A state supreme court judge overturned an arbitrator’s decision to fire a teacher who was busted last year for carrying 20 bags of heroin on a jury duty stint.
Damian Esteban, who taught at Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, was arrested in 2012 after a court officer found the drugs packed into a cigarette case during a routine security check. Esteban said that he was battling drug addiction and mistakenly grabbed the wrong bag before at his home.
The charges were dismissed and Esteban said he had recovered from his addiction. But the city still moved to terminate him, which an arbitrator upheld in a ruling last May. Esteban took the case to the court and, in a ruling from the judge handed down this week, was given his job back.
“Under these facts, termination of employment is unduly harsh, an abuse of discretion and shocking to this court’s sense of fairness,” the judge wrote.
The court’s reversal is an extra layer in a legal process that officials say is already unnecessarily cumbersome to terminate government employees for misconduct.
Usually the process ends with the arbitrator’s decision, which critics say is overly protective to employees. As we reported earlier today, an ex-principal found guilty of sweeping academic dishonesty and fraud was allowed to keep her salary thanks to an arbitrator’s decision.
The court’s ruling infuriated city officials, who said they intend to appeal the decision to keep Esteban from getting his job back. Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement he “could not disagree more strongly” with the decision.
“The judge ruled that the termination ‘shocks the conscience,’ which shows a callous indifference to the well-being of our students,” Bloomberg said in the statement.