Porter still fired, but not for testifying -- Benest

Former meter reader plans to continue fighting to get his job back

Former Palo Alto meter reader Brandon Porter is still fired, but not for testifying in a harassment inquiry relating to another employee,

City Manager Frank Benest has ruled.

Benest upheld the firing in an Oct. 4 letter to Adolfo Reidel, a worksite organizer with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521.

"At the time the decision to terminate was made, (Utilities Director Valerie) Fong had no knowledge that Mr. Porter had been interviewed, and no one had knowledge of what he said in the interview," Benest wrote.

Porter, a probationary meter reader with nearly three years of part-time experience, was fired June 28 by Fong. He was let go for unsafe driving and "a performance matter related to meter reading," according to Fong.

But Porter and the union alleged Porter was fired in retaliation for testifying in a harassment inquiry. They cited several unusual aspects of Porter's release, including a threat from the subject of the inquiry and the uncustomary involvement of a department head.

The Weekly outlined the complicated situation in a Sept. 12 article. (Read the article)

The union submitted a letter to Benest Oct. 1, formally requesting an investigation into the matter. Despite repeated notification including an August letter from union Chapter Chair Phil Plymale, a presentation before the City Council and conversations with Human Resources staff, "we have been informed that this official notification is required in order to trigger the City's duty to investigate," Riedel wrote.

Benest responded that the city had been aware of the union's contentions and an investigation had already been conducted.

"The circumstances of this case do not indicate retaliation," Benest wrote.

He said employees involved in the harassment inquiry did not have the authority to fire Porter, Fong had been unaware of Porter's involvement in the harassment inquiry and the city had not completed the inquiry before Porter was fired.

Porter said he has contacted an attorney and has an appointment with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

SEIU attorneys who are assisting Porter "feel this could be a very strong case," Plymale said.

He said the city hired a replacement for Porter, but that hasn't stopped the former employee from pursuing the case.

"I'm not giving up because I really feel like I was wronged," Porter said.

— Becky Trout


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Gee, Go figure. There are several reason why you have heard from me also. I too feel that I was wronged. I think wronged is a little bit of a under statement.
If we are all public employees maybe we can tell are stories to the public. Find out what the public thinks about what is going on.
Maybe the public can judge if treatment is fair for all?
Now what about the other court case with the women who was having the pay and classification issue with the City?

Posted by M. Wilde, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 25, 2007 at 4:42 pm

Let's just call a spade a spade. Here is another prime example of how corrupt people can be. Fortunate for me I know all the aspects in this case because I am aware of all the key players.I am surprised that with all the given information, sworn affidavits and witness testimony coupled with the sympathetic outpouring from Palo Alto residences that this could not be resolved in a more amicable way. My heart goes out to this guy because he actually had worked at Andronico's Market for 10 years when a employee from the City of Palo Alto came and told Brandon about the position. While working TEMP for the City he also continued working for Andronico's Market for 3 YEARS. I don't get it? Why wouldn't you FIRE someone earlier if there was issues? But with in days of testifying in a harrassment case he is terminated? It just doesn't fit. Shame on you Frank Benest. You made a bad call in judgement.

Posted by Victoria Gates, a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2007 at 4:50 pm

What rock are you living under Frank Benest when you are quoted as saying "The circumstances of this case do not indicate retaliation." Have you read the Sept. 12 article? I understand you support local issues, well this is as close to home as one could get.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2007 at 8:21 am

Really, could Frank have written otherwise without admitting a legal liability for him and the city? Let a court determine this question.

Posted by Not_Surprised, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2007 at 2:42 pm

I'm rooting for Brandon. If the majority of Palo Alto citizens realized that the utility leadership conducted themselves so unethically covering eachother, Brandon would be back at work.

Frank Benest's insult that Brandon wasn't fired for his testimony against a utility manager is beneath the intelligence of the average citizen.

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