On November 16, the Real Mooney Grove Project and Mary Bryant sent notice to Tulare County Supervisor Phil Cox, Tulare County Parks Director Neil Pilegard and the County of Tulare that they are filing an emergency restraining order in the California Federal Court Eastern Division to stop all unlawful activities at Mooney Grove Park. The request for the restraining order was in conjunction with the Real Mooney Grove project’s federal case filed on October 13 against the same three entities.
In response the judge could issue an immediate restraining order, assign a court date or both.
Tulare County Parks and Recreation employees working under Pilegard have reported that for the past five years or more that animals and trees have been abused and that historic features in Mooney Grove Park have not been maintained. The employees have also alleged misuse of state and local funds, inadequate training, hazardous work conditions and a hostile work environment.
A former seasonal Tulare County Lake Patrol employee stated, “Immediately after employment with the County, I began requesting equipment and training to ensure my safety as well as the safety of my coworkers and the general public. My requests were repeatedly denied if not ignored completely.”
The employee requests to improve the safety of employees and the public included, among a list of 13 items, that Lake Patrol employees be given a basic boat handling course, working radios, and first aid supplies in case of an boating accident.
The Tulare County employees have asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing their jobs. As one park employee stated, “I think Neil keeps employees in constant fear.”
Bryant and the Real Mooney Grove’s federal case against Cox, Pilegard and the County of Tulare is in response to a handful of county employees’ eyewitness reports and Bryant’s personal experience with Pilegard. The emergency restraining order was filed to prevent permanent damage from happening to the historical features and flora and fauna in Mooney Grove Park. Some of the allegations involve Balch Park, which is located 20 miles north east of Springville.
The injunction states:
- This is an action for the equitable remedy of a temporary restraining order and preliminary prohibitory injunction.
- The petitioner resides in the City of Visalia, California.
- The threat and harm to be enjoined is threatened to be imposed in county parks of Tulare County.
- Respondents Tulare County, Supervisor Phil Cox and Tulare County Parks and Recreation Manager Neil Pilegard invoke the jurisdiction in Tulare County.
- This honorable court has the jurisdiction’s factual allegations.
- Petitioner has personal knowledge that respondent does and will act in a manner that will surely cause serious irreparable harm. The acts complained of are:
- Neil Pilegard instructs county workers upon arriving for work to run over, injure, and kill geese and ducks inside county parks using county owned vehicles.
- Secures dogs that injure and maim ducks and geese inside county parks.
- Instructs county workers to blow up squirrels on county property.
- Uses rat poison and/or to kill gophers endangering all animals in the park.
- Traps and kills feral cats and kittens inside county parks.
- Misrepresents to county officials and the public the true condition and costs to maintain, repair and restore Mooney Grove Park and its historic features and buildings.
- Unlicensed and unskilled county workers and/or individuals repairing buildings on county property.
- Does not secure building permits and/or get proper inspections.
- Accepts personal payment from film and entertainment companies that have filmed in county parks.
- Misappropriating both state and federal grants on projects other than intended.
- Misappropriating donations from individuals, businesses on projects other than intended.
- Destroys protected oak trees.
- The threatened harm is:
- Injury cruelty to animals.
- Using unsafe chemicals in soil.
- Demolishing historic features and buildings in Mooney Grove Park.
- Destroying mature oak trees.
In the suit, filed on, October 13 Bryant states:
“Eyewitnesses to the animal abused [in Mooney Grove Park] is malicious and intentional. The trees being destroyed is in violation of the Visalia Tree Ordinance. …. Approval of the 20-Year Plan to demolish historic features is not consistent of facts of costs to repair and restore [those historic features]. The threat is imminent because animal cruelty by county employees instructed by Neil Pilegard. The rat poison in the soil to kill gophers is damaging to public, wildlife and may have long term effects on the underground aquifer and the protected oak trees.
A temporary Restraining Order is necessary to protect from the threatened harm where for petitioner, Mary Bryant and the Real Mooney Grove Project, move this honorable court to enter an order enjoining Respondent Tulare County, Supervisor Phil Cox and Manager Neil Pilegard from:
animal abuse, county employees using county trucks to injure, scare, harass ducks and geese, or maliciously and intentionally use dogs to scare, injure or kill protected animals in county parks. The trimming or cutting of protected oak trees must have permission and an evaluation report from the City of Visalia. Demolishing any structures of building cannot happen without consent from this court. No building or remodeling or repainting any structures cannot happen without permits, inspections and must have court approval. Soil samples need to be obtained and no rat poison or chemicals are to be used without permission from this court.
Where for petitioner moves this honorable court to enter and order and granting such other and further relief as circumstances may warrant.”