Civil Service protections do apply to suspended city Police Chief John Harzinski and he must be immediately returned to active duty, state Supreme Court Judge Richard T. Aulisi ruled Tuesday.
Aulisi said Harzinski’s protections were triggered immediately when he was placed on administrative leave Dec. 6 because the city took the action without giving him formal notice of allegations as provided by law.
Mayor Tim Hughes, who accused Harzinski of insubordination on Dec. 6 before demanding the chief’s badge and gun, declined comment on Tuesday’s decision.
City officials have never explained the allegation of insubordination, and Harzinski and his attorney, John Poklemba, both said in court papers that they are unaware of any basis for the city’s action.
Aulisi rejected the city’s position that placing Harzinski on paid administrative leave is not punishment and therefore does not trigger his civil service law rights.
“Contrary to the allegations of the [city], it is readily apparent to the court that [Harzinski] was suspended Dec. 6 and that all of the pertinent provisions of the Civil Service Law were triggered at that time,” Aulisi said.
Aulisi said there is no basis for what he called the city’s theory of “paid personal leave or administrative leave.”
Aulisi ruled that Harzinski was disciplined when he was removed from active duty, “stripped of all authority [and] made the subject of public embarrassment and humiliation without benefit of knowing what he is alleged to have done and without being able to defend himself as provided by statute.”
Harzinski cannot be returned to active duty until Poklemba files a judgment on this decision with the court. Poklemba said Tuesday he will do so immediately.
“You just can’t deprive someone of their constitutional rights under color of law,” Poklemba said. He said he and Harzinski are pleased with the decision.
The city’s labor attorney, Bryan J. Goldberger, could not be reached late Tuesday afternoon for comment.
Hughes has said in court papers that he wanted Harzinski removed from city premises while the city’s public integrity consultant, David Grandeau, conducts his investigation of the Police Department.
In those same court papers, part of the city’s written response to Harzinski’s lawsuit seeking reinstatement to duty, Hughes said Grandeau is investigating allegations of misuse of city vehicles and personnel and improper expenses.
Aulisi was critical in his decision of the city’s failure to file legal briefs on schedule.
He said answering papers were not filed by the city at the Jan. 11 show cause hearing or by the subsequent Jan. 18 deadline directed by the court. The papers were filed with the court clerk Jan. 22 but were never provided to the judge, Aulisi said.
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Categories: Schenectady County