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Franklin v. D'Amico

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York.
May 2, 2014
986 N.Y.S.2d 725 (N.Y. App. Div. 2014)

Opinion

2014-05-2

In the Matter of Frederick FRANKLIN, Jr., Petitioner, v. Joseph A. D'AMICO, Superintendent, New York State Division of State Police, Respondent.

Harris Beach PLLC, Buffalo (Richard T. Sullivan of Counsel), for Petitioner. Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General, Albany (Laura Etlinger of Counsel), for Respondent.



Harris Beach PLLC, Buffalo (Richard T. Sullivan of Counsel), for Petitioner. Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General, Albany (Laura Etlinger of Counsel), for Respondent.
PRESENT: SCUDDER, P.J., CENTRA, FAHEY, PERADOTTO, and WHALEN, JJ.

MEMORANDUM:

Petitioner, a former New York State Trooper, commenced this CPLR article 78 proceeding seeking to annul respondent's determination finding him guilty of misconduct or, in the alternative, to vacate the penalty of dismissal. He contends that the determination is not supported by substantial evidence and that the penalty is shocking to one's sense of fairness.

Petitioner, a Trooper for over 18 years, was a member of a social club that rented its clubhouse to another Trooper, who used the premises to host parties where strippers performed. Several witnesses, including two other Troopers who attended one party, testified that the strippers performing at the parties also engaged in prostitution, i.e., exchanging sexual favors for money, and that they used the second floor of the clubhouse to do so. It is undisputed that alcohol was sold to patrons attending the parties, despite the fact that the club did not have a license to sell alcohol. Petitioner admitted that he was present for three such parties. In the charges against petitioner, it was alleged that he knew of the illegal activities and did not take proper police action to stop them; that he knowingly frequented an establishment where violations of the law existed; that he provided false information during the internal investigation; and that, by his conduct, he brought discredit to the Division of State Police. Following a hearing conducted by a Hearing Board ( see9 NYCRR 479.7), all but one of the charges against him were sustained. Respondent accepted the findings and recommendations of the Hearing Board and dismissed petitioner from the Division of State Police.

It is well established that, “[i]n CPLR article 78 proceedings to review determinations of administrative tribunals, the standard of review for the Appellate Divisions and th[e] Court [of Appeals] is whether there was substantial evidence to support the Hearing Officer's decision” (Matter of Wilson v. City of White Plains, 95 N.Y.2d 783, 784–785, 710 N.Y.S.2d 303, 731 N.E.2d 1111;seeCPLR 7803[4]; Matter of Kelly v. Safir, 96 N.Y.2d 32, 38, 724 N.Y.S.2d 680, 747 N.E.2d 1280,rearg. denied96 N.Y.2d 854, 729 N.Y.S.2d 670, 754 N.E.2d 773;Matter of Pell v. Board of Educ. of Union Free School Dist. No. 1 of Towns of Scarsdale & Mamaroneck, Westchester County, 34 N.Y.2d 222, 230–231, 356 N.Y.S.2d 833, 313 N.E.2d 321). Contrary to petitioner's contention, we conclude that respondent's determination is supported by substantial evidence ( see 300 Gramatan Ave. Assoc. v. State Div. of Human Rights, 45 N.Y.2d 176, 179–180, 408 N.Y.S.2d 54, 379 N.E.2d 1183).

Although petitioner denied having any knowledge of the illegal activities taking place at the parties, there was substantial evidence establishing the contrary, i.e., that he was aware of those activities. He gave numerous inconsistent statements regarding whether he knew the club lacked a liquor license. He evaded answering basic questions, and the Hearing Board found incredible his testimony that he had no idea what the term “extras” meant in relationship to strippers. When asked by one patron at a party what was occurring on the second floor, petitioner told the patron, “you don't want to know,” thereby implying that petitioner knew what was occurring. Inasmuch as others who attended the parties assumed that prostitution was occurring on the second floor, the Hearing Board concluded that it was reasonable to assume that a Trooper with over 18 years of experience “would surmise that the area was being used for sexual favors.” Moreover, after petitioner learned that the Trooper hosting the parties had been questioned by authorities, petitioner immediately recommended to his club president and to other Troopers that they disassociate themselves from that Trooper. We conclude that the Hearing Board properly determined that such evidence is indicative of a consciousness of guilt.

Although a different finding would not have been unreasonable, “ ‘where[, as here,] substantial evidence exists' to support a decision being reviewed by the courts, ‘that determination must be sustained, irrespective of whether a similar quantum of evidence is available to support other varying conclusions' ” (Matter of Ridge Rd. Fire Dist. v. Schiano, 16 N.Y.3d 494, 503, 922 N.Y.S.2d 249, 947 N.E.2d 140, quoting Matter of Collins v. Codd, 38 N.Y.2d 269, 270, 379 N.Y.S.2d 733, 342 N.E.2d 524;see Matter of Park Outdoor Adv. of N.Y. v. City of Syracuse, 210 A.D.2d 907, 908, 620 N.Y.S.2d 659).

We reject petitioner's further contention that the penalty of dismissal is shocking to one's sense of fairness. “Judicial review of an administrative penalty is limited to whether the measure or mode of penalty or discipline imposed constitutes an abuse of discretion as a matter of law ... [T]he Appellate Division is subject to the same constraints as th[e] Court [of Appeals]-a penalty must be upheld unless it is ‘so disproportionate to the offense as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness,’ thus constituting an abuse of discretion as a matter of law” ( Kelly, 96 N.Y.2d at 38, 724 N.Y.S.2d 680, 747 N.E.2d 1280, quoting Pell, 34 N.Y.2d at 237, 356 N.Y.S.2d 833, 313 N.E.2d 321). Moreover, “[i]n matters concerning police discipline, ‘great leeway’ must be accorded to the [Superintendent's] determinations concerning the appropriate punishment, for it is the [Superintendent], not the courts, who ‘is accountable to the public for the integrity of the [Division of State Police]’ ” ( Kelly, 96 N.Y.2d at 38, 724 N.Y.S.2d 680, 747 N.E.2d 1280, quoting Matter of Berenhaus v. Ward, 70 N.Y.2d 436, 445, 522 N.Y.S.2d 478, 517 N.E.2d 193;see Pell, 34 N.Y.2d at 237, 356 N.Y.S.2d 833, 313 N.E.2d 321;Matter of Panek v. Bennett, 38 A.D.3d 1251, 1252, 834 N.Y.S.2d 894;Matter of Santos v. Chesworth, 133 A.D.2d 1001, 1003, 521 N.Y.S.2d 151). Given the nature of the offenses, the “ ‘higher standard of fitness and character [that] pertains to police officers,’ ” petitioner's evasive conduct and his refusal to accept any responsibility for his conduct, we conclude that the penalty of dismissal does not shock one's sense of fairness (Matter of Bassett v. Fenton, 68 A.D.3d 1385, 1387–1388, 891 N.Y.S.2d 195;see e.g. Matter of Boyd v. Constantine, 81 N.Y.2d 189, 196, 597 N.Y.S.2d 605, 613 N.E.2d 511;Matter of Tessiero v. Bennett, 50 A.D.3d 1368, 1370, 857 N.Y.S.2d 272;Matter of Hricik v. McMahon, 247 A.D.2d 935, 936, 668 N.Y.S.2d 295;Matter of Costa v. McMahon, 225 A.D.2d 694, 695, 639 N.Y.S.2d 490;Matter of Elwood v. Constantine, 213 A.D.2d 870, 872, 623 N.Y.S.2d 429).

It is hereby ORDERED that the determination is unanimously confirmed without costs and the petition is dismissed.


Summaries of

Franklin v. D'Amico

Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York.
May 2, 2014
986 N.Y.S.2d 725 (N.Y. App. Div. 2014)
Case details for

Franklin v. D'Amico

Case Details

Full title:In the Matter of Frederick FRANKLIN, Jr., Petitioner, v. Joseph A…

Court:Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York.

Date published: May 2, 2014

Citations

986 N.Y.S.2d 725 (N.Y. App. Div. 2014)
117 A.D.3d 1432
2014 N.Y. Slip Op. 3064

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