Chief’s court filing alleges damages

Gloversville Police Chief John Harzinski contends in court papers that the city’s action in suspendi
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Gloversville Police Chief John Harzinski contends in court papers that the city’s action in suspending him has deprived him of accepting scheduled speaking engagements and earning the “comp time” he customarily accrues by working more than 40 hours per week.

Harzinski made the claims in an affidavit filed Friday in state Supreme Court, part of his lawsuit seeking reinstatement to duty and a declaration that he has received the sort of formal discipline that entitles him to civil service protections.

The loss of speaking engagements and comp time, together with the humiliation of being ordered by Mayor Tim Hughes to surrender his badge and gun in the presence of junior officers, constitutes discipline as defined by civil service law, Harzinski and his attorney, John Poklemba, argue in this final round of legal briefs.

Since Hughes placed Harzinski on paid administrative leave on Dec. 6, city officials have contended that because Harzinski remains chief with full pay and benefits he is not eligible for civil service protections.

Poklemba’s latest brief responds to written arguments filed Jan. 22 by the city’s special counsel, Bryan J. Goldberger.

Judge Richard T. Aulisi conducted a hearing Jan. 11, but allowed both sides to file written arguments before making his decision.

In his affidavit, Harzinski recalls the events of Dec. 6 when he said Hughes called him to a meeting in a conference room with captains James Lorenzoni, Edgar Beaudin and Richard Miles all present.

“At this meeting and in front of my officers, Mayor Hughes verbally reprimanded me and claimed that I had engaged in some type of insubordination. Mayor Hughes alleged that I had violated some direct order by him concerning police officers’ duties,” Harzinski said.

“Mayor Hughes then demanded and took my badge, police identification, keys to my police vehicle and keys to my filing cabinet … [and] … directed that I leave city property and not return to the police department,” he said.

Harzinski outlines how he has been damaged, including by the loss of up to 150 hours accrued in 2007. He said he has been unable to attend police training and police seminars and has been “unable to lecture as a chief of police.” As a result, he said, his scheduled presentation on underage drinking at the Dec. 13 state Chiefs of Police Association was canceled, as was his participation as part of a panel of speakers at another function.

He said he has been forced to withdraw as state chairman of Mothers Against Driving Drunk and can no longer serve as chairman of the Fulton County Traffic Safety Board.

He said he has also been damaged by “derogatory statements” made by city officials to the media.

Poklemba submitted case law to Judge Aulisi seeking to show the courts have decided that such punishment does trigger civil service protections.

He disagrees with the city’s contention that the City Charter gives Hughes the authority to take the actions against Harzinski.

Goldberger, Poklemba and Hughes did not return telephone calls Monday.

As the court case proceeds, the city’s recently hired public integrity consultant, attorney David Grandeau, continues with his investigation of the police department. He was hired by the city in December at a fee of $8,000.

An affidavit filed by Hughes in response to Harzinski’s lawsuit said Grandeau is investigating allegations of improper use of a city vehicle, improper expenditure of city funds, improper use of city personnel for personal business and other topics.

Categories: Schenectady County

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