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Friday, August 26, 2011

N.Y. Still Pursues Case Against Whistle-Blower

By Danny Hakim
The New York Times

The Cuomo administration is continuing to pursue a two-year-old disciplinary case against Jeffrey Monsour, a state employee at the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities who has been an outspoken critic of the agency’s management.

Mr. Monsour, 50, a direct-care worker, is accused of getting into an argument with a co-worker in front of a resident in 2009. The state is seeking a four-week suspension, a penalty that exceeds those imposed on many employees who committed acts of abuse or neglect against developmentally disabled people.

Mr. Monsour has long been a gadfly within the office, which runs more than 1,000 group homes and institutions. Over the years, he has filed many Freedom of Information requests examining its practices, annoying agency officials, and he sees the case being brought against him as their latest attempt at retribution.
The case highlights the agency’s haphazard approach to discipline.

Mr. Monsour was written about by The New York Times in March; that article told of a state worker who, while being investigated by the police in a case of sexual assault against a severely disabled resident, returned to his job without penalty, despite witness testimony and DNA evidence implicating the employee. That worker was eventually convicted of endangering an incompetent person, a charge stemming from the assault case, and was jailed. Another worker described in the article racked up multiple offenses, including twice punching residents in the face, before losing his job.

This year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo forced out the agency’s commissioner, installing Courtney Burke, a policy expert, in the position, and he has asked Clarence J. Sundram, a former regulator, to lead a broad review of the agency’s practices. Seeking to add predictability to the disciplinary system, the administration recently negotiated a plan with the Civil Service Employees Association to create a matrix of punishments for various offenses.

But it has continued to pursue the case against Mr. Monsour.

Last month, after prodding by The Times and Mr. Monsour’s lawyer, the administration took the unusual step of turning over nearly 200 pages of transcripts from Mr. Monsour’s arbitration proceedings, offering a rare window into a continuing disciplinary case involving a state employee.

The rest of the story can be found here.