The Tulare Public Cemetery District (TPCD) was served again this morning concerning former groundskeeper Brian Viera’s potential lawsuit against the district.
Maggie Melo, of the Law Offices of Melo and Sarsfield, served TPCD an updated Claim 910 in Viera’s potential lawsuit against the district.
The Supplemental 910 Claim on behalf of Brian Viera was updated to include additional charges and clear up a detail concerning the day Viera was fired. The updated letter states that Tulare Cemetery Board Chair Xavier Avila was not physically in the office when Viera was fired but was on the cemetery grounds.
The updated claim also adds new charges to Viera’s potential suit.
Avila’s comments in yesterday’s Valley Voice article threw confusion into why Viera was fired.
According to Melo’s updated claim, Avila implied that Viera wasn’t fired for telling former manager Leonor Castaneda that the cemetery was breaking the law, but rather he was fired for misconduct.
The letter states that Avila’s comment “was a clear insinuation of misconduct attributed to claimant and as such, triggers a right to a Lubey hearing.”
Fueling the lawsuit – unanswered questions surrounding why Viera was fired
Taken by surprise over his termination after working at the cemetery for 14 years, receiving good evaluations, and a promotion in 2018, Viera’s reasons as to why he was fired has evolved.
The Valley Voice reported on March 19, “Viera was not told why he was fired but believes he is being blamed for the grave mix-up (during the double disinterment) and is considering suing to get his job back.”
Over the next few weeks, Viera and his lawyer Melo believed that he was possibly fired for alerting the main office that they were breaking the law by disinterring a body against a family’s wishes.
But that hypothesis came under scrutiny after the Valley Voice published yesterday’s article concerning Viera’s 910 Claim.
Because of Avila’s comments to the Voice, it is now suspected that Viera might have been fired for misconduct. In Melo and Sarsfield’s supplemental 910 Claim, a new charge has been added to Viera’s possible suit of TPCD violating Viera’s right to privacy and denying him a Lubey hearing.
According to the updated 910 Claim, “On/about May 3, 2021, the Valley Voice newspaper published a story regarding this matter. In the article, Director Avila stated words to the effect that “Brian wasn’t fired for the reasons he is claiming.” That statement is a clear insinuation of misconduct attributed to claimant and as such, triggers a right to a Lubey hearing. Further, the statement is violative of claimant’s privacy in his employment personnel records. At no time did claimant authorize Director Avila to publicly discuss his employment, the reasons for his termination, or his performance of his duties as a government employee.”
The letter continues, “Claimant was not and has not been afforded any opportunity to appeal his termination, nor was he offered an opportunity to have a “Lubey” hearing to respond to any allegations of misconduct. Other district employees have been afforded “Lubey” hearings, including the former district manager, Castaneda.”
Does not want his job back
Since March, Viera not only reassessed why he was fired but realized he does not want to work for TPCD.
Families with loved ones buried at Tulare’s cemetery have loudly protested his termination and given emotional pleas during TPCD meetings to rehire Viera.
Despite the public’s support, Viera no longer wants his job at TPCD because of the toxic work environment. Seven employees have been fired from TCPD in the last three years while a current employee lives in fear everyday he reports to work that it will be his last.
The Supplemental 910 Claim on behalf of Brian Viera resets the clock on the districts 45 days to respond. The district has until mid-June to respond before Viera files a lawsuit.