March 6, 2019

Termination of employment recommended by the Administrative Law Judge after finding the employee guilty of insubordination and incompetence


Termination of employment recommended by the Administrative Law Judge after finding the employee guilty of insubordination and incompetence
Dep't of City Planning v. Kelly, OATH Index No. 516/19

A New York City city planner was served with disciplinary charges pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law alleging multiple instances of insubordination, incompetence, and calling 911 to have police respond to an incident with her supervisor.

OATH Administrative Law Judge John B. Spooner sustained most of the insubordination charges and the incompetence charge. The ALJ, however, noted that "references to insubordination on 'more than one occasion' in charge I, specification 9, without any further date reference, as well as the reference to harassing behavior on 'multiple occasions' in charge II, specification 2, with vague date references to November 2017 and after July 2018, provide more confusion than information as to what specifically is being alleged as misconduct."*

In addition, Judge Spooner found that as the result of the deficient pleading, "one minor act of discourtesy contained in [the appointing authority's] proof cannot be sustained as misconduct."

Ultimately Judge Spooner found that during a four- month period the planner failed to complete three successive assignments, although she was provided with several weeks to do so.

As to the 911 call, the ALJ credited the supervisor's account that she unplugged the employee's earphones without touching her and that this provided no justification for the worker to summon the police.

Judge Spooner recommended that the employee be terminated, explaining that the employee's misconduct in this case demands a severe penalty in consideration of the employee's "hostile and arrogant treatment of her co-workers, supervisors and staff members alike [which] demonstrates a warped and irresponsible attitude toward her job [and the employee's] insubordination and deplorable work performance strongly suggest that she will never be a satisfactory employee." The appointing authority adopted the ALJ's findings and recommended penalty.

* The employee's motion to dismiss was denied as [1] all of the specifications included at least one date and the ALJ ruled that the employee was placed on adequate notice of specific incidents by the discovery provided by appointing authority. In any event, the Judge Spooner noted that "the appropriate remedy for poorly pleaded charges is more typically an order compelling an amended pleading, not dismissal" of charges and specifications.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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