Appeal For Bypassed Candidate For Holyoke Police Dismissed

The Civil Service Commission dismissed the appeal of a candidate for the position of reserve police officer for the City of Holyoke in SCOTT BURNS, Appellant v. CITY OF HOLYOKE, Respondent G1-08-251

In deciding the case the commission stated “The City, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, has shown that it had reasonable justification to bypass the Appellant for original appointment as a reserve police officer.
The City substantiated that the Appellant’s employment history was a valid reason for bypassing him for appointment. He was disciplined on two separate occasions for using sick time as a dispatcher in order to perform paid detail duties in a nearby Town. He was also warned on more than one occasion about his tardiness. Further, he received a highly negative evaluation from the Colonel of the Holyoke Auxiliary Police Department, including that she had no trust in the Appellant’s integrity. Although the Chief of the Auxiliary Department provided the Appellant with a letter of recommendation several years prior to this evaluation, this does not negate the more recent and more detailed evaluation prepared by the Colonel.
The City has also substantiated that the Appellant’s omissions or misstatements on his employment application were a valid reasons for bypassing him for appointment. The City cited four omissions or misstatements upon which they reached their conclusion. I reach the same conclusion regarding two of those allegations. The Appellant provided accurate information regarding his credit history (at the time) and he did not need to indicate that he applied to the State Police when all he did was take the State Police entrance examination. He did, however, omit on his application his employment application that he was employed by the City’s Auxiliary Police Department. It is not sufficient that the Appellant attached a resume indicating this employment. Background investigators should not be required to sift through unsolicited information in order to conduct a thorough review of all applicants. They rely on applicants to complete the application thoroughly and provide all of the information in the format and location proscribed in the application. The Appellant failed to do that. Further, the Appellant misled the City when he told them he “withdrew” his application from the Virginia Beach Police Department. He failed a behavioral test and was disqualified. The fact that the Appellant may be able to apply at a later date does not alter the fact that he was disqualified. Further, the Appellant, who appears to be a meticulous record-keeper and note-taker, failed to provide a copy of the letter he purports to have sent to Virginia Beach “withdrawing” his application.
An Appointing Authority is well within its rights to take disciplinary action when a police officer has “a demonstrated willingness to fudge the truth…” because “[p]olice work frequently calls upon officers to speak the truth when doing so might put into question a search or might embarrass a fellow officer.” See Falmouth v. Civil Service Comm’n, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 796, 801 (2004); citing Cambridge, supra at 303. Thus, it follows that a Police Department is justified in bypassing a candidate for appointment who fudges the truth on his application.
In regard to the Appellant’s failure to pay excise taxes, the parties’ quibbled over whether the Appellant’s license was “non-renewable” given the fact that he could cure this problem by making the payments due. Here, what I found most troubling was the fact that the Appellant actually failed to pay two years of excise taxes to the City for which he is a full-time employee. The Appellant’s testimony that he either lost or forgot about these bills only compounds his poor judgment regarding this delinquency.
I carefully reviewed the Appellant’s allegations of bias and the fact that other candidates with blemishes on their background investigation were appointed as reserve police officers. Although I was troubled by at least one of the appointment decisions made by the City, this does not alter the fact that the City has substantiated valid reasons for not selecting the Appellant. Moreover, I credit the testimony of Chief Scott that, after considering the “totality” of each candidate’s background, they decided to bypass the Appellant in favor of other candidates. I may have reached a somewhat different conclusion had some of the candidates with blemishes on their background checks had personal or family ties to City or police officials. Finally, the Appellant has failed to show that his role as a local union president played a role in the City’s decision to bypass him.
There was reasonable justification for the City’s decision and there is no evidence of bias or improper motive. Thus, the City’s decision to bypass the Appellant is “not subject to correction by the Commission.” Cambridge, 43 Mass. App. Ct. at 305. For this reason, the Appellant’s appeal under Docket No. G1-08-251 is hereby dismissed.”

Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

About Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

Ronald A. Sellon is a licensed Attorney in the state of Massachusetts and U.S. District Court, Massachusetts as well as a Sergeant with a Municipal Police Department and U.S. military Veteran. Additionally, he has taught Criminal Procedure at the Massachusetts State Police Academy in New Braintree and has written a text on Criminal Procedure for police field training officer programs. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, was a 2008 recipient of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass C.O.P.) Presidents award and holds a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and a Juris Doctor Law Degree. Questions related to content material may be directed to RSellon@PoliceLegalPromotions.com
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