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Fired officer wins court appeals

Fired officer wins court appeals

Two decisions by the state’s mid-level appeals court this week are favorable to a Corinth police off

Two decisions by the state’s mid-level appeals court this week are favorable to a Corinth police officer fired by the village last year, his attorney said Friday.

Former officer Jason Longton Jr., now 40, is seeking approximately $100,000 in back pay and benefits. He also wants his firing by the village reversed by the courts.

Longton, of Greenfield, was first dismissed from the Corinth Village Police Department in 2004 after pursuing an investigation focusing on a local restaurant owner — Trevor Downie, now deceased — after Longton’s superiors ordered him off the case.

Longton said during a civil service disciplinary hearing last year that he had witnesses allege sexual abuse against Downie, who was the owner of Jack’s Place on Main Street. Downie committed suicide in 2005.

The village was ordered to conduct a second civil service hearing on Longton’s dismissal in 2007 because no written record was kept of the first hearing in 2004.

Longton’s attorney, Ronald G. Dunn, of Albany, said Friday that the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court on Thursday denied a village motion to appeal a lower court ruling ordering that Longton be granted back pay and benefits for the period between 2004 and 2007.

A state Supreme Court justice awarded Longton back pay and benefits in March 2006. He was, the court ruled then, entitled to back pay and benefits for a period of more than two years because no disciplinary hearing decision had been made in his case.

Dunn said the village could still appeal the state Supreme Court verdict directly to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, but there would be “no good reason” for this court to hear the case.

In the other Appellate Division decision, the court denied the village’s appeal to prevent Longton from pursuing his case in court to be reinstated as a police officer by the village.

Even though the village police force was abolished in June of 2007, if Longton were to be reinstated as a police officer he would have the opportunity to seek a job with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department as other former village police officers have done.

The sheriff’s department has taken over law enforcement in Corinth under an agreement with the village in the absence of the local department.

Dunn said Longton wants to return to his career in law enforcement.

The Appellate Division court also granted Longton until Aug. 18 to prepare to argue the merits of his case regarding his dismissal by the village on the recommendation of a village-appointed hearing officer.

“These were two good decisions for us,” Dunn said.

Corinth Mayor Bradley Winslow said Friday said he was told by a village attorney that the two decisions on motions by the Appellate Division “don’t mean much.”

“They are procedural stuff,” Winslow said after talking to village attorney Eileen M. Haynes of Glens Falls on Friday.

“They didn’t rule on the merits of the case,” Winslow said. “Nothing has really substantially changed.”

Winslow said that the village’s insurance company is paying for the village’s legal defense in the Longton case.

He said the litigation is being conducted “at no cost to the village.”

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