August 3, 2001


Humanity and Justice Missing From County Administration

By Daniel L. Muñoz

History, if not paid attention to, can sometimes leap up and bite you! Such seemed to be the case when the County of San Diego's Health and Human Service Agency decided to fire Martha Martinez Johnson six months before she was scheduled to retire after 30 years of dedicated service to the County of San Diego.

When such an incident comes to my attention alarm bells sound in my mind. What is this? What is going on? Has the County become so insensitive that something like this can happen in this day and age? Using my channels of information, I managed to get the ORDER OF REMOVAL AND CHARGES that were submitted by Suzanne McCotter, Interim Regional General Manager of the County of San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency.

Setting aside the usual bureaucratic jargon, which is usually employed when doing a hatchet job on an employee, Ms. McCotter filed the following allegations against Martha Martinez Johnson:

That you are guilty of incompetence.

This was followed by examples of her incompetence.

To Wit:

- She used poor judgment (from August 1998 to May 2001) by advocating on behalf of client concerns.

(That was her job! She was the only Spanish-speaking Senior Clerk where the majority of the clientele was Spanish speaking)

- She attempted to repair the Bar Code Printer cartridge using rubber bands and tape.

(What's going on in that department? Seems she tried to do her job by repairing needed equipment when the County couldn't or wouldn't pay money to repair the printer.)

-She left the office to secure a printer ribbon.

(Come on Ms. McCotter, don't you have better things to do?)

-She allowed a client to watch CRT Screens (i.e. TV screens)

(When you're dealing with poor monolinguals you have to use every tool at hand to make them understand why you're kicking them off welfare!)

-She made negative remarks regarding a co-worker.

(Wow! Was someone taping everything this lady did or said?)

-She involved herself in attempts to resolve client complaints.

(Excuse me, Ms. McCotter, isn't this what she is getting paid to do?)

Well you get the picture. We won't go through the rest of the trumped up charges. It gets worse.

I believe in the good old days of the MOVIMIENTO we called racial discrimination. For the benefit of the supervisors, the unions, la gente, etc. Martha Martinez Johnson paid her dues in the struggle for equal rights and opportunities. Her deceased husband, Don Burdette, and Martha went to the marches to speak out and protest against La Migra, police brutality, racism and discrimination. Martha and Don spent their weekends and nights providing entertainment at Chicano fundraisers to help the MOVEMENT. Don would play his guitar and Marta would sing. They were always there...Yes, even in the protests against the County who would deny health care to the poor and to migrants. They were there when all those other programs were put in place to stop the rampant racism that was going on in the 70's and 80's. Where were you Ms. McCotter??

To prove that racism and discrimination is still alive in the County: All employees are offered protection against racist attacks such as the one launched against Marta. A Skelly Hearing is held in which the charges are investigated before any action is taken. Marta Martinez Burdette Johnson was given such a hearing. The Presiding Officer must be an impartial hearing officer (Skelly rules). The hearing officer assigned to hear Marta's case was none other than Suzanne McCotter. Her accuser was her Judge!

What Justice is there in the County? What is the Board of Supervisors going to do about this? What is our GENTE going to do about this?

Muñoz is the Chairman of the Board of La Prensa Muñoz Inc. He can be reached via e-mail at

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