The opinion of the court was delivered by: McAVOY, Chief Judge.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION & ORDER
Because this is a motion for summary judgment by the defendants, the
following facts are presented in the light most favorable to Hoffman. See
Ertman v. United States, 165 F.3d 204, 206 (2d Cir. 1999).
Hoffman was a police officer for the Village of Sidney (the "Village")
Police Department. On January 8, 1995, Hoffman responded to a call that a
child had stopped breathing. In an effort to reach the scene, Hoffman
activated his siren and light bar and pulled into the oncoming traffic
lane to pass a slower moving vehicle. As he did so, another vehicle came
over the crest of a hill and had to steer off of the road to avoid a
head-on collision with Hoffman. Hoffman also lost control of his vehicle
and crashed into a "no parking" sign. Although the collision shattered
his windshield and limited his visibility, Hoffman proceeded to the scene
of the emergency.
Disciplinary charges were filed against Hoffman as a result of this
incident. After a hearing, the hearing officer found that Hoffman: (1)
drove a police vehicle in an improper, unsafe, reckless, careless, or
negligent manner; (2) endangered the safety and welfare of himself and
others; (3) damaged a police vehicle; and (4) failed to follow proper
police department rules or regulations. Although the hearing officer
recommended that Hoffman be terminated the Village opted to suspend him
for ninety days without pay.
Hoffman filed a petition pursuant to N.Y.C.P.L.R. Art. 78 challenging
the determination of the hearing officer. Both that determination and his
suspension were upheld by the Tompkins County Supreme Court and the
Appellate Division, Third Department. See Hoffman v. Village of Sidney,
235 A.D.2d 698, 652 N.Y.S.2d 346 (3d Dep't 1997).
On September 9, 1995, Hoffman informed his superiors that he was
experiencing pain in his left knee and hip areas. As a result, Hoffman
was disabled from work and sought Workers' Compensation benefits and
benefits under N.Y.GEN.MUN. LAW 207-c. After the Village denied and/or
discontinued benefits to Hoffman, a series of disputes arose between
Hoffman and the Village of Sidney regarding these benefits.
On June 28, 1996, Officer J.R. Blot ("Blot") entered the Sidetrack
Lounge in Sidney, New York. Hoffman also was at the Sidetrack Lounge, and
he and Blot engaged in conversation. Hoffman told Blot that he was
experiencing continued problems at work and that he was still out on
disability. Hoffman stated that certain persons in high positions had
engaged in illegal drug activities in and around the Village of Sidney.
Hoffman insisted that he was aware of these illegal activities and that
the people involved were "out to get him" and had instituted a course of
harassment against him. In fact, Hoffman attributed his difficulties in
obtaining benefits to his knowledge of the alleged unlawful activities.
Hoffman apparently told Blot that the former Commissioner of Police,
Charles Bessett ("Bessett"), attempted to break into his apartment to
steal and/or plant evidence. Hoffman indicated that if Bessett or anyone
else ever attempted
to enter his apartment, they would be greeted with a shotgun.
Hoffman asserted that Investigators Charles and Chandler, Assistant
District Attorney Davis, and Bessett were involved in these unlawful drug
activities. Hoffman believed that Whitten, although not directly involved
in the drug activity, refused to take any action. Hoffman apparently
stated that he would like to meet up with "these guys" in a men's room,
that he would use physical force upon them, and that the coroner might
need to be called. Hoffman insists, however, that he only stated that he
would like to "punch them out." Hoffman believed these individuals had
systematically destroyed his life over a fifteen year period.
Blot became concerned that Hoffman was overly consumed with this
alleged conspiracy against him. He also noted that Hoffman had been
drinking excessively and that he maintained numerous firearms in his
apartment. Blot, therefore, contacted Whitten and the Delaware County
Department of Social Services Crisis Intervention Officer/Part-Time
Deputy Sheriff, Mark A. Hamilton. Hamilton discussed the matter with
Defendants Commissioner of the Delaware County Department of Social
Services William H. Moon and County Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Talarico.
Based on the discussion with Blot, Talarico and Moon advised that
further investigation was warranted. Thus, Hamilton and Officer J.J.
Bowie ("Bowie") were sent to assess Hoffman's mental health. Hamilton met
with Hoffman at the Community Lounge, a bar located in the same building
in which Hoffman resided. Hamilton told Hoffman about his conversation
with Blot and that he was performing an assessment pursuant to N.Y.
MENTAL HYG. LAW § 9.41.*fn2 He also offered Hoffman mental health
and/or social services to assist him in resolving his anger,
frustration, and hostility.
Hoffman denied having an alcohol problem, but did not deny making
threats against or expressing hostility towards certain Village
officials. Hoffman reiterated his belief that his troubles with the
Village stemmed from an incident in 1987 involving Deputy Gritman,
Investigator Charles, Assistant District Attorney Davis and former Police
Commisioner Bessett. At one point in time during the conversation, Bowie
reached into his shirt pocket to retrieve a cellular phone. In response,
Hoffman got very excited, exhibited a certain degree of nervousness or
paranoia, and questioned whether Hamilton and Blot were recording their
Conversation. Hoffman was quieted after being reassured that the device
was only a cellular telephone.
it became apparent that Mr. Hoffman believes that
whatever occurred in 1987 has dramatically through a
conspiracy of all the aforementioned persons, directly
influenced the direction of his police career and
created the conflict that he is now embroiled with . . .
the Village. Mr. Hoffman indicated that he spends
time in writing up notes and making voluminous records
on his present and past conflicts associated with this
conspiracy and his present job
difficulty. Hoffman declined to accept any mental
health or social services.
See Uniform Investigative Report annexed to the Dec. 1, 1998 aff. of
Frank Miller as Ex. 23. Hamilton thereafter contacted all concerned
parties and warned them of Hoffman's threats.
Based upon the information provided by Hamilton and Blot, on July 18,
1996 at approximately 10:00 a.m., Talarico issued a "pick-up order"
pursuant to N.Y. MENTAL HYG.LAW § 94.5*fn3 Defendant William
Masters, a Supervising Social Worker for Delaware County, and Talarico,
also wrote a report supporting the issuance of the pickup order. The
report indicated that Hoffman appears:
obsessionally fixated and dwells upon his report of a
conspiracy originating in 1987, . . . sees himself
persecuted by the Village, . . . is thought to be a
serious abuser of alcohol, if not alcohol dependent,
. . . is known to have collected a substantial
arsenal, . . . [has] seclud[ed] himself and
retreat[ed] from normal interaction with other
people, . . . does not allow anyone up the stairs to
knock on his apartment door, . . . [and that] he has
spoken to various individuals about obtaining sand
bags in which to barricade his room.
The report concluded that "[because he is seriously angry within the
framework of unrealistic delusions, because he feels threatened and may
have barricaded his apartment, . . . and because he has a drinking
problem, the increasing tension between he and his employer and the world
in general are seen as meriting a serious evaluation for dangerousness."
The pick-up order stated that it was based upon information provided by
Hamilton, who was believed to be a police officer with the County
Sheriffs Department. Moon also applied to have Hoffman involuntarily
admitted to a hospital pursuant to N.Y.MENTAL HYG.LAW § 9.27*fn4,
although Hoffman was ultimately admitted pursuant to N.Y.MENTAL HYG.LAW
§ 9.39*fn5 or arguably
in the alternative, N.Y.MENTAL HYG. LAW § 9.37.*fn6
Hoffman consented to have Officer Kent Lewis retrieve the pistols from
his apartment. Hoffman claims that he only gave permission for Officer
Lewis to enter his apartment. Nonetheless, Hamilton, Blot, Lewis and
Sergeant Tiska secured Hoffman's handguns from his apartment and
retrieved an additional four handguns from his sister's home.
In conformance with the requirements of N.Y. MENTAL HYG.LAW §
9.39, the need for Hoffman's immediate hospitalization was confirmed by
staff physician Shivaji Bhonslay prior to admission. Dr. Bhonslay
certified that he personally examined Hoffman and opined that he had a
mental illness for which immediate inpatient care and treatment in a
hospital is appropriate. Bhonslay further opined that Hoffman posed a
substantial risk of physical harm to other persons as manifested by
homicidal or other violent behavior by which others were placed in
reasonable fear of serious physical harm. See Ex. "A" annexed to the
Nov. 25, 1998 Aff. of Senta B. Siuda. At approximately 6:00 p.m. on July
18, 1996, Hoffman was examined by Dr. Lavin, who confirmed Hoffman's need
for immediate hospitalization. See id.
In further compliance with Article 9 of the N.Y. Mental Hyg.Law, Dr.
Arnold Bulove, a member of the hospital's psychiatric staff, certified
that Hoffman was in need of inpatient, involuntary care on July 19,
1996. See id. Dr. Bulove found that Hoffman may be delusional. Hoffman
was ultimately diagnosed with adjustment reaction/transient situational
disorder. Hoffman was released on July 23, 1996 after Dr. Lava determined
that he no longer posed a threat to either himself or others.
On August 20, 1996, the Village filed charges against Hoffman pursuant
to N.Y.CIVIL SERV.LAW § 75 alleging that Hoffman: (1) threatened one
or more persons; (2) failed to follow the directives of the commissioner
of police; (3) was unfit for duty as a police officer; (4) violated the
police department rules and regulations; and (5) violated the police
department manual. A hearing was held at which Hoffman denied making any
threats of serious physical harm or death. Hoffman contended that he did
not threaten anybody, but that "the Worse thing I ever say about [them]
is I would like to punch [them] out, but I never do."
The hearing officer concluded that "[t]he credible evidence is clear
and convincing beyond doubt that Officer Hoffman made certain statements
to J.R. Blot at the Sidetrack Lounge on June. 28, 1996 which threatened
the lives of certain present or former public officials." The hearing
officer sustained charges 1, 2, and 4 and dismissed charge 5. The Village
withdrew charge 3. The Village Board adopted the hearing officer's
recommendation that Hoffman be terminated effective January 27, 1997.
Hoffman then commenced an Article 78 petition in Supreme Court,
Delaware County, challenging his termination from the Village police
department. The court found that:
[a]fter a careful review of the hearing transcript and
exhibits, it is abundantly clear that substantial
evidence supports the determination of the Hearing
Officer. . . . Finally, given the nature of the
conduct and the position of public trust formerly held
by petitioner, the penalty imposed by the Hearing
Officer is not excessive.
See Hoffman v. Village of Sidney, No. 97-170 (Sup.Ct.Delaware County
June 18, 1997). Hoffman appealed this decision to the Appellate
Division, Third Department, which affirmed. See Hoffman v. Village of
Sidney, 675 N.Y.S.2d 448 (3d Dep't 1998) The Appellate Division noted
that "[Hoffman] engaged in a conversation with a
Special Deputy of the Delaware County Sheriff's Department wherein he made
threatening and disparaging statements directed toward, among others, the
Village Police Commissioner." Id. at 449. The court further stated that
"[the Special Deputy to whom petitioner made the threatening and
disparaging remarks testified at the hearing and, further, other persons
testified to the very damaging statements made by the Special Deputy
concerning petitioner's threatening statements. . . . [W]hile petitioner
denied making the threats in question, this simply presented a
credibility issue to be determined by the Hearing Officer." Id. at 449.
On July 24, 1997, Hoffman commenced the instant action against the
Village, the County of Delaware, Masters, Talarico, Hamilton, Moon, and
Whitten asserting causes of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
various state law causes of action. The defendants now move for summary
judgment pursuant to FED. R.Civ.P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complaint
in its entirety.