The Niagara County Legislature is to vote next week on paying off a former corrections officer who was fired without the hearing he is guaranteed under state law, even though Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein signed a letter saying a hearing was held.
Derrick Brevard, who worked in the jail for 14 years, was fired in December 2005 after allegedly threatening two superior officers.
He is to be paid $86,042 if the full Legislature approves the settlement its Administration Committee approved Tuesday. County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said the amount is nearly two years of back pay minus some of the money Brevard has earned since leaving the county work force.
Brevard, who is now managing a warehouse liquor store in Milford, Conn., said he doesn't think the settlement is adequate, "but I've got to get on with my life." His termination notice is being expunged.
"As part of the agreement, I handed in my resignation," he said.
Joerg said Brevard went before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which gave him a "right to sue" letter. That got the county's attention, and an arbitration session was held last week. Brevard said it resulted in a verbal settlement agreement.
"We didn't give him a hearing. When you're fired, you're entitled to a hearing," said Joerg, referring to Article 75 of state Civil Service Law.
The Buffalo News obtained a copy of a letter from Beilein to Brevard dated Jan. 11, 2006, telling him he was fired "as a result of your disciplinary hearing held on Dec. 9, 2005." Joerg acknowledged there was no such hearing. Beilein could not be reached to comment Tuesday night.
Brevard was accused of threatening Capt. Kevin Payne and Maj. John Saxton during an Oct. 4, 2005, phone call with Sgt. Duane Vendetta.
"The nature of the threats involved garnishing [sic] a weapon and 'shooting the place up as well as 'waiting outside in the parking lot and picking them off one by one, " the disciplinary notice said.
"It was all hearsay. They've never come to me with any substantial evidence," Brevard said.
On another labor matter, the committee voted to appropriate $75,000 from the contingency fund to pay Damon & Morey, the Buffalo law firm that handles the county's labor law issues, for the last three months of the year. Joerg said more than $100,000 has been spent with the firm so far in 2007, and an $8,000 bill is currently unpaid.
Joerg said the case that pushed the outside counsel budget over the brink was a federal suit filed by fired former Sheriff's Deputy John Taddeo. Joerg said $8,800 has been spent on that case since July.
James Briggs, chief negotiator for the Niagara County Police Benevolent Association, said it is "unfair" of Joerg to blame the Taddeo case for busting the budget.
He said his union is battling the county before the state Public Employment Relations Board over the county's refusal to turn over a letter the county allegedly received from a New York City consultant analyzing the costs of various health insurance plans. Briggs' union is involved in contentious talks with the county over a new contract.