under a constant stress having seen what was being done to my husband by these vindictive County managers.
My mother’s condition suddenly deteriorated following Mr. Ramoni’s August 22, 2016 letter forcing my husband into sick leave and threatening to terminate our health insurance.
While my husband and I fought the injustices and abuse by denouncing it to our elected officials, my mother prayed with all her heart that these people would set aside their hatred of my husband and stop bullying him. She died praying that our elected officials would do their job enforcing the law and a real Just Culture in the workplace.
Witnessing my mother die an accelerated death while hoping for justice had been one of the most painful experiences of my life. Something I never expected to experience, especially in this fake senior friendly County. It hurts more than words can ever describe the excruciating pain of losing one’s most beloved being. It is a nightmare from which I can’t seem to recover and a wound that has not healed after more than two years. Days later while I was making my mother’s funeral arrangements I received a phone call from her doctor who broke down crying. I am sure that as an Oncologist, my mother’s doctor has seen many cancer patients die to build a shield against losing patients, yet, my mother’s Oncologist cried over the phone while telling me: “I don’t understand, I don’t understand why your mom died so fast.” While my mother’s doctor struggled to understand my mother’s accelerated death, I knew that she had been collateral in my husband’s never ending bullying at work. These county criminals had killed my mother.
The Day My Mother Died
The same morning that my mother died Supervisor Chavez called my husband. She had one of her staff members, Paul Murphy take notes of the conversation taking place while on his end my husband was doing the same. My husband notified Supervisor Chavez that my mother had died a few hours before. Then my husband proceeded to discuss with Supervisor Chavez the corruption and disgraceful Just Culture under County Executive Jeff Smith. My husband asked Supervisor Chavez, “given the fact that Jeff Smith is running a Corrupt Culture regime where none of his cronies are held accountable, and he has again and again been rightfully castigated by the news media, why does the Board of Supervisors allow Jeff Smith to continue to serve as County Executive?” Supervisor Chavez, shockingly in disregard of County taxpayers, County workers and the public welfare disagreed with my husband’s assessment of County Executive Smith.
It was just my luck to enter the room where my husband was having the phone call with Supervisor Chavez the moment she was stating to my husband that she could not understand why my husband would rather return to work to that hostile work environment he was so miserable at, rather than receiving a settlement from the County.
Supervisor Chavez went as far as asking my husband about his age. When my husband asked her what his age had anything so see with his claims against Mr. Ramoni and the abuse he was experiencing at work Supervisor Chavez explained she was curious about what my husband’s age was to get an idea when would my husband would retire from the County to figure out a possible settlement.
I could not believe what I was listening coming from Cindy Chavez, the former head of the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships, a woman who has built a political career fighting for social justice and worker rights. I will never forget Supervisor Chavez telling my husband in so many other words that she would rather try to get a settlement for my husband than fight for justice and the integrity of the law. My husband looked at me, tears streaming down my face and informed Supervisor Chavez that I was very upset about all the official misconduct happening and Supervisor Chavez replied to him, that of course I would take my husband’s side since I am his wife.
I will never forget it. Never will. My mother had just died a few hours before and this politician who has built a career and a reputation as advocate and champion for worker rights told my husband to settle for money and just leave the County. Shame on you Cindy Chavez, shame, shame on you!
Yes, I am very emotional writing these lines reviving the pain and the anger I felt due to such indescribable, irreparable loss. My mother, my most beloved and best friend had just died, and I was listening such a corrupt dismissive response from one who is paid big money to defend us from corruption.
All this pain is something I tried to forgive and bury in order to move on with my life. But when I learned that our case is just the tip of the iceberg, I could no longer remain silent. I do not want others to suffer what my family and I have suffered at the hands of those corrupt evil people protected by our elected officials. Many of those victims suffer in silence from the pervasive abuse of power and bullying at the hands of corrupt government officials and financed with our tax dollars.
This is why I ran for elected office and decided to go public with our story in this blog.
Too Sick to Work
Continuing with his vindictive instincts, on September 13, 2016, Mr. Ramoni wrote another letter to my husband in which Mr. Ramoni continued to declare my husband too sick to work, without any evidence of such claim, and continued to threaten my husband with no further compensation and no health insurance once my husband’s sick leave bank would run out, while continuing to entice my husband to commit insurance fraud by applying for Family and Medical Leave.
On September 23, 2016, my husband’s union representative sent a letter to County Executive Jeff Smith with a list of demands that would actually serve Just Culture on my husband’s behalf. Jeff Smith washed his hands in response by saying that County Counsel was investigating.
On October 15, 2016, my husband’s union representative sent an email to the County Board of Supervisors and County Executive Jeff Smith requesting them to use their offices to take immediate action to implement Just Culture on my husband’s behalf. There was no response from the County Board of Supervisors, not even the fraudulent “labor friendly” ones.
In my experience, the only time Supervisors Chavez, Yeager, and Cortese ever responded to labor unions was during election time when they need the unions’ money and members’ presence to phone bank and canvass to get them elected. For years labor stewards have spoken at the Board of Supervisors denouncing the hostile work environment that workers like my husband suffer every day, yet to this day they continue to be ignored.
The Truth about the Labor-Friendly County Board of Supervisors
Something that critics of Labor Unions have mockingly pointed at upon learning about my husband’s case, is the fact, that despite County Board of Supervisors Chavez, Cortese, and Yeager owed their seat to union members’ money dues contributed to their campaigns and union members’ efforts to get them elected by phone banking and canvassing on behalf of these politicians during election time; all of these elected officials have for years remained silent when it comes to responding and acting on behalf of justice for workers. I am not talking about contract negotiations to give handsome concessions to unions in their collective bargaining agreements, which by the way, it is never the case, as Valley Medical Center Nurses and staff can testify to, and the reason why many of the best qualified nurses and doctors over the years have left the County’s hospital system for better paying jobs.
No, what these labor critics so accurately point out is the fact that the politicians that labor unions and their members have helped get them elected to office, have done nothing to protect public employees from Jeff Smith’s corrupt and abusive Just Culture in all the years they have been in office.
This sentiment from critics of labor was corroborated to me during my brief stint as candidate for County Board of Supervisor, personally by many union members who told me they are so sick and tired of all the abuses, violation of the law, and indifference from the elected officials they helped elect; that in the primary election, while their union dues were going to Don Rocha, Supervisor Cortese’s protégé and Dominic Caserta, another heavily Labor-endorsed candidate, some of these workers said they would be voting for me. And to much of my shock and surprise, there were union members I spoke with, who informed me that they would be voting for Councilmember Oliverio. When I asked why they would give their vote to an anti-union candidate, these workers replied that hopefully Oliverio would “drain the swamp.” “We supported Supervisors Chavez, Cortese, Yeager, and Simitian. Yet, we have had to fight for every penny during contract negotiations, so things with Oliverio would not be different in that sense, yet, the current supposedly “labor friendly” Supervisors have done nothing to stop the County’s corruption and abuse of workers; instead they prefer to use millions of public tax dollars every year to pay lawsuits rather than fire corrupt County managers.”
Yes. This is true. Millions of our tax dollars have been used every year to pay lawsuits brought against the County by public employees who have been reprimanded and in some cases terminated by the County for reporting corruption by some of the County’s Executive Management. Such as in the case of Dr. Dean Winslow who received $1.4 million settlement after he was fired by County Executive Jeff Smith after speaking up about the hostile work environment in Valley Medical Center or the recent $1.5 million lawsuit paid to Valley Medical Center Psychiatrist Jan Weber after being fired for reporting numerous complaints about substandard patient care and unsafe working conditions.
The fact is that just as there is no accountability in the current presidential administration, there is no accountability in the County of Santa Clara. Even worst, in the County of Santa Clara, checks and balances do not exist, as everybody is friends with everybody and no one wants to speak up against their buddies, and the people that have so generously given them public commendations and other sorts of public awards.
TO BE CONTINUED...