Civil service protections apply to suspended Gloversville Police Chief John Harzinski and he must be immediately returned to active duty, state Supreme Court Judge Richard T. Aulisi ruled today.
Aulisi rejected the city's position that placing Harzinski on paid administrative leave Dec. 6 did not constitute discipline as defined under state Civil Service Law.
Harzinski's lawyer, John Poklemba, successfully argued that the city's action did amount to formal discipline and thus triggered Harzinski's civil service protections, which include notification of allegations and provision of a hearing.
"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" and 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 he will do so immediately.
"You just can't deprive someone of their constitutional rights under color of law," Poklemba said.
The city's labor attorney, Bryan J. Goldberger, could not be reached this afternoon for comment.
Mayor Tim Hughes accused Harzinski of insubordination, but he and Goldberger have never discussed what occurred. The city's public integrity consultant, David Granddeau, is currently investigating the police department.