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Matt Browne decision may come as early as January

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POSTED December 29, 2008 12:53 a.m.
LATHROP — Four months since the start of Matt Browne’s wrongful-termination hearing, and 10 months after he was fired without due process by former City Manager Yvonne Quiring, Lathrop’s former chief building official may finally get an answer as early as January if he gets his old job back.
But that’s the optimistic prognosis. Browne’s attorney, Ellen Mendelson of San Francisco, chooses to be cautious, reserving a dose of pessimism in a case that she thinks has dragged on much longer than the case deserved.
“Who knows? Doug Barton may not decide until February,” Mendelson said Sunday.
Barton, who was chosen by the City Council, was the hearing officer who presided over the closed-door hearing process that started in September after being postponed twice in July, and went on through mid-October.
Copies of the transcripts from the extensive hearing, which came close to 2,000 pages, have just been handed to the attorneys representing the city, Mendelson and the hearing officer. Both Mendelson and Colantuono, whose law office represents the city, have also submitted their briefs to Barton and to each other. The hearing officer will make a determination based on the facts presented during the hearing, along with the two opposing attorneys’ arguments on behalf of their clients, and then make his recommendation on Browne’s case. His recommendation will then go before the council which will make the final decision, whether to agree with the hearing officer’s recommendation or not.
For Mendelson, who has argued from the beginning that her client was fired by the former city manager without following due process required by law, expects no less than a return of her client to his old job plus full compensation of lost wages and benefits.
“They should have followed the law,” she said, referring to Browne’s firing without any prior verbal or written warning as required legally required.
Barton has made it known from the start of the closed-door hearing, through the city’s public information officer, that he will not be making any statements to the press for the duration of the process.
The city has accused Browne, among others, of time-card falsification and worker’s compensation fraud, as the reasons for his termination. Both issues were denied by Browne with accompanying proof and evidence during a hearing before an Employment Development Department administrative law judge over the city’s denial of his unemployment insurance benefits. The judge ruled in favor of Browne who finally started receiving his unemployment checks recently.
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