District accused of alleged wrongful termination

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By Nita Gandhi / Interim news editor

Having his say (Nita Gandhi)

By Nita Gandhi / Interim news editor

Rick Hernandez was a Riverside City College employee who is accusing the  college of wrongfully terminating him from his job.  

Hernandez was the director of capital planning and construction for RCC. He said that it entails designing and planning buildings for all three colleges.  

“I was a whistle blower for the hiring process for my immediate boss at that time Orin Williams,” Hernandez said. “He hired Michael Stevens in an inappropriate hiring process.”  

Hernandez said that Stevens, who is the capital program administrator for the current nursing building construction was not supposed to be a candidate in the hiring process.

Williams stopped interviews and hired Stevens to become the director of construction for RCC.

One accusation Hernandez is making is that Stevens has family ties to the construction company that is building the nursing building Budget Electrical Company.

Williams said that Stevens does have family ties to BEC. However, the hiring of Stevens was talked over by Ruth Adams, general council for RCCD and Chancellor Gregory Gray and all three declared that there was no conflict of interest with the hiring of Stevens.

“They are blaming me for conflict of interest I never had,” Hernandez said.

In the Board of Trustees policy 2710 says, no employee of the District shall engage in employment, activity, or enterprise that is in conflict with duties performed as an employee of the District.

The employee cannot do any work or service outside of the District unless approved in a manner prescribed by the policy.  

Adams said that if Stevens has stock, receives money, or owned any property with BEC there would be a conflict of interest.

“All procedures were followed with Stevens,” Adams said.  

She also said that Williams is aware of the family ties between Stevens and BEC. If there is a bid for a project from BEC, then Stevens will not be apart of the decisions, designs, or anything to do with the project for bid.

Another accusation Hernandez made was that his firing was in violation of the Brown Act section 54957. It prohibits a legislative body of a local agency from holding closed sessions during regular meetings to consider employment or dismissal of a public employee and the employee should have written notice of his or her right to have the complaints or charges heard in an open session rather than a closed session.  

“Now to this point they did not give me the right to an open session because I want the public to know exactly what’s going on here,” Hernandez said.

In the agenda from the Board meeting on Jan. 18 it states in the closed session section, “Pursuant of Government Code Section 54957, public employee discipline/dismissal/release.”  

“It’s about what is in the education code and what’s in the Brown Act. That meeting on Jan. 18 where they terminated me is null and void,” Hernandez said.  

At the Board meeting on Jan. 25, Hernandez spoke to the Board stating the violation to his right to an open session and the other accusations against him.  

“So what they do with it we will see what happens. Reinstate, I don’t know renegotiate, come back to the table, they need to do something because they are wrong,” Hernandez said.

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