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Appeals court upholds firing of Monterey County chief sheriff’s deputy

A state appeals court has upheld a decision by Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller to fire an employee in 2011.

Eduardo Lorenzana sued after being fired in January 2011. He claimed Miller violated his employment agreement.

Lorenzana was promoted to chief deputy sheriff in 2008 by former Sheriff Mike Kanalakis. This meant he was now classified as an at-will employee.

Kanalakis lost to Miller in the sheriff’s race in 2010, however. Before leaving office, Kanalakis began the process of transferring Lorenzana back to sheriff’s commander. He didn’t finish the process, however, according to the decision issued Friday by the 6th District Court of Appeals.

Shortly after taking office, Miller terminated Lorenzana, citing his at-will status. Miller told him the transfer had been incomplete, and that the only available position was as a deputy. Lorenzana says he was fired after turning down the deputy position.

In the complaint he filed in Monterey County Superior Court, Lorenzana argued that he was no longer an at-will employee. The judge rejected the argument, citing the incomplete transfer, and sided with Miller.

In the appeal filed with the 6th District Court of Appeals, Lorenzana made a different argument, saying that because he’d been a high-ranking officer, he was entitled to a full evidentiary hearing before termination.

But the appellate court rejected this argument as well, siding with Miller.

The full decision can be read here.

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