A city policewoman suspended for 180 days for alleged insubordination has been ordered to be reinstated by a New Jersey administrative law judge.
Maribel Candelo was suspended because she allegedly violated police chain of command, failed to write a report in a way she was directed to do, and failed to make known medications she was taking to her supervisor.
Administrative law judge Jesse H. Strauss reversed the suspension in a decision issued on May 15 and adopted by the Civil Service Commission on June 18, according to state records. Strauss determined the city lumped together three charges to suspend Candelo.
The first alleged infraction occurred on January 23, 2010, when she allegedly violated chain of command. The second incident occurred on April 8, 2011, when she was “insubordinate by not writing a report in a manner as directed,” summarizes Strauss decision.
The third alleged infraction happened on September 16, 2013. Candelo was allegedly insubordinate by not reporting medication she was taking at the time to her supervisor, according to state records.
For the first two charges the city issued disciplinary notices, but it did “nothing with them” until the third incident occurred. That’s when the police department lumped the three incidents together and issued a 180-day suspension.
The judge dismissed two of the previous charges that were packed together to strengthen the last alleged infraction because of inaction on the part of the city. The third insubordination charge where Candelo allegedly violated a department regulation was considered.
City police regulation states that member of the department taking medications which diminish alertness or impair senses should inform their supervisor “as to the medication, its properties, the dosage, and the period during which it is to be taken.”
On August 26, 2013, first day of her four-day tour, she reported in sick.
On September 3, 2013, she reported for work, but reported out before finishing the shift.
Detective Richard Botbyl arranged a fitness for duty examination at Concentra Medical Center which is contracted by the department.
Oksana Luke, doctor at the center, was provided her medical records on September 4, 2013. Those records included a note from her primary physician Salvator Conte that said she should be excused from work due to illness.
Candelo provided Luke with the medications she was taking as well as information about her condition. The department’s doctor noted, “She may return back to work I will recommend office work for her starting September 5, 2013.”
Luke recommended she have access to a bathroom while she worked a requirement that couldn’t be fulfilled if she worked in the patrol car.
The department did not follow its doctor’s recommendation and placed Candelo in cell block duty.
On September 6, she informed Sergeant Jamie Navarro at the cellblock that she was under medication which she had to take every three hours and that the medication made her “groggy” making her unable to perform the duties of cell block.
Navarro reported this to Internal Affairs Sergeant Manuel Hernandez. Hernandez asked her for a report that listed the medications she was taking.
Candelo refused to provide the names of the two medications she was taking to her supervisors protesting it was an invasion of her privacy under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The department charged Candelo with insubordination because she refused to inform higher ups of the names of the medications she was taking.
Strauss determined the supervisor’s insistence on the names of the drugs was “unreasonable” and did not serve any purpose because she provided the information to the department’s doctor.
Candelo’s conduct was not an act of insubordination, Strauss concluded. She will receive back pay for the 180-day suspension that was issued against her as well as benefits and seniority for the period.
Candelo has been working in Paterson since October 24, 2005. Her salary is $76,000, according to city records.
The city will also have to award her lawyer fees.
Jayed Rahman contributed to this story.