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Lee v. Garden State Youth Correctional Facility

June 11, 2010

WILLIAM LEE, APPELLANT,
v.
GARDEN STATE YOUTH CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, IN THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the final agency decision of the Civil Service Commission, Docket No. 2007-4946.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 24, 2010

Before Judges Rodríguez, Reisner and Chambers.

William Lee appeals from a final decision of the Civil Service Commission (Commission), which adopted Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Joseph Lavery's decision, upholding two final notices of disciplinary action (FNDA) issued by the Department of Corrections (DOC). We affirm.

These are the pertinent facts. Lee was a senior corrections officer (SCO) at Garden State Youth Correction Facility (the Facility), which housed males between the ages of fourteen and thirty-one. Lee had been a corrections officer since April 2005.

FIRST INCIDENT

On July 31, 2006, Lee was sitting in a metal chair while monitoring inmates who were showering. Lieutenant David P. Pipeling told Lee that he could not sit in the chair, as it was heavy and could be used as a weapon. Lee said, "I'll use a plastic chair, then." Pipeling reminded Lee he could not be seated because he was supposed to walk through three different wings to monitor inmates. Lee replied that his back hurt from a previous injury. Pipeling advised him that there was no reduced duty status and he would be relieved of his duties if he did not stop using the chair. Lee said, "I can't work. I guess I'll just have to go back out on SLI. I also need to go to the hospital then and I want someone to drive me." Sergeant Jason Nordgren heard this conversation.

Pipeling directed Lee to report to the infirmary and to submit a special report before he left the Facility. At the infirmary, Lee insisted that he wanted to go to an outside hospital. Lieutenant Michael F. Gallagher arranged transportation, but told Lee to submit all necessary reports before leaving. Lieutenant Robert Flynn also ordered Lee to report to the supervisor's office to speak with Pipeling before he left.

Instead of writing the report, Lee went to Captain Frank Galletto and claimed he was injured that day on the job. Pipeling, Galletto, and union representative Jose Rivera met with Lee. However, Lee interrupted them and said, "I'm in a confused state of mind right now." Galletto continued to ask Lee if he had been injured that day. Lee was not responsive. Galletto told Lee that he considered the non-response to be a negative answer. Lee still did not respond. Lee then said, "I will be seeing my lawyer about this."

Lee was taken to an outside hospital for treatment. About an hour later, Lee called Gallagher requesting transportation back to the Facility. Lee told Gallagher he did not receive treatment at the hospital because the wait was too long. Lee was brought back to the Facility, but he left soon after without filing a report.

In response to the events on July 31, 2006, the DOC issued a preliminary notice of disciplinary action (PNDA), charging Lee with insubordination and "other sufficient cause" and recommending a suspension for fifteen working days.

SECOND INCIDENT

On October 3, 2006, an emergency call was sounded due to an altercation in the kitchen between inmate, T.K., and SCO William Schuyler. Approximately fifteen to twenty officers responded, including Flynn, Nordgren, Gallagher, SCO Rudolph Buchwald, SCO Nicholas G. Joy, SCO John P. Musso, and Sergeant Alan L. Bolden. There were approximately twenty-five inmates in the area at the time. Flynn arrived in the kitchen and saw Schuyler and SCO Michael Yuhas attempting to restrain T.K. Flynn ...


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