After an administrative law judge recommended a modified six-month suspension rather than termination for former personnel director Betty Taylor, the Civil Service Commission sided with the city in a final decision issued earlier in the month.
The commission’s decision issued on February 8th, 2017 states where an employee’s conduct is of “egregious nature” removal is appropriate regardless of disciplinary history overturning administrative law judge Joann LaSala Candido’s Dec. 14, 2016 initial decision.
Candido reasoned Taylor had an unblemished disciplinary history prior to the city’s termination of her on Jan. 14, 2015 for conduct unbecoming of a public employee. Taylor was accused of misrepresenting her income to secure a loan through the Paterson Pride Program. She signed a loan application on Dec. 1, 2010 which stated her income was $53,868 when in fact she had received a pay increase six months earlier that pushed her income up to $80,340, according to state records.
“She did this even though she knew she was given a considerable pay raise in July 2010 and that the income stated on the closing documents, which she certified as correct, was in fact untrue,” reads a summary of Candido’s decision in this month’s decision.
The city argued the administrative law judge over looked an affidavit Taylor signed. It also disagreed with the judge’s assertion Taylor had an unblemished disciplinary record pointing to the Hurricane Irene overtime scandal hearing held by the City Council in 2011.
Council members resolved to terminate Taylor. She couldn’t be terminated after the state intervened and ordered her be restored. She was restored as assistant personnel director.
The city also argued her “misconduct was so severe that it warrants termination.” An assistant personnel director who commits “fraud and submits false documents cannot present an image of personal integrity and dependability to the public,” argued the city.
Taylor’s attorney argued the council’s disciplinary hearing did not conform to civil service regulations. Her attorney also argued the city prepared the mortgage packet and “she did not submit any false or inappropriate documentation.”
The affidavit the city cited was not needed for closing, argued Taylor’s lawyer. The city prepared the affidavit in question with incorrect income numbers. Her lawyer also alleged the city prepared the affidavit so that her loan could withstand a federal audit.
“It is irrelevant that she did not prepare the affidavit or even if it was necessary to perfect the loan as she attested to the veracity of the information. Indeed, if the information was not correct, it was incumbent upon the appellant [Taylor] to correct this information or not sign, swearing to its truthfulness,” reads the final decision.
The commission found Taylor’s conduct “sufficiently egregious to support removal.” The decision also echoed the judge’s opinion that the city “bears some responsibility since it prepared the loan documents.”
“Her falsification makes it very difficult for” Paterson “to continue to trust her ability to do her job, which involves sanative and confidential personnel matters,” reads the final decision.
Taylor will have to decide whether to pursue the matter in court.
“We are analyzing our next move,” said her attorney Neal Brunson on Friday morning when asked if he intended to file an appeal in court. He bemoaned the newspaper coverage the Taylor matter has received over past the months and years. He said some of the newspaper stories were slanted in the city’s favor.
“It has taken the human element out of it,” said Brunson speaking of the numerous stories that have appeared.
Taylor has been elusive when reporters have reached out to her for comments. For example, as the city moved to terminate her a reporter visited her home seeking her side of the story. She did not respond to a message left with an individual at the door at the time.
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