A lawyer for city Police Chief John Harzinski will argue Jan. 11 in state Supreme Court that Harzinski should be reinstated and that the city must comply with civil service law if it seeks to discipline him.
The show cause hearing will be held before Supreme Court Judge Richard T. Aulisi.
Harzinski was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 6 on the grounds of insubordination, but Mayor Tim Hughes and other city officials have declined to explain what led to the action. Harzinski has also been silent, but he is now represented by Saratoga Springs attorney John J. Poklemba, the counsel to the state Association of Chiefs of Police. Harzinski is vice president of that organization and Poklemba said Thursday he is proceeding in the case on behalf of both Harzinski and the association.
A private investigator working for Poklemba has filed Freedom of Information requests with the city seeking copies of Common Council resolutions denying Harzinski a raise for 2008 and authorizing the hiring of consultant David Grandeau to investigate the city police department. Grandeau has interviewed a number of current and former city employees, officials said.
Poklemba said it is violation of state law to allow Grandeau to view police personnel records. In its actions against Harzinski, Poklemba said, the city has also failed to follow civil service law.
Poklemba contends Harzinski was illegally denied a raise for 2008. He said he sent several letters to city officials demanding an explanation for the action against Harzinski but received no response.
He said he and his client had no choice but to go to court.
With no accusation lodged against Harzinski, Poklemba said he cannot respond in defense of the chief.
Hughes and city labor attorney Bryan J. Goldberger could not be reached Thursday for comment. But Goldberger acknowledged Wednesday he had been served with the court papers and would reserve comment until he had fully reviewed the documents.
In his petition for a hearing, Poklemba said Hughes “indicated that [Harzinski] was guilty of some unspecified act of insubordination” and he noted the chief was never given an opportunity to reply to charges.
In a Dec. 6 letter included with the court papers, Poklemba demanded Harzinski be reinstated. On Dec. 17 he wrote again asking for an explanation of the action taken against the chief.
One letter informs Hughes that Harzinski is a member in good standing in the chiefs’ association and that “We must demand his immediate reinstatement.” The association, Poklemba writes in the letter, “is prepared to assist Chief Harzinski in any effort to protect his statutory and constitutional rights.”
The court papers refer to what Harzinski contends are “recent inaccurate and unfair news reports” and states those reports “are having a devastating impact upon the chief and his family.”
City officials have said Harzinski will remain on administrative leave until at least the conclusion of Grandeau’s probe. Grandeau said his effort may take about 45 days. This week he began examining a long list of records he requested late last month.
Without specifying, Poklemba claimed, “things were said about [Harzinski] that were totally untrue.”