LOS BANOS, MERCED COUNTY, CA: June 23rd, 2015: Ex-Mayor Tommy Jones was told by LB Councilwoman Deborah Lewis to go pound sand when Jones requested that LB Citizens pay Jones’ punitive monetary damages levied against him by a Federal Jury for his malicious violation of Eugene Forte’s civil rights. (Forte v. Jones, 1:11-00718-AWI-BAM)
On January 15, 2015, Ex-Mayor Tommy Jones requested the City of Los Banos to pay Forte’s punitive award against Jones. As a result, a special city council meeting was called on June 23rd, 2015 to review the matter. Luckily for Forte and the citizens of Los Banos, City Councilwoman Lewis was an honest, forthright person who upheld a Federal jury verdict finding that Jones’ conduct was malicious. Lewis followed the long held California public policy that prohibits punitive damages being paid by citizens for the malicious acts by government officials against citizens.
LB Councilman Scott Silveira and Elizabeth Stone-Grove, voted that Jones’ act was “just an innocent mistake” based only upon Jones’ plea his tab be picked up by citizens notwithstanding that a Federal jury, after an eight day jury trial with sworn testimony and evidence, found it was no accident or innocent mistake by Jones.
The Badger Flats Gazette suggests that LB citizens keep a close eye on Silveira and Stone-Grove that do not hesitate to have citizens pick up the tab for the malicious acts of a fellow public official and care less what a Federal Jury ordered as punishment for Jones.
Forte for months had strenuously objected to LB citizens picking up the tab for Jones’ bad conduct and argued that Jones should pay personally.
Jones’ malicious conduct against Forte and his frivilous defense was alread paid for by the City of Los Banos’ Risk Management Authority to the tune of $275,000.00 according to City Attorney William Vaughn.
On June 12th, 2014, a federal court jury voted unanimously to award Forte $7,500 in extremely rare punitive damages (in addition to the $10,000.00 in compensatory damages also awarded) against Jones finding that Jones did in fact maliciously violate Forte’s rights. A punitive award against a public official such as Jones when he was mayor is allowable under law in order to punish and deter future malicious conduct by public officials against citizens.
Despite the Federal jury’s unanimous verdict finding that Jones’ act was malicious warranting punitive damages, the City Council of Los Banos felt the need to re-open the issue at the behest of Jones. The question was again: Did Jones maliciously and intentionally shut off Forte’s microphone? WHOA there! Didn’t a jury already determine that he did? Of course!
For two hours, the meeting continued with Forte having to, again, convince a quasi jury, this time the jury being the City Council, without sworn witness testimony, without documents, and without a judge, that Jones’ acts were malicious. Silveira and Stone-Grove, based on no sworn testimony, evidence, etc. made the determination that Jones’ acts were accidental, overturning what took a jury eight days of sworn testimony and evidence to determine.
City Councilman Debra Lewis’ vote stopped the citizens of Los Banos from picking up the tab for Jones’ malicious conduct.
As Lewis pointed out, a jury determined it was a malicious act, and the City should not pay for Jones.
View the video of the LB meeting and then check it against the garbage the LB EmptyPrise, Merced Sun Star and Modesto Bee reported on June 25th, 2015 in their article: “Los Banos council refuses to help pay legal damages for former mayor”