June 2, 2014

Court Rules City Had Right to End Release Time for PBA Trio

By Mark Toor


PATRICK J. LYNCH: Union will keep on fighting.


A state appeals court has ruled that the city was within its authority when it revoked release-time excusals for three Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association delegates who were indicted in the Bronx ticket-fixing probe.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said the fight is not over. “This union firmly believes that its members should be represented by those they have elected and we will continue to fight to protect that right,” he said in a statement.

Wouldn’t Accept Subs

The city Office of Labor Relations had offered to give release time to three substitutes designated by the PBA, but the union decided to fight the revocation in court.

The delegates—Police Officers Joseph Anthony, Brian McGuckin and Michael Hernandez—were among 16 officers indicted in October 2011 in the ticket-fixing investigation. The probe arose out of an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation of whether Police Officer Jose R. Ramos was using two barbershops he owned as distribution points for marijuana.

Mr. Ramos was indicted on more than two dozen charges, including attempted robbery, attempted grand larceny, and transporting heroin for drug dealers. Another officer, Sgt. Jacob Solorzano, was charged with pretending to make an arrest in a car stop so Mr. Ramos, his driver, could steal $30,000. The car was driven by an undercover Detective. Mr. Solorzano was subsequently fired on administrative charges.

Not Fixed for Money

But most, like the three delegates, were charged with fixing tickets as favors to other officers. None was charged with taking money or other considerations to deep-six the tickets. The delegates were charged with official misconduct, grand larceny and tampering with public records.

None of the 16 officers charged in the case, which became something of an embarrassment to the NYPD, has pleaded guilty or been brought to trial. The president of the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, Edward D. Mullins, has said that ticket-fixing was “as much a culture of the department as arresting criminals” and that higher-ranking officers engaged in it as well.

Mr. Anthony, Mr. McGuckin and Mr. Hernandez were suspended for 30 days and then placed on modified duty. During their period of suspension, the OLR rescinded their release-time certificates.

The PBA took the city to court, seeking to keep the release time for the three men in effect until the issue could be decided in arbitration.

Dueling Arguments

The city argued that the executive order establishing release time requires that employees granted such time “shall at all times conduct themselves in a responsible manner.”

The union argued that the order excludes officers engaged in “organizing, planning, directing or participating in any way in strikes, work stoppages or job actions of any kind.” Facing a charge of ticket-fixing does not meet that definition, the union attorneys argued.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court issued a majority opinion May 13 signed by three of the five Judges who considered the case. It found that the indictments “constitute a sufficient basis for the city to determine that the individual petitioners did not ‘at all times conduct themselves in a responsible manner.’’’

The court ruled that the job-action clause of the executive order “does not state that this is the sole ground for rescission of leave status.”