ALJ Says, “CO Did Not Commit Misconduct”

New York, New York February 4, 2005 - A New York City Correction Officer was completely exonerated of multiple charges of misconduct brought by The Department of Correction (DOC), according to the decision and recommendation of Administrative Law Judge John B. Spooner. According to the details of the November 15, 2004 disciplinary proceeding at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), the correction officer was charged with being disrespectful to a correction captain and with writing a false report. In his decision, Judge Spooner noted that he found the captain’s testimony “unreasonable and insufficient” to sustain any of the charges.

Commenting on this legal victory, Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association said, “Clearly, this case was without merit from the beginning.” Mr. Seabrook continued, “I strongly urge the Commissioner to heed Judge Spooner’s recommendation and dismiss these frivolous charges.”

At the disciplinary hearing, the DOC contended that the correction officer delayed in opening a gate for the captain who was conducting her tour at the Anna M. Cross housing center on Riker’s Island. The DOC further asserted that the correction officer committed misconduct when the officer accused the captain of being disrespectful to him after the captain told the correction officer that “there is something wrong with you.” Even though it was the captain, in her supervisory capacity, who insulted the correction officer, the captain demanded that the officer submit a written report.

In the officer’s defense, the correction officer’s attorney, Marlon Martinez, of Koehler & Isaacs LLP, pointed out that the record provides various indications that the captain was both insecure and officious about her new position. Specifically, among the evidence, the record shows that after having been a captain for only three months, the captain began reciting ten orders to the housing area officers, including orders to wear the proper uniform, remain on post until properly relieved, remain in proper uniform, maintain a sanitation log with food menu and temperatures, and follow DOC rules and regulations.

In his decision, Judge Spooner noted that the captain gave no consideration to the possibility that the correction officer might not have heard her initial request to open the gate and that is what caused the momentary delay. The Judge was also particularly struck by the fact the captain could not discern why an officer would feel disrespected after being told “there is something wrong with you.” Because the DOC failed to meet its burden of establishing that the correction officer was insubordinate or that he submitted a false report, Judge Spooner recommended that both charges be dismissed.

The Judge’s recommendation was submitted to Commissioner Martin Horn for a final ruling.