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March 16, 2015

Disciplinary penalty imposed modified in view of individual’s long service with the agency


Disciplinary penalty imposed modified in view of individual’s long service with the agency
2015 NY Slip Op 02008, Appellate Division, First Department

The Appellate Division, First Department, sustained the dismissal of a New York City police officer, [Officer] finding that substantial evidence supported the determination that Officer was guilty of numerous violations demonstrating his inability to conform his conduct to police department regulations.

The court rejected Officer’s contention that the hearing officer improperly relied on hearsay evidence in finding him guilty of engaging in a verbal and physical domestic dispute. Rather, said the court, the hearing officer's determination was based on Officer’s inconsistent statements in that his testimony at the hearing differed from statements he gave during an investigative interview and the hearing officer's credibility findings are entitled to deference.

As to the issue of the hearing officer considering hearsay evidence, the Appellate Division pointed out that “an administrative tribunal can rely upon credible hearsay evidence to reach its determination,” citing Muldrow v NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, 110 AD3d 425.

As to the penalty imposed, termination, which implicitly denied Officer his vested interest to a retirement allowance,* the court held that dismissing Officer from the police force was not shocking to one's sense of fairness, explaining that Officer was brought up on five separate charges based on events that occurred over a three-year period and he was found guilty of nine of the specifications charged following a hearing.

However, Officer’s long service and the fact that he was a decorated officer with eighteen years of service who often received high ratings on department evaluations served as mitigating factors in determining an appropriate penalty to be imposed. Notwithstanding the fact that Officer was previously disciplined for insubordination and placed on "one-year dismissal probation," the Appellate Division said that given Officer’s service and awards the penalty should be modified “solely to the extent of permitting Officer to apply for vested interest retirement benefits.”

* The Administrative Code of the City of New York provides that an employee may forfeit his or her retirement allowance under certain circumstances. For example, Section 13-173.1 of the Administrative Code requires a member of the City’s Employees’ Retirement System to "be in service" on the effective date of his or her retirement or vesting of retirement benefits. If the member is not "in service" on that date, he or she forfeits his or her retirement benefits. The Court of Appeals addressed the provisions of Section 13-173.1 in Waldeck v NYC Employees' Retirement System, 81 N.Y.2d 804, decided with Barbaro v NYC Employees' Retirement System.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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