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COE v. FRANK

April 1, 1975

ROBERT I. COE, RONALD GALES; and NASSAU CHAPTER, CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
LOUIS J. FRANK, Individually and as Commissioner of Police of Nassau County Police Department; POLICE DEPARTMENT OF NASSAU COUNTY; JAMES KETCHAM, individually and as Assistant Commissioner of Police; LT. EDWARD GRIM; and INSPECTOR WILLIAM HILDEBRAND, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PLATT

PLATT, D.J.

 On October 9, 1974, the individual plaintiffs were suspended without pay from their positions as automotive mechanics for the defendant POLICE DEPARTMENT OF NASSAU COUNTY by the defendant LOUIS J. FRANK, Commissioner of that Department pending a hearing on certain, and at that time, unspecified charges.

 All of the plaintiffs bring this action under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, to enjoin the enforcement of and to declare unconstitutional §§ 75.2 and 75.3 of the Civil Service Law of the State of New York (hereinafter the Civil Service Law) governing removal and disciplinary proceedings against Civil Service employees.

 Plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order was denied and their motion for a preliminary injunction and declaratory relief have been referred to this Three-Judge Court.

 The history of this proceeding is somewhat lengthy but is important for an understanding of this Court's decision.

 In November of 1973 the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) of which the plaintiff COE was an officer, member of the Contract Negotiating Committee and shop steward for the Police Department mechanics, filed with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) charges that the Police Department had committed an unfair labor practice by unilaterally denying new police mechanics necessary tools for their work.

 In early 1974 the defendants charged COE with insubordination and a hearing was held before Deputy Chief Inspector Weingarten who had been designated as a Trial Commissioner by the defendant Police Commissioner FRANK.

 In June of 1974 Inspector Weingarten rendered a report finding plaintiff COE guilty but recommended no penalty, and on July 1, 1974, the defendant Police Commissioner accepted the findings of such hearing officer and fined plaintiff COE five days pay.

 In the meanwhile on May 9, 1974 plaintiffs COE and GALES, and another employee, John McManus, were charged with insubordination for refusing to take part in a trash detail on March 27, 1974. Both COE and GALES pleaded not guilty, claiming that the assigned work fell outside their Civil Service job specification and the plaintiff COE claimed, in addition, that he was physically unable to perform the assigned task.

 A hearing was held on these charges on August 14, 1974, before Inspector Christopher Quinn who found COE and GALES guilty but again did not recommend a penalty.

 On October 8, 1974, the defendant Commissioner confirmed the Inspector's finding and fined COE 15 days pay and GALES 10 days pay. Plaintiffs claim that none of them was informed of the Commissioner's decision until October 10, 1974.

 In the meantime, on October 8, 1974, COE and GALES were directed for the first time since March 27 to participate again in the trash removal detail. When both of them refused they were suspended without pay by the Commissioner for 30 days pending a hearing. Charges were subsequently served on the plaintiffs COE and GALES and a hearing was scheduled by Deputy Chief Inspector Frank Klecak. Two days prior to the scheduled hearing plaintiffs commenced this action and as indicated above sought without success to stay the hearing by an application for a temporary restraining order.

 The hearing on these most recent charges of insubordination was held as scheduled and on December 2, 1974, defendant Commissioner, after receiving Inspector Klecak's finding that the individual plaintiffs were guilty, confirmed such finding and terminated their employment with the Nassau County Police Department.

 Pursuant to Section 76.1 of the Civil Service Law plaintiffs COE and GALES have appealed the determinations of the defendant Commissioner of October 8 and December 2, 1974 in accordance with the provisions ...


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