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February 5, 2010

Volunteer firefighter terminated after being found guilty of failing to follow purchasing procedures and falsifying documents

Volunteer firefighter terminated after being found guilty of failing to follow purchasing procedures and falsifying documents
Kurot v East Rockaway Fire Dept., 19 Misc 3d 1120, rev. Appellate Division, 61 AD3d 760

The East Rockaway Fire Department filed disciplinary charges against Volunteer Fire Captain LeRoy Kurot alleging that he “knowingly and willfully violated the Purchasing Policy of the East Rockaway Fire Department and the Village of East Rockaway.”* Finding Kurot guilty of eight of the nine charges filed against him, the Fire Council terminated him from his position.

Supreme Court ruled that the termination “was an arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion, and rescinding the Council’s determination.” Supreme Court then reinstated Kurot to his former position, holding that “an eight (8) month suspension from the fire department, without pay” would be an appropriate penalty to impose.

The Appellate Division annulled the Supreme Court’s decision with respect to the penalty to be imposed.

In the words of the Appellate Division, Kurot “engaged in a willful course of conduct in which he lied to his supervisor, fabricated documents in order to cover up his misconduct, and failed to follow a departmental policy of which he was well informed.”

Under the circumstances, said the court, it could not conclude that the penalty of termination was “so disproportionate to the offense as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness, thus constituting an abuse of discretion as a matter of law,” the so-called “Pell standard” [Matter of Pell v Board of Educ. of Union Free School Dist. No. 1 of Towns of Scarsdale and Mamaroneck, Westchester County, 34 NY2d 222.

The Appellate Division ruled that Kurot’s petition should have been denied and Supreme Court should have dismissed the proceeding on the merits.

* The Supreme Court’s decision indicates that Kurot did not procure competitive bids for an item as instructed but instead purchased the item from a vendor, Jay’s Army and Navy, in the belief that Jay’s would provide the item at the lowest price. After completing the purchase, Kurot obtained bids from two other vendors and when they proved to be lower, he “altered the two (2) additional quotes to make them appear higher than the price quote from Jay's Army and Navy.”

Public Personnel Law E-books

The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State set out in a 700 page e-book. For more information click on https://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

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