JT officer's appeal denied
A panel of Commonwealth Court judges has upheld a Carbon County Court ruling that found no fault with a Jim Thorpe Civil Service Commission decision that the borough was within its rights to fire a former police officer for falsifying his time cards.
The 14-page opinion, filed Dec. 22 by Senior Judge James R. Kelley and handed down by Kelley, senior judges Rochelle S. Friedman and Joseph F. McCloskey, affirmed the April 15 county court ruling that upheld the suspension and termination of Todd Leslie. In the county court case, Leslie had appealed a Dec. 1, 2008 Civil Service Commission decision that found for the borough.
Leslie did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.
According to the ruling, "Leslie was terminated for falsification of his time records on April 10, 2008, following allegations that he billed the borough for time he did not work."
Borough Councilman Jeremy Melber, who was chairman of council's Police Committee, "became aware of purported discrepancies in Leslie's time cards in Jan. 2008," the ruling states. Leslie was suspended with pay on March 9, 2008 after admitting that "at least one of his time cards was in error."
Further investigation revealed at least "seven dates on which Leslie was alleged to have signed off with the (Carbon County Communications Center) while his time cards indicated that he was still on the clock," the ruling states. Eventually, it was determined that there were "17 dates totaling 33.5 hours for which Leslie had allegedly overbilled the borough," the ruling states.
After a special council meeting on March 17, 2008, Leslie was suspended without pay and on April 2, 2008, he was suspended indefinitely. Council voted to fire Leslie on April 10, 2008.
Leslie appealed his termination to the Civil Service Commission on May 14, 2008. The commission on Dec. 1, 2008 affirmed council's action. Leslie then appealed to county court, which on April 15, 2009 upheld the commission's ruling.
Commonwealth Court was "limited to determining whether the civil service commission abused its discretion or committed an error of law," the ruling states. In his appeal, Leslie argues there was no written or formal policy or directive for police to contact the communications center at the beginning or end of their shifts. The borough's actions were based on communication center records and, when those records are excluded, there is no evidence that he falsified his time cards.
The panel of judges disagreed, citing testimony from two of Leslie's fellow officers.
Leslie also argued that his rights were violated because he was not given a written complaint against him until several weeks after he was suspended. The panel found that there is no time window for a written complaint to be presented. Leslie also argued his rights were violated because he did not have union representation at the first meeting with Melber and Mayor Ronald Confer on March 9, 2008.
The panel of judges determined Leslie did not ask for the representation.
Leslie also argued that Melber and councilman/commission member Tom Mason should have recused themselves from the council or commission proceedings due to conflicts of interest because both were involved in the investigation.
The commonwealth panel disagreed, citing borough code.