Mayor Tim Hughes, testifying in a recent lawsuit deposition, said he suspended former Police Chief John Harzinski late last year for telling police officers to ignore Hughes’ order prohibiting a certain departmental disciplinary policy.
After Hughes ordered an end to the practice of having one officer ride in a supervisory capacity to ensure a colleague wrote sufficient numbers of parking tickets, Harzinski ordered the policy to continue, Hughes testified, construing the act as insubordination.
Harzinski was suspended last December for alleged insubordination, but until his deposition as part of the wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by fired City Clerk Gary Margiotta, the allegation against the chief has gone unexplained.
Margiotta’s attorney, Elmer Robert Keach III, made parts of Hughes’ deposition public by filing the documents on the Web site of the federal court system. In his letter to the court accompanying more than 40 pages of Hughes’ deposition, Keach argues for permission to take depositions from both Hughes’ secretary, Penny Russell, and from Harzinski.
“I believe that Chief Harzinski befell the same fate as Mr. Margiotta,” said Keach, asserting Hughes “has also not hesitated to trample the procedural rights of long-time city employees … Chief Harzinski and Mr. Margiotta’s situations are part of the same pattern of conduct.”
Keach declined comment on his most recent court filing and the city’s lawyer, Gregg T. Johnson of the Albany firm of Girvin and Ferlazzo, could not be reached.
In his deposition, Hughes said he suspended Harzinski after the chief “admitted that he had disobeyed a direct order” [from Hughes].
Hughes said he directed Harzinski to stop his policy of forcing one veteran officer to ride with another veteran then under scrutiny for not following parking ticket writing procedures.
“I don’t believe it’s the best use of taxpayers’ money to put two officers in a car to instruct a gentleman how to write a parking ticket,” Hughes testified.
Hughes said he had issued an order eliminating the disciplinary policy but learned it was continuing. He said he asked Harzinski to come to his office and the chief admitted overruling the mayoral order.
Later in his deposition, Hughes said he recommended a consultant be hired to investigate the police department partly because it was believed there was inadequate accounting of officers’ work time and sick time and other accruals.
Harzinski retired in February after briefly suing the city for reinstatement. Consultant David Grandeau, who was paid $8,000 for his work, ceased his probe with Harzinski’s departure.
Margiotta was fired Dec. 29, 2006.
In court papers filed by the city in response to Harzinski’s lawsuit, Hughes then disclosed Grandeau was hired to look into allegations against Harzinski of misuse of city cars and personnel and improper expenses.