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August 12, 2010

A disciplinary hearing determination cannot be annulled by the court if the record supports the determination

A disciplinary hearing determination cannot be annulled by the court if the record supports the determination
Marden v Town of Bedford, 249 A.D.2d 547

The Town of Bedford Supervisor asked the Town’s Chief of Police, David M. Marden, to provide him with a copy of a report concerning alleged police misconduct. When the chief failed to comply with the directive, a number disciplinary charges were served on him. Among these were charges that alleged that Marden failed to comply with a lawful order to provide the report on five occasions: February 12, 16, 23, 27 and 28. Found guilty of misconduct, Marden was dismissed from his position.

Marden appealed. The Appellate Division said that Marden could not be guilty of insubordination on February 12 and 16, because the report in question had not been completed until February 21. Accordingly, the finding of guilt concerning charges involving these dates were not supported by substantial evidence.

The Appellate Division sustained the findings of misconduct with respect to Marden’s refusal to comply with the Supervisor’s directives on February 23, 27 and 28.

The court said an administrative determination made after a hearing cannot be annulled unless it is shown that there is no substantial evidence in the record to support the determination. Here it was found that the hearing record supported the determination that Marden “willfully refused to comply with a proper directive to turn over the investigative report....”

As to the penalty imposed, dismissal, the Appellate Division held that the penalty satisfied the Pell standard [Pell v Board of Education, 34 NY2 222] as Marden’s dismissal was not so disproportionate to the offense as to be shocking to one’s sense of fairness.

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