Ralphs employees rehired

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Two longtime employees get their jobs back after a quiet period, following a angry letter writing campaign by the community.

By David Wallace/Special to The Malibu Times

Two longtime Ralph’s employees who were fired last year before the Thanksgiving holiday for selling alcohol to a pair of underage Pepperdine University students have been reinstated by the giant retailer. However, Nancy Cicatelli and Harry McDermott are no longer at the Malibu location-the two were assigned to the Ralph’s supermarket in Agoura a month ago.

The incident resulted in a tidal wave of letters from local residents supporting Cicatelli and McDermott. In early January, the Malibu City Council also unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the rehiring of the two cashiers, citing the punishment clearly didn’t fit the crime.

Because the pair had “carded” the students in question, Jonathan Rivas, 19, and Dwight Burks, 20, “dozens of times before,” Cicatelli said at the time, she and McDermott neglected to check their IDs, “because we knew them and it was busy.”

Two investigators from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) were immediately behind the students in the cashiers’ lines, caught both underage buyers, and citied Cicatelli and McDermott.

Despite a combined 33-year employment record (Cicatelli had worked for Ralph’s for eight years, McDermott for 25 years), the pair was immediately dismissed.

Terry O’Neil, Ralph’s public relations director, who did return calls for this story, explained at the time: “Zero tolerance has been our universal policy for the past couple years. We’ve gotten tougher as the law has gotten tougher. Our cashiers know they are to ask for an ID with every liquor purchase no matter how old the purchaser is.”

Three violations of the law in a three-year period could cause the loss of a store’s liquor license (which costs upward of $100,000 annually), and this incident counted for two violations. According to a Ralph’s manager in Malibu, the policy is especially critical in Malibu because of the presence of some 3,000 students at Pepperdine, and the large number of accidents on Pacific Coast Highway, many of them alcohol related.

Earlier this year, the Malibu District Attorney decided not to file criminal charges against Cicatelli and McDermott. Rivas and Burks pled no contest to several of the charges including purchasing liquor as a minor and possessing and using false evidence of age. Last March, Burks was sentenced to a summary probation for 36 months, was ordered to pay fines totaling more than $400; to perform 50 hours of community service, to attend at least five addiction support meetings and stay away from Ralph’s in Malibu. Rivas subsequently received a similar sentence.

As a condition of their reinstatement (in the same job classification and seniority as before according to their union, No. 1442 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union), both Cicatelli and McDermott agreed not to talk to the press.