Hollister City Council candidate Salvador Mora is appealing for his longtime job back as a Santa Clara County juvenile corrections officer after being fired in July following an investigation into claims — for which he said he was cleared — of excessive force against an inmate.
Mora is running for the District 4 city council seat to represent Hollister’s southeast side against Marty Richman and to succeed Councilman Jim Gillio, who is seeking the District 4 county supervisor seat.
The Santa Clara County Probation Department fired Mora in late July after he had been placed on paid administrative leave for “13 or 14 months” following a juvenile hall incident involving a physical restraint, Mora acknowledged to San Benito Live. Mora recalled the incident — underscoring how district attorney, sheriff’s and internal affairs investigations found him not guilty of an excessive force claim — and blamed the termination on management retaliation for his union activities.
Mora said the probation department ultimately fired him for unprofessional conduct toward a coworker in the aftermath of the same incident.
“I was cleared of the excessive force claim,” Mora said. “That’s why we’re appealing the discipline. That’s why we feel extremely confident we’re going to win when it is heard during the appeal process with the personnel board. The discipline received is extremely excessive and completely unfair. The serious allegation where I could see being terminated was the excessive force allegation.”
He went on to note how he had never received a negative write-up or review for his work before the restraint incident.
Mora explained how the personnel board review process can take two to three years because the list of termination appeals was at more than two dozen when he last checked and the county personnel board meets monthly.
Santa Clara County spokespersons declined to comment on specifics with Mora’s case. Laurel Anderson, a public affairs officer with the county executive’s office, merely confirmed Mora’s dates of employment with the county from May 23, 2015 to July 28, 2018 and his job title of senior group counselor. The county declined to provide any financial information related to Mora’s departure after 13 years of employment there.
Mora in his council campaign, meanwhile, has touted a 16-year career in probation for Santa Clara County without mentioning his firing. He noted how he was classified as extra help from July 2002 until his full-time hiring.
Mora’s candidate page on Facebook notes being elected as a union representative who advocated for peers.
Mora, now a mortgage broker, repeatedly attributed the firing to his union leadership and denied crossing the line with a coworker who filed a complaint against him following the inmate restraint.
Mora explained how he had been a union shop steward for three years and a union representative for over a decade.
“Even if I was guilty of policy violations, it doesn’t warrant the level of discipline given,” he said. “It seems a little suspicious.”
He said he was let go for “minor allegations” but he wasn’t surprised.
“I knew from the beginning that even if I was cleared of the excessive force claim that I would be terminated,” he said. “So it wasn’t a complete shock. It was probably more of a shock to my family.”
He went on: “Some of the fellow union leaders kind of felt the same way. They’re going to take advantage of the situation and try to get rid of me.”
He recalled the restraint incident, and how the juvenile inmate had been punching and kicking him. He said the inmate initially claimed Mora did the punching, but Mora said that was untrue and that he used a cross-face wrestling move — with his forearm — on two occasions to restrain the juvenile.
“Under those circumstances, being attacked, you pretty much can do what you need to do — to make yourself safe,” Mora said.
He said the incident started when the juvenile refused orders to go to his room while “being disruptive” and “cursing.” Mora said the juvenile’s refusal left him no choice but to restrain the minor and that the juvenile reacted violently.
“Basically, if someone’s attacking you, someone’s punching you, then you do have the ability and authority to do what you need to do to make yourself safe,” he said. “Even though I was being attacked, I didn’t punch the kid. I didn’t kick him or knee him.”
He said he had no intent to harm the minor, who sustained “no injuries whatsoever” from the incident.
“I wasn’t surprised of the outcome,” Mora said, “but it was disappointing because the minor admitted to basically what I stated.”
As Mora’s description goes, he was fired for a “violation of policy and procedure” and how he — as an acting supervisor that day — acted toward the coworker.
“I supposedly violated some youth timeout policy,” he said. “In this situation I was involved with, it does not apply.”
Asked to elaborate, and he said he couldn’t recall the exact policy violation but that he “hurt a coworker’s feelings because of critical actions during the incident.”
Mora said that relatively new coworker at the time had failed to help another staff member deal with the juvenile. Mora said he did not curse or yell at the coworker who later complained.
In relation to the incident, Mora suggested San Benito Live interview Mark Murray, president of the Santa Clara County Probation Peace Officers Union. Murray supported Mora’s appeal, but had a contrasting recollection on Mora’s interaction with the coworker.
“I think he raised his voice and probably used some language that they don’t always like that is commonly used in this line of work,” Murray said. “Essentially the coworkers, they didn’t act appropriately in a crisis situation due to a lack of training.”
Murray said management didn’t like Mora’s approach.
“But in this kind of work, we have to be very direct and blunt sometimes, not just with our clients but with each other. I don’t think most people would be offended generally by the language he used or that he said it.”
Murray said the union eagerly awaits the personnel board hearing for Mora. Murray expressed confidence Mora will win his appeal.
“Their own internal conclusion was that there was not excessive force,” he said.
Murray said Mora would receive back-pay from the time of the firing to reinstatement along with vacation and pension accruals.
If that occurs, Mora said he will decide whether to resign or keep his job.
“I hold my head up high and I’m still proud of the work that I’ve done,” Mora said.