It was a typical cool, misty Carmel day on Feb. 16 with rain in the forecast, when Gary Brunclik was covering a scissor lift parked behind the Sunset Center with a tarp. On his way back down the lift’s climbing ladder, his foot slipped off the bottom rung and he fell off. His left leg hit the exposed L-shaped metal post of an air conditioning unit, flaying the left side of his knee wide open. Just a few weeks before, the unit had a protective fence around it that would have prevented the laceration, but the fence had blown away in a storm.
“It was a pretty gruesome injury,” the former Sunset Center production manager says. Brunclik spent four days at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
His supervisors with Sunset Cultural Center, Inc. – the nonprofit that operates the city-owned property – did not report the injury to Cal/OSHA until four days later, which is a violation of state law that requires employers to report serious injuries or death within eight hours, 24 maximum if not immediately known.
That delay resulted in a regulatory violation carrying a $5,000 fine, according to a citation and notification of penalty Cal/OSHA issued on June 10. A second citation for a “serious” violation carried a fine of $16,200. The center is accused of not having documentation for what’s called an Injury and Illness Prevention Program that outlines procedures for identifying and correcting workplace hazards and providing safety training to workers.
Sunset Center filed an appeal of both citations and the $21,200 in fines on June 24, according to Frank Polizzi, a spokesperson for the California Department of Industrial Relations, of which Cal/OSHA is a part. The appeal is being handled by the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.
The second citation is still being investigated by Cal/OSHA and includes a separate complaint that resulted after Brunclik and his partner, Kellie Quinn-Hoffmeister, an independent safety consultant, were interviewed by an investigator on Feb. 24. The two claimed there have been at least two other injury accidents in the last year and one near-miss. They also shared Quinn-Hoffmeister’s written attempts last year to warn Sunset Center officials of potential safety violations. One of her warnings: that the center did not have Injury Illness Prevention Program documentation.
In response to questions from the Weekly, Sunset Center Executive Director Christine Sandin provided a press release. “[Sunset Cultural Center] takes workplace and public safety very seriously,” it reads. “SCC is firmly committed to investigating any allegations concerning safety practices.” The center hired an OSHA consultant in May to conduct an independent safety assessment, the release notes, and “any recommendation from the consultant will be promptly addressed.”
Brunclik was laid off on July 8. He believes center officials and members of the Board of Directors were “stacking the deck” against him after the February incident and his requests for safety improvements. Sandin says by email that “mandated budget cuts” for the new fiscal year, which began July 1, resulted in a restructuring of staff and the elimination of three positions, including Brunclik’s.
“The layoffs are necessary and we cannot comment any further on individual personnel matters,” she says.