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Niagara County filed formal disciplinary charges Friday against Robert T. Dombrowski, a top official of the county-owned nursing home who was arrested in December and accused of sexually harassing a female employee.

Bruce R. Fenwick, county human resources director, said, "The county has proposed a penalty of termination."

Dombrowski, 43, of Buffalo, had been suspended with pay from his $58,653-a-year post as controller of Mount View Health Facility since the first week of January. Now that internal charges have been brought, Fenwick said, the suspension becomes unpaid for up to 30 days.

If the matter is not resolved during the 30 days, under state Civil Service Law the county must resume paying Dombrowski's salary, though it does not have to let him return to work.

As a civil service employee, Dombrowski is entitled to a trial-like hearing before the county can fire him. A hearing officer, to be selected from a list submitted by the state Public Employment Relations Board, would hear the case and rule on what punishment, if any, would be appropriate.

Fenwick said Dombrowski is entitled to ask for an informal meeting first.

Dombrowski is a member of Local 832 of the Civil Service Employees Association, the largest county employee union. CSEA Regional Director Roger Sherrie said the union will provide Dombrowski with legal representation during the county disciplinary process.

"We will be investigating and reviewing the matter," Sherrie said. "We will make sure that Mr. Dombrowski is afforded his due-process rights."

Dombrowski was arrested on a charge of second-degree harassment after a female Mount View employee complained that he made repeated unwelcome overtures toward her. His pretrial hearing in Town of Lockport Court, twice postponed, is now scheduled for Feb. 27.

Fenwick said the criminal case will proceed independently of the internal disciplinary process, but if a civil service hearing is held, the result of the court action is fair game as evidence.

Dombrowski did not return a call seeking his comment.

"The process has begun," said Legislator Lee Simonson, R-Lewiston, chairman of the County Legislature's Health Services Committee, which oversees Mount View. "We look forward to getting this behind us."

But the Legislature is presuming the matter will drag on for some time. This week, it appropriated $25,000 to hire Freed Maxick & McGladrey, a Buffalo accounting firm, to perform some of Dombrowski's work, such as compiling the nursing home's 2000 financial statements and Medicaid and Medicare reports due May 31.

Mount View Administrator Robert F. Harrington told legislators his hands are tied while Dombrowski is suspended. "I've got a man in limbo. I have no ability to recruit (a replacement)," he said.

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