Over-the-top greed — Updated

San Bernardino County

This post is in reference to this story by Joe Nelson at The Sun:  $58 million claim against the county

I am going to be politically incorrect.  If this women’s husband was the great guy everyone says he was, and I’m sure he was, I hope he is rolling in his grave.  And I hope he comes back to haunt her.  This is flat out over-the-top greed by someone trying to get rich from someone else’s death.  Shame on her.

I will base the rest of my comments on 30-plus years with the county.  I realize some things may have changed.

Back in the day, all employees were given two hours with pay for a non-mandatory Christmas party.  Then, of course, it became a “holiday celebration.”  It was one of these “holiday celebrations” that resulted in me becoming a union steward.  I suspect Deidre Rodriguez still rues the day she made that happen, but I digress.

In the early 2000s someone decided that giving two hours off, which was not a negotiated benefit, was a gift of public funds.  Offices dealt with it in different ways.  Some tried to keep the parties within an hour as lunches are unpaid anyway.  Others would make employees who wanted to attend green-slip the time, while others would conduct “training” during their holiday celebrations to justify it being done on county time.  I do not know the current county or EHS policy.

No matter the policy, the office “Christmas party” is not a mandatory function.  It is more often than not held off-site.  I cannot say if employees are forced to green-slip time or if the county allows them to be conducted on county time or not.  Honestly, in my opinion, they should be done during the lunch hour or after work.  Way too many problems result from those parties.

The December massacre occurred at one such party.  It was not on county property.  Whether employees were paid to go or not does make a difference, but it was still a voluntary event.  For the most part, I do not see how the county is liable in any way.

There is one possible exception to this and I doubt we will ever know the answer.  I have seen the county ignore the fact that they have extremely angry, mentally unstable individuals working for them.  Some of you might remember the eligibility worker that was found dancing naked on the CHP unit after she went to her co-worker’s home and tried to beat up the co-worker’s children.  The story has been told on this blog before and there was an incredible amount of concerning behavior leading up to that incident.  Even after she left the county, the county hired her back.  I don’t know if she is still working for the county or not but that is just one example of how badly county background checks and mental health standards suck.

Were there any personnel complaints against the shooter prior to the incident?  Unless a case ends up in federal court in front of a jury, we will probably never know.  Human Resources has a lengthy history of covering up such behavior and looking the other way.  Reporting such things is a joke.  There is good reason why so many employees are skeptical about the county’s purported plan to upgrade security.  When they hire felons currently on parole, employees with a long history of substance abuse, and employees with a long history of domestic violence, what happened on December 2 could easily happen again and not involve a terrorist in any way.

But barring proof that the county knew that the shooter was mentally unstable, I think this lawsuit is nothing more than a money grab.  I think it is shameful behavior on the part of the wife and the attorneys.

Update:  A good source who read the above wrote to say that despite was is being reported in the media,the event at IRC was NOT a holiday party but a training event.  If that is the case, it changes things slightly I suppose.  But I still don’t see it as the county’s fault that a terrorist decided to hit the event.  If anything, the is the Fed’s fault for not properly screening the wife of the terrorist.

Either way, $58 million is just flat out greed no matter the circumstances.

24 thoughts on “Over-the-top greed — Updated

  1. A few things on this:

    1) If you are somewhat privy to the nature of claims and lawsuits seeking monetary damages, this may be a moot point, but when asking for monetary damages, the claimant/petitioner is always encouraged to ask for as much as possible based on the circumstances, and that amount is typically always negotiated down. Aim high and you get better results, aim low – ask for something more reasonable – and the defendants will still negotiate down from there. In any case, defendants are ALWAYS going to negotiate down, no matter what amount in damages is demanded. So, “aim high” is the philosophy.

    2) You seem to be confused about the incident at the IRC. If you’ve been reading the stories and following the coverage, it has been reported extensively, especially in The Sun, that the event was an all-day training event with a holiday theme and luncheon. Farook was attending that event. He showed up for it in morning, left a couple hours later, then returned with wife and shot the place up.

    3) If anyone should be entitled to some monetary damages here, it is this woman. She and her husband shared six children between them, including a 1-year-old daughter. And from what I understand, the two had primary custody of all the children. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, college tuitions to pay, medical and dental insurance to cover, etc. Given that Michael Wetzel was only 37 years old and had many more years to go before retirement, just do the math: If he retired at age 66, the legal retirement age to collect full benefits, and made, say, $75,000 a year, about right for a supervisor if not a little low, that right there is $2.1 million in lost wages over 29 years. And that figure goes up with salary increases. In her claim, Renee Wetzel asked for $3 million for lost wages, which sounds right on the mark. She asked for $25 million in general damages for herself and $10 million for each of her three children.

    And we haven’t even gotten to how the horrific murder of Wetzel will haunt the widow and surviving six children for the remainder of their lives. They will likely need a lot of counseling, some probably for life. Some may develop drug or alcohol addictions, night terrors, manic depression, and other psychological ailments. The damage did not end on Dec. 2. It will stay with the surviving victims and their families the remainder of their lives. What monetary damages do you place on that?

    When you take to look at the big picture and the long-run, there is really nothing unreasonable, excessive or greedy about this at all. This man was brutally murdered by a county employee and his wife at a county-hosted event. The county is on the hook by default, plain and simple.

    The county will be paying out dearly on this. They will not want the publicity of denying claims by these families and victims. I’m guessing they’ll want to settle these and all forthcoming claims ASAP and get this behind them in double time.

    • If you saw, I did update the part about it possibly being a training session. I stopped reading the accounts weeks ago.

      As to the legal philosophy, I understand that, I really do. But, even the other wife is distancing herself from this on social media. It is all over social media and it is about 98-2 against her. She really appears to be a gold digger and sympathy for her is not there. I agree with that.

      Will the county give her something? Absolutely. I have no doubt. Do I feel they were responsible for this? No I don’t unless there is more that we have not been told yet. But, as with most other lawsuits against the county, it probably will be up to the insurance carrier more than the BOS. That’s just life. BUt sorry, no sympathy from me.

  2. The county told the media the day after the attack that there had never been any personnel complaints against or by Farook.

    • I’m aware of what the county claims. I am also aware of instances of HR covering up such misdeeds, i.e., lying. Hard to believe I know.

    • @ Steve Brow:

      Oh my, my, Steve Brow!

      Your insensitivity is just appalling, and the way you perceive this whole thing reveals an individual with no compassion, maturity or capacity to really understand things beyond the almighty dollar sign.

      The fact you said, “My neighbor stated that the execution of 14 county employees was a good thing, but that the wrong department was targeted” is so telling about the kind of person you are it needs no further elaboration. Doesn’t matter if your neighbor said it or not, because the fact you chose to repeat such a vile and insensitive comment here is telling and means you agree.

      What is real unfortunate here is that you make this all about money, as if it actually means anything. $58 million? So what? 100 million? So what? What kind of price tag do you put on a lifetime of PTSD, psychotherapy sessions, potential drug and alcohol addictions, night terrors, future college tuitions, medical and dental care, continual medical care to address a lifetime medical needs many of the surviving shooting victims may have to contend with? I don’t expect you to grasp this anymore than I expect you to have a conscience or a shred of compassion and tact.

      Not the county’s fault? County couldn’t have done anything to prevent it? Guess what? It doesn’t matter, not one bit. The bottom line: The shooting happened at a COUNTY function, on COUNTY time during work hours, and the crime was committed by a COUNTY employee and his wife. And most all the victims were, you guessed it, COUNTY employees. So guess what? The county is on the hook. Don’t like it? Tough? And you know what else? You will continue paying taxes until you die, and your tax dollars are going to be wasted or spent on things you don’t want, and you will forever continue bitching about where your taxpayer dollars are going. So, what’s the problem? Would you rather your taxpayer dollars be wasted on unnecessary litigation the county is so famous for? Perhaps you would be more content knowing the county is wisely spending your precious taxpayer dollars on other things, like the 10-year indemnity lawsuit against SANBAG, Caltrans and Upland related to the corrupt Colonies Partners settlement that cost taxpayers $30 million, only to have the county just walk away from the lawsuit just because of some bad press. Uh, yeah. I thought so. Or what about that nice big chunk of taxpayer money, $102 million, the county gave away to Colonies in 2006 that is now the basis for this big corruption scandal that’s been in the papers for the last five years? And how much taxpayer dollars do you think the DA and AG have spent on that case, which has become quite the farce? These are just a few examples, as I’m sure you are quite aware of the county’s longstanding history of government waste and corruption. Don’t even get me started about Jim Hlawek, Jerry Eaves and Harry Mays.

      Yeah, ponying up some dough for these shooting victims and their families is just so, so wrong. I know. At least the county has an opportunity now to put up some money that can actually do some people some good. And if not, so what? If anybody deserves a big chunk of change, it’s these people. I think they earned it in the most unexpected, unwanted and horrible way possible, and I’m absolutely sure everyone one of these people would, if they all had $100 million in their bank accounts right now, would happily give it back if they could turn back time to Dec. 1. But they can’t.

      This isn’t just addressed to you, Steve Brow, but also all the other people posting on here about how “greedy” these victims of horrible tragedy, whose lives are forever blackened and haunted, are and how the poor taxpayers of San Bernardino County will have top pay for it.

      Boo hoo, poor taxpaying citizens of San Bernardino County. The county now has the burden of putting your taxpayer dollars toward something of REAL benefit now.

      So damn ugly and sad how the majority of people transform into malicious, judgmental beasts when it comes to money. It’s just money people. It comes. It goes. But guess what? A loved one whose pelvis has been shot out and whose spine has been severed, who has to wear a colostomy bag and be in a wheelchair the rest of their lives, well, that is forever, or at least until you die. And death, we all know, is forever.

      But hey, it’s not the county’s fault, and how dare these victims or their families ask the county to dig deep!

      There’s solidarity for you!

  3. Lets take another turn in this ,how about Farook claiming harassment ,and when nothing was done ,it set him off . Granted we already know he was planning attacks prior . But go figure a normal person not getting action taken on a complaint. This could indeed happen again . The county will now take this serious as many more lawsuits will be coming

    • And I think that is quite plausible. My understanding is that the county does not plan to investigate the Sandy Harmsen complaint, which is no surprise. And it’s the type of situation that could drive someone to do exactly what the shooters did.

  4. Legal Eagle, I have always respected your posts before. But if the county taxpayers are going to be blamed for this, then the taxpayers will want to shut down county government completely. Already, one of my neighbors stated that the execution of 14 county employees was a good thing, but that the wrong department was targeted.

  5. Admin, I am told the party was mandatory. Employees who were incidental PH employees working ancillary roles for EHS but not EHS employees are now dead and in critical condition in the hospital because they were told they had to go. Only a skeleton crew was allowed to stay back and man the office. And if you wanted to call in sick, a doctor’s note was required. Of course this Nissan guy is gonna set the bar to exorbitant levels. Try to find out about his practice. I’m thinking this guy sees serious dollar signs in this case.

    But a reasonable amount of compensation due to lost wages is reasonable in this case. The county may not be completely responsible for the dismal IRC security staff (did you know the on site “guard” noted the shooter acting funny outside prior to the shooting but he just let it slide) but the County is responsible for employee safety when they are on the clock (you remember all the safety films; safe ladder use, driving in the rain, verbal judo for difficult clients; etc). What’s worse, the previous year, this same training event hosted the county active shooter training video. A lot of good that did, as most employees were quoted as saying they thought it was a drill and just stood there at first. It was also noted by employees that the shooter had really taken on the muslim extremist look as of late and they wondered what was going on. Im seeing some tort issues here. Just don’t know if this Nissan character is the guy to get the compensation she is due.

    • If it was mandatory, that certainly changes the picture some. But I still doubt there was much the county could have done to prevent it. I would not have a problem if money was set aside for each of his natural or legally adopted children to pay for college. But beyond that, I really think little else is appropriate. I’m sure the kids will get SS survivor benefits until they are 18. And they raised over $300,000 for her as well as giving her a new vehicle. She just seems very greedy to me.

  6. I am very sorry for them all, the deceased, the injured, the people with emotional injury, and everyone in the county – staff and citizens. This was a crime that victimized everyone. But to say the County is liable is wrong. To be liable the county would have to have been negligent somehow. There were no complaints against the shooter and Mr Wetzel was the shooters supervisor and would have been one of the people staff complained to, but no one did. No one saw anything amiss in his behavior, including his own supervisor. The county can’t send guards to every off site meeting that is held. Sometimes the blame for tragedy lies only with the perpetrator.

    • We all know that it is the lawyer that plans the strategy of the suit and I’m sure Mrs. Wetzel is too distraught to have schemed any deliberate attempt to screw the county, taxpayers, and anyone else. This definitely has the footprint of a lawyer new to the game or one with a lot of bravado. We dont know the other names on the suit and I would certainly hope the IRC was one of those named as they were primarily responsible for security.

      I am told Farook had changed appearance lately, but employees were too worried about being labeled racist if they mentioned anything. I am also told Wetzel was not the shooters supervisor, but was one of a number of people who suggested Farook’s not make it past probation. The shooters supervisor was someone on vacation at the time of the event. It is unclear if Farook was distressed with his job, but I am told the EHS management is very strict at maintaining Greggy’s goals, which has caused a very bad overall work environment in that department. My source mentioned numerous former employees who were saved because they recently sought employment elsewhere.

      I am very interested in the facts of the case being revealed, or the facts being hidden by some quietly negotiated settlement. Could be very telling. And yes, my source tells me more suits are to come. Could Greg’s satisfactory job performance be a mistake?

  7. $58 million for one fatality. That extrapolates to $814 million for 14 fatalities. And where Farook, Malik, and ISIS are the obvious culprits, the citizens of San Bernardino County are expected to pay the price.

    This obilterates Governor Jerry Brown’s claim that the Colonies Partners caper, at a mere $102 million was the crime of the century. Of course, in the Colonies case, it was the County, SANBAG, and Caltrans doing the original crime of dumping flood waters and the Colonies four prosecuted for trying to right the wrong in the wrong way.

    Personally I do not believe in Karma, but it has many times been stated on this website that Karma is a bitch.

    More realisticly, it might be best for America if San Bernardino County was simply disolved by the state and made a special protectorate of the state. It would be a good warning for all localities accross the nation and a good warning to the Sate of California of what could happen if the State does not mend its ways.

    Go ahead Legal Eagle. Sue San Bernardino County into oblivian.

  8. She is angry(rightfully so), and grieving. I don’t imagine that at this point money means much of anything to her. Her life has been ripped to shreds in an afternoon and she is still in shock. Cut her some slack. Whether or not the county is liable is up to the courts to decide. But to call her greedy is insensitive to a situation most of us will never know anything about or be able to relate to.

  9. Also, there is a very short window to sue a government agency. You have a bit more time to file on behalf of a child. She is actually smart. File now, it takes awhile to wind through the courts, and she is safe if any type of negligence is exposed.

  10. I’m told by people close that some employees were scared of Sted, had voiced their concerns and their concerns were dismissed. If this is true, I completely get the lawsuit, and the amount. County employees concerns for their safety had long been pooh poohed as unimportant.

  11. In my opinion, the County opened the door to these lawsuits when they encouraged some of the First Responders to be interviewed by the media. Anyone that works in the emergency side of the medical field knows that, during a MCI, seconds really do matter. And that if you spend too long on one patient then 5 more may die. We all know that and most of us hope and pray that we never have to make those decisions. We also all know that discussing those decisions and situations should be done constructively and respectfully.

    The media article regarding the SWAT medic was a slap in the face to every family member who lost a loved one during this horrible tragedy. Can you imagine knowing that it was one person who was making the decision who would receive further medical care…….all within 5 seconds. Does it happen? Yes…… it doeszzzzzand it should happen in order to have the potential to save the most victims.

    But it should not be so blatently and coldly printed in black and white for the whole world to read; including the families of those that were lost. Can you imagine forever wondering that, if an extra second was spent on your loved one, would he/she be alive today? It opens a door of never knowing and certaintly does not help in the grieving/healing process. It is a shame that the media was allowed to prop open that door in order to make a buck.

    • Back in 2006 my mom had a stroke. She was 88. A year earlier she was diagnosed with critical aortic valve stenosis and diabetes. Even after the stroke she remained communicative with us even though she could not speak. She was dependant on a breathing machine. One nurse in particular was adamant that I have her taken off of the machine. To put it in her words, they would knock her out, remove the ventilatir, and she would die. I absolutely refused. Tovme that was euthanasia. It might have been different had she been unconscious but not when she was still bossing the four of us kids around. I did do a dnr on her heart.

      At about six weeks she was transferred to the continuing care home in Reche Canyon. Two months to the day at 1:30 a.m. I received the call from LLUMC that she had been brought there in full cardiac arrest and they wanted to verify the DNR. I did. There was absolutely nothing that could have been done for her. She was not a candidate for surgery.

      When I went to pick up her belongings from the care center, the doctor called me into her office. She told me that the night they found her the ventilator had been removed along with her feeding tube and IV. They kept my mom’s hands constrained so they had no idea how everything got removed. I think the Dr. was fessing up because the paramedics questioned it and thought someone might tell me.

      In the back of my mind I have always wondered what happened. Was there an angel of death working in that facility. Or did they realize after she went into cardiac arrest that they forgot to put the restraints back on after her bath. Or what happened. Did she die or was she killed? That has always been in the back of my mind.

      It was two days after her death the county and union came after me. I never had time to grieve. The question was one I had to just leave alone as I did not have the mental capacity to deal with anything else at that point in time.

      My point in writing this is that I understand what it means to have that doubt in the back if your mind. It is unsettling at best.

      Lots of things happen in emergency situations that we are better off never knowing about. Honestly, I wish the doctor never told me. Had she not been so close to death after a very long, good life I would feel differently. On the other hand. I also wonder if they have an angel if death there killing patients.

  12. Cindy raises the prime pertinent point above. Only a nurse, anyone who ever watched MASH understands what triage is. They know the agony of having to make those decisions. They know that the doctors distract themselves by delving into football and wondering which nurses are natural blondes…

    Sharon, that is a heart-wrenching story. Soon, with Obamacare, we won’t have to wonder anymore.

    Anonymous, if you view me as insensitive, shove it.

  13. Friends of EHS staff have heard stories from staff who played dead and went through 4-5 minutes of hell as the county employee and his wife went around the room indescriminatly shooting people on the floor. They also told me of survivors watching and hearing others die slow deaths. And as police arrived, they wondered why more of the victims were not just grabbed and taken out to medical personnel. In my opinion, none of those 14 should have been pronounced on site and left on the floor for almost a day. They deserved better. I understand bombs are scary things, but risking your life for the public is part of the job. Hell of a thing for those kids, once they get old enough, to ponder about the final horrific minutes of their parents life.

    • They were left on the floor for almost a day???!!!

      Steve, if you don’t have a problem with that, you shove it, because if that is the case I think you are an insensitive A$$.

  14. I cannot see how the county is liable for the actions of criminals, nor should it be.

    Pettifoggers ought to pay for all costs after they lose money grab attempts. Better yet, we need to enact law vis the initiative process that creates a policing authority that will be commissioned to investigate unethical and criminal actions of pettifoggers.

    Pettifoggers contaminate the few ethical lawyers that actually pursue justice, a concept that’s foreign to the foggers.

    There is a reason that Americans continually rate lawyers in the bottom third of America’s most admired professions. But then again, lawyering is not a profession. Plumbing is a profession. Lawyering is a con job.

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