Recently, the Appellate Division issued an opinion in the case New Jersey State Police v. Trooper Brandon Bruns that addressed an officer’s failure to report the misconduct of another off-duty officer. In that case, following an internal investigation, the New Jersey State Police served a charge upon the appellant for his failure to report the
As reported in the Trenton Times on January 25, 2011, a judge has ordered Princeton Borough to reinstate a police officer who was suspended without pay in 2008 and to reimburse the officer for back pay and legal fees totaling an estimated $400,000.
Last week, Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg dismissed all charges against Sergeant Kenneth Riley related to allegations that he wrongfully accessed a police department video database of motor vehicle stops in January of 2008. Feinberg issued an order requiring the borough to reinstate Riley effective this week.
Riley allegedly reviewed a video of a police stop that involved a drive suspected of drunken driving. A sergeant and three patrolmen were involved in the stop, and two of the patrol officers were under Riley’s supervision. During the stop, the sergeant allowed the driver to urinate in bushes on private property. Riley learned about the incident and believed the sergeant had violated policy.
A borough officer for 17 years and sergeant since 2006, Riley was suspended with pay in March 2008 along with two other officers as part of an internal affairs investigation related to the access of the video database. He was indicted by a grand jury in September 2008 and the borough stopped paying him in late September of 2008.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office contended that Riley showed the footage to other officers in order to hurt the other sergeant’s standing in the department. Prosecutors claimed he was untruthful during questioning about when and why he accessed the database.
But, in November of 2009, a judge threw out the six-count indictment because Riley was authorized to access the database. Despite this finding, the Borough continued to pursue the case internally, racking up thousands of dollars more it would owe in back pay and legal fees. An administrative hearing officer upheld Riley’s suspension, which Riley then appealed in Superior Court.
Riley, who earned a salary of $103,706 annually, is owed about 28 months of pay, or more than $241,000, plus money he spent on health insurance and legal fees, for a total estimated to be about $400,000. Including the borough’s fees for its own lawyer, staff, and an administrative hearing officer, the case could cost borough taxpayers about $500,000.
Councilman Roger Martindell, a vocal critic of the borough’s handling of disciplinary matters, called the pursuit of disciplinary action against Riley “a colossal waste for borough taxpayers.” “It appears that the borough has spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in pursuit of disciplinary action against Sgt. Riley without a firm foundation for doing so,” he said.
On June 3, 2010, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Torres Mayfield, Docket No.: A-2969-08T1. In the case, Torres Mayfield appealed from the final decision of the Civil Service Commission (“Commission”) terminating him as an Atlantic City police officer for misconduct.
Mayfield was charged with violations of Atlantic City Police Department…
On June 1, 2010, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Michael Sottilare, Department of Corrections Hudson County, Docket No.: A-4761-08T3. In the case, Michael Sottilare appealed from a Civil Service Commission (“Commission”) decision affirming the Hudson County Division of Personnel’s termination of his employment with the county’s Department of Corrections.
Sottilare, after more than ten years as a corrections officer, received four preliminary notices of disciplinary action arising from events commencing on November 30, 2005 and continuing through December 23, 2005. The final incident resulted in his termination.
While on leave due to an on-the-job injury, Sottilare was videotaped working at a construction site in contravention of Hudson County’s policy requiring persons on leave to remain at home unless they are receiving medical care or purchasing medication. A disciplinary charge of malingering issued as a result. Shortly thereafter, on December 23, 2005, Sottilare made a telephone call to the New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 109 office in order to obtain legal representation for the hearing scheduled on the malingering charge and to request a postponement. Officer Shaara Marie Green, then the Vice President of PBA Local 109, answered the phone call.
When Green testified before the Office of Administrative Law, she said she told Sottilare that the union could not provide him with legal representation because the Internal Affairs Unit (“IAU”) officers were no longer members. Sottilare had been assigned to IAU since 1995 or 1996. Green also told Sottialre to obtain his own attorney, and gave him the name of the person that his attorney should contact in order to request the postponement.
Green also testified that after she told Sottialre that PBA Local 109 could not provide him with counsel, Sottilare informed her that she was under investigation by IAU. Sottialre explained to Green that surveillance was being initiated because she was reportedly living with an ex-inmate in violation of departmental policy.
Green immediately telephoned Ricardo Alves, Sottilare’s supervisor at IAU, to report the conversation. When Alves testified, he confirmed that he received a call from Green about the complaint that had been filed against her and that Sottilare had told her that she was the subject of an IAU investigation. Deputy Warden David Krusznis confirmed that Green was being investigated and said that disclosure of the existence of a pending IAU investigation is a violation of departmental policies and procedures, as well as of guidelines promulgated by the Office of the Attorney General.
On December 21, 2009, the Appellate Division decidedIn the Matter of Edwin Garcia, Department of Corrections Hudson County, Docket No.: A-1404-08T3. In the case, Edwin Garcia appeals from the final administrative action of the Civil Service Commission, terminating his employment as a corrections officer with the Hudson County Department of …
On July 16, 2009, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Michael Brown, Monmouth County, Docket No.: A-5157-07T3. In the case, Michael Brown appealed from a final decision of the Merit System Board (“Board”) upholding the termination of his employment as a Monmouth County Corrections Officer after finding that he tested positive for marijuana.
Brown was employed by Monmouth County as a corrections officer for approximately fifteen to seventeen years. According to Captain Thomas J. Philburn, Personnel Captain at the correctional facility, Brown was “a very low-keyed, soft-spoken individual” who did his job and had no prior disciplinary problems other than some minor “attendance-related issues.”
The County uses National Safety Compliance (“NSC”), a safety services and compliance company certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, to perform random drug tests on its employees in accordance with the County’s substance abuse policy. NSC, in turn, employs Lab One, located in Kansas, to perform the actual laboratory tests on the samples.
On July 13, 2004, Brown was randomly selected for a drug test pursuant to the County’s policy. When the test was reported as positive for marijuana use, the matter was heard internally and Brown was found to have violated the County’s substance abuse policy. After a final notice of disciplinary action was served on Brown on August 24, 2004, the matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) as a contested case.
A hearing was held before the OAL on December 7, 2005 and two witnesses testified on behalf of the County, Captain Philburn and Ronald Raslowsy, President of NSC. Neither of the witnesses had any personal knowledge of the procedures used for the testing, nor could they establish a chain of custody from the time the sample was taken to the time it was purportedly tested at the laboratory in Kansas.
Radomsky testified that he “believed” that the Attorney General guidelines for testing a law enforcement officer were followed, but had no personal knowledge as to whether they actually were. He did know, however, that the proper interview form was not used. He had no knowledge of who was present when Brown was tested, who witnessed the test, whether the sample was properly labeled, packaged and shipped, or who participated in the shipping of the sample. Nevertheless, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) rendered an initial decision on October 20, 2006 sustaining the charges and ordering Brown’s removal.
On June 11, 2009, the Appellate Division decided Michael Kappre v. Borough of Paulsboro, Docket No.: A-3573-07T3. In the case, the Paulsboro Police Chief filed misconduct charges against Michael Kappre, a former patrolman and sniper for the Paulsboro Police Department’s SWAT team. The Borough of Paulsboro sought Kappre’s termination. Kappre pleaded not guilty to …