Amanda Carley’s attorney has ten days to firm up the causes of action against most of the defendants in her five-year-old case against Mendocino County, the Probation Department, its former head, and former Ukiah Police Chief Noble Waidelich.
A fifteen-count complaint from 2017 accuses Waidelich of abusing Carley, a former probation officer, during their relationship and the other parties of conspiring to create an untenable workplace for her after reports of the domestic abuse came to light. A Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office report said that Carley initially downplayed the abuse, but then provided evidence that it had in fact occurred. District Attorney David Eyster did not prosecute Waidelich, but allegedly placed Carley on the Brady list, a secretive collection of names of untruthful law enforcement officers. The list is not publicly available.
Eyster was originally included in Carley’s complaint, but the court dropped him as a defendant in 2018, saying he was protected by the anti-SLAPP statute, a free speech law that shielded him from being personally sued for speaking about activities “in connection with a public issue.”
At a tentative ruling on Friday morning, Deputy County Counsel Brina Blanton argued that Carley was trying to relitigate the court’s decision to remove Eyster, saying the complaint did not meet the heightened standard of pleading against an official. The county had filed a motion asking Superior Court Judge Jeanine Nadel to hold separate trials for the county and Waidelich. Rather than separate the single case into two, Carley’s attorney, Richard Freeman, was asking leave to amend the complaint and proceed against all the remaining defendants.
The complaint states that after her interview with the Sheriff’s Office, the Probation Department investigated Carley for deceit, formally reprimanded her “for lying and bringing discredit to the County,” demoted her, and confiscated her weapon, as part of a civil conspiracy to discredit her, force her out of her job, and close ranks around Waidelich who has since been fired and is under criminal investigation for undisclosed reasons..
At the beginning of Friday’s tentative ruling, Nadel appeared to agree with Blanton, remarking that “the county can’t conspire with itself, without Eyster.”
But the proceeding skipped quickly past the conspiracy complaints into the need to establish a factual basis for the complaints against the county and Albert Ganter, Carley’s boss when she worked at the Probation Department.
Freeman declared that he believes strongly that Ganter is a suitable defendant, and that he is prepared to focus on the significance of Ganter’s decision to confiscate Carley’s duty weapon. The complaint argues that, without her firearm, Carley was deprived of the ability to carry out her duties safely, or to fulfill the requirements of her office.
The statute of limitations on the case is nearly expired, but last month, Nadel agreed to set a trial date for September 26. Freeman proved at a hearing in June that for years, the case had appeared by some error to be closed, when in fact it had been open all along.
On Friday, Nadel allowed Freeman to amend the case against all the remaining defendants, though she said plainly she was “not confident” that he could lay out a statutory basis for all of the claims. While she said she was “not inclined to throw the case out” after setting a trial, she advised Freeman to “think long and hard: is the county a necessary party to the case?”
There is still time for the county to return with a motion before the trial date.