A 180-day suspension of policewoman Maribel Candelo by Paterson Police Department after higher ups made “unreasonable” requests to see what medications she was taking has cost city taxpayers $48,405 after an administrative judge ruled the city must pay her wage for the suspended period and reimburse her attorney fees.
The City Council settled Candelo’s case on Wednesday night agreed to pay her $31,405 in back pay that covers the suspension period from May 1, 2014 through August 31, 2014 and $17,000 in legal fees.
Council members approved the settlement after closed door discussions with the city’s attorney and police director Jerry Speziale but without making any public comments.
Candelo’s case stemmed from insubordination charges the city filed against her for not revealing to her supervisor the name and effects of modifications she was taking in September 2013. Police department regulation requires a police officer to inform his or her supervisor if a medication diminishes alertness or impairs the sense.
The policewoman refused to share that information with Internal Affairs Sergeant Manuel Hernandez after he requested the information following a report from Sergeant Jamie Navarro that Candelo was feeling “groggy” while on duty in the police cell block.
Candelo told Navarro about the impact the modification was having on her. She refused to share information about the two modifications she was taking with Hernandez because she believed it violated her privacy rights under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Oksana Luke of Concentra Medical Center which is contracted by the police department was made aware of the modifications Candelo was taking. Administrative law judge Jesse H. Strauss found that sufficient notification in his May 2015 ruling.
Police lumped two other unrelated charges against Candelo. An alleged chain of command violation charge from 2010 and a 2011 insubordination charge because she allgedly did not write a report in the manner directed, according to State records.
Strauss did not consider those to charges when rendering the decision in Candelo’s favor because the city did not act on them when they occurred. The city used the three charge to issue the unpaid 180-day suspension.
Strauss ordered that she be reinstated and the city pay her attorney fees as well as back pay for the suspension period.
Candelo has been working as a police officer in Paterson since October 2005, according to city records. Her salary is $83,462, according to city records.
Jayed Rahman contributed to this report.