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Fired officer wins appeal for back pay

Fired officer wins appeal for back pay

A ruling by a state midlevel appeals court on Thursday could put between $80,000 and $100,000 int

A ruling by a state midlevel appeals court on Thursday could put between $80,000 and $100,000 into the pocket of a former Corinth police officer.

Jason Longton Jr., 40, was dismissed from the now-disbanded Corinth Police Department in 2004.

Village police officials said Longton pursued an investigation on a local eatery-owner — the late Trevor Downie — after Longton’s superiors ordered him off the case. Downie, who took his own life in 2005, owned Jack’s Place on Main Street, a popular local restaurant.

Last March, a state Supreme Court justice ruled that the village owed Longton back pay for the time he was dismissed from the police force until his official termination after a hearing last spring.

In a unanimous decision, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court ruled in Albany on Thursday to affirm state Supreme Court Justice Thomas D. Nolan’s decision in the case.

“We are thrilled,” said Ronald Dunn of Albany, the lawyer representing Longton.

Dunn said his client is in line to receive between $80,000 and $100,000 in back pay and benefits.

Dunn said that the village would have to get permission from the state court system to take the issue to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. Village Mayor Bradley Winslow could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Dunn said the law is very clear in such matters.

“This part of the case is not based on new law,” Dunn said. He said a municipality can only suspend someone for 30 days under civil service law.

Soon after Longton was dismissed by the village in 2004 a disciplinary hearing was held. However, proper hearing minutes were not kept and the results of this hearing did not stand up in court.

The village held a second disciplinary hearing last spring. The hearing officer recommended Longton be terminated and the Village Board fired him.

At about the same time, the village of Corinth disbanded its police department and entered into a contract with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department for police protection. The sheriff’s department hired some of the former village police officers to patrol the village.

The Longton case does not end with the back pay issue, Dunn said.

Longton has another case before the appellate division asking the court to decide whether there is substantial evidence to support the firing of Longton.

Dunn and Longton are convinced that the village does not have proper grounds to dismiss the former police officer. They are asking the appeals court to annul the civil service hearing officer’s findings and the Village Board’s decision to terminate Longton in 2007.

Winslow has said in the past that the Village Board acted properly in terminating Longton for insubordination last year.

Longton maintains he was wrongfully dismissed. He said during the disciplinary hearings that he was investigating sexual abuse allegations against Downie.

Dunn said at last year’s hearing that sexual harassment of adults and minors occurred at Jack’s Place and that Longton was correct in investigating the case.

“What’s left are the merits of the case,” Dunn said on Thursday.

The case went from the state Supreme Court to the appellate division last month, when Nolan ruled that the village’s defenses “lack merit” and said the case should be transferred to the appellate division.

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