COBA President Norman Seabrook Claims DOC Commissioner Horn ‘Vindictively Retaliated’ Against COs After COBA Called For the Ouster of Commissioner Horn

New York, New York August 22, 2003 - Norman Seabrook, president of the 8,400-member New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), yesterday filed a federal complaint in United States Southern District Court against the New York City Department of Correction, alleging that the Commissioner of the Department of Correction, Martin Horn, vindictively retaliated against his members by filing disciplinary charges against them after they were unable to report for duty on the day of the blackout and the next day, August 15, 2003.

According to the federal complaint, many correction officers who, like most of New York City workers, were unable to report for work on Thursday evening and on Friday due to the massive blackout, have already been notified by the DOC that the DOC intends to slap them with a disciplinary charge of Absent Without Leave (“AWOL”). No other agency in the City of New York other than DOC has filed disciplinary charges against employees who were unable to report for duty during the blackout. These disciplinary charges came in the wake of Mr. Seabrook’s call for Commissioner Horn’s termination for jeopardizing the safety and security of correction officers by instituting layoffs in May 2003.

“I have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the safety of 8,400 New York City correction officers. The fact of the matter is that since Commissioner Horn commenced these dangerous layoffs, there has been a 20% increase in attacks on correction officers. Of the 315 correction jobs lost, at least 84 of the eliminated positions involved direct supervision of inmates,” Mr. Seabrook said. “I also have a duty to communicate to every correction officer and inform them that their union will not sit by idly while their lives at risk. Clearly, by slapping these officers with ludicrous charges of being “AWOL”, during the worst blackout in United States history, the commissioner has sunk to a new low.”

Mr. Seabrook continued, “Instead of vindictively retaliating against me and my members, for exercising our constitutional rights to free speech, Commissioner Horn should focus on protecting the well being of the dedicated men and women who boldly protect the public from society’s worst criminals.”

Mr. Seabrook, on behalf of COBA, filed the complaint in federal court as the charges allege that the DOC violated Mr. Seabrook’s First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution and the DOC violated the rights of COBA members to equal protection under the law.