The Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court in Albany will hear the case of a former Corinth police officer fired by the village for alleged insubordination on Monday.
Jason Longton, now 40, was first dismissed from the Corinth Police Department in 2004 after pursuing an investigation focusing on a local restaurant owner — the late Trevor Downie — after Longton’s superiors ordered him off the case.
The Corinth Village Board permanently fired Longton in 2007 after a hearing officer recommended that he be terminated following a disciplinary hearing.
“He wants his job back,” said Ronald G. Dunn, the Albany lawyer representing Longton before the mid-level appeals court in Albany.
Longton maintains that he was just doing his duty as a police officer when he investigated complaints that Downie, who owned Jack’s Place, a popular eatery on Main Street, was groping female employees, some of them minors, according to Dunn.
Downie committed suicide in 2005.
The village is represented by Shantz & Belkin, attorneys for Selective Insurance Co. in Latham. Selective Insurance is the village’s insurance carrier.
In briefs filed with the Appellate Division, the village depicts Longton as a rogue cop. The village lawyers maintain that the order to Longton to stay away from Downie was a lawful and legitimate act designed to insulate the village and Longton from a harassment lawsuit by Downie.
The village disbanded its police department in June 2007 and now contracts with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department for village police patrols. Longton wants to clear his name and be reinstated as a police officer so he can join the sheriff’s department as some of his fellow Corinth officers did in 2007.
A state Supreme Court judge ruled last year that Longton be awarded back pay for the period from Oct. 23, 2004, through Nov. 9, 2006, and from Jan. 16, 2007, until the village’s termination decision was made in the spring of 2007. The reason given for this was that no proper minutes were taken at Longton’s first disciplinary hearing in 2004 and he was eligible for his pay until the end of the second disciplinary hearing in 2007.
Dunn has filed papers in state Supreme Court in Ballston Spa to get the village to pay Longton $118,000 in back pay and benefits.
Corinth Mayor Bradley Winslow said Friday that the court has yet to decide the interest rate that would be calculated as part of the back pay process. “We are still waiting for that,” Winslow said.
Winslow said it has been suggested that Longton would automatically have a job with the sheriff’s department if the courts reverse his termination by the village.
“That’s incorrect,” Winslow said. He said all of the village police officers had to take physicals and qualify for a job with the sheriff’s department. “It’s not automatic,” he said.
Dunn, in his legal papers filed, says “the hearing officer correctly found that there is undisputed, credible testimony that at a relevant time, Trevor Downie did commit acts which constituted crimes against one or more of his female employees.”
Longton had a voluntary sworn statement from one of Downie’s alleged victims saying that Downie “was groping her and other employees,” according to Dunn’s legal brief. The then-village police chief, Mayor Winslow and a village trustee “had a series of oral reports from Longton that multiple employees, including minors, had been groped” and had an oral report from the mother of one minor about Downie’s inappropriate touching of her daughter, Dunn said.
Dunn maintains that village officials did not pursue these complaints in a timely manner. They just took Longton off the case.
“Even the officer purportedly assigned to investigate Downie [after Longton] acknowledged that he essentially did nothing to investigate claims other than unsuccessfully offer to meet with the mother of one of the victims,” Dunn said in his brief.