San Bernardino, CA - A judge ruled in favor of a former city of San Bernardino Senior Customer Service Representative Mirna Cisneros on Thursday, May 14, three days after an appeal hearing regarding unemployment benefits on Monday, May 11, which reviewed the facts and evidence surrounding the allegations against the San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia. Cisneros was denied benefits after she quit claiming to have been sexually harassed by Valdiva.
A claim was filed on Feb. 13, which outlined allegations of inappropriate behavior by Valdivia toward Cisneros. Cisneros’s attorney Tristan Pelayes said, the city had failed to appropriately address the issues, despite the numerous complaints, and that Valdiva continuously dismissed written warnings from the administration regarding his conduct.
Pelayes concluded that Valdivia’s behavior was so egregious that it had significant impacts to Cisneros’s mental, emotional and physical health. She ultimately had to quit after multiple failed attempts to seek protection and resolve the problems.
In the appeals hearing decision, the judge determined that Cisneros had “established good cause to voluntarily quit.” The decision also referenced the “repeated complaints to others, without sufficient response by the employer.” Based on those, as well as other factors, the California Employment Development Department's determination that Cisneros’s did not provide enough information to qualify for unemployment benefits was reversed; deeming Cisneros qualified for those benefits.
In a statement after the hearing, Pelayes said, “I am very grateful that the judge reversed the decision after hearing and seeing the significant evidence,” and that “My client clearly had no choice but to quit after being subjected to the mayor's despicable conduct.”
This news comes as the city of San Bernardino is asking for an additional $30,000 to the $50,000 it’s already spent to continue its own investigation, being conducted by Los Angeles-based investigator Carla Barboza. Barboza however, has only been able to interview Don Smith who works for the city as legislative field representative. The remaining five accusers have refused to be interviewed because the city declined to work together with Pelayes by conducting an independent investigation into Valdivia, said Pelayes. He also stated that the aforementioned money the city is requesting for the investigation is a “disservice to the community” and a waste of taxpayer money to the citizens of San Bernardino.
Four separate lawsuits that include Cisneros are now pending filing after being rejected by the city of San Bernardino. No word on when those lawsuits may be filed as the San Bernardino court system has been shutdown due to the corona virus pandemic.
One of the accusers Allison Payne has not decided yet if she will take part of the lawsuit.