Court rejects ex-Glassboro officer's claim over reprimand

Posted: March 13, 2014

GLASSBORO An appellate court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of a complaint by a Glassboro police officer who contended he should have been given notice and a hearing before a written reprimand by his superior.

The court, affirming a trial court's rejection of David B. Burns' claim, cited state law that specifically requires such process for suspension, removal, fines, and reduction in rank.

Thomas Cushane, the attorney for the now-retired officer, said the matter provides an opportunity to address a legislative void. He said Burns plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The appellate court, in its decision, wrote: "While a written reprimand could have some future effect on promotions, discipline, or future employment, that speculative effect is too attenuated to rise to a legitimate claim of significant entitlement warranting prior notice and a hearing."

Cushane, in an e-mail, said, "When our courts express an unwillingness to prevent that from happening because of how the law is presently constructed, our legislature has a duty to clarify the law."

The lawsuit, which raised the question of whether such personnel memos are damning enough to require due process, stemmed from a 2011 e-mail sent by Burns to Glassboro High School students, parents, and faculty.

Burns, a two-decade veteran of the borough force who retired in 2012, sent the e-mail asking for support for his staying on as a school resource officer, an 18-month assignment that was coming to an end, according to court documents.

In 2012, following an internal review, Chief Alex Fanfarillo issued the reprimand. Cushane said Burns did not believe the e-mail to be improper.

Burns asked for a hearing to appeal the notice but the borough declined, maintaining that Burns was not disciplined apart from the reprimand.

The borough later offered a hearing if Burns withdrew his complaint, but Burns rejected the offer. A lawyer for the borough declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

Burns and Fanfarillo have been at odds before. In 2005, Burns sued the borough and the chief alleging retaliation and discrimination, which the defense denied. That suit was settled.

856-779-3917 @AJFichera

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