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Daily Journal has recognized LCW Case, Stebbins v. California Public Utilities Commission, as a 2022 Top Defense Verdict
Los Angeles, CA – Liebert Cassidy Whitmore (“LCW”) is pleased to announce that Daily Journal has recognized Stebbins v. California Public Utilities Commission, won by LCW Partner Suzanne Solomon, Senior Counsel Dana L. Burch, and attorney Nathan T. Jackson, as a 2022 Top Defense Verdict.
With regard to this win, Suzanne stated, “the team worked tirelessly to obtain this favorable verdict for CPUC. We are thrilled with this result and look forward to continuing our professional relationship with CPUC.”
Background on Stebbins v. California Public Utilities Commission
Plaintiff had been hired specifically to improve certain areas of the CPUC’s administration, including the departments that tracked and collected amounts that utilities owed to the CPUC. One of the other departments that Plaintiff was hired to improve was the CPUC’s Human Resources Department.
Plaintiff hired approximately 17 people from her prior agency to work closely with her at the CPUC, resulting in several employees raising concerns that Plaintiff was pre-selecting her former colleagues over more qualified applicants. An investigation by the State Personnel Board (SPB) concluded that Plaintiff had pre-selected five people, in violation of the “merit principle” contained in the California constitution, requiring that only the most qualified applicant be hired after a competitive exam.
Plaintiff refused to admit she had done anything wrong. She did not assure the Commission that she would uphold the Constitutional merit principle if she continued to be employed.
Instead, Plaintiff began an aggressive media campaign in which she alleged that the real reason the CPUC fired her was that she was a whistleblower. She claimed that the updates that she provided to the CPUC on the work being done to improve the CPUC’s accounting processes constituted whistleblowing. She also alleged that the CPUC’s five Commissioners (the governing body), had violated the Bagley-Keene open meeting act by having serial meetings via text messages to reach the decision to terminate her employment. She made these allegations in a writ petition filed in the Court of Appeal, which was also denied.
The defense verdict is significant because it validated the CPUC’s decision to terminate its Executive Director for violating the merit principle in the California’s Constitution. The jury found that the CPUC had no retaliatory motive against Plaintiff.
Liebert Cassidy Whitmore is a labor, employment, and full service education law firm that provides comprehensive, responsive, and highly competent legal advice, representation, litigation services, negotiations and training to public entities, educational institutions and non-profit organizations throughout California. The firm has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego, and Sacramento. For more information, visit our website: www.lcwlegal.com.