The stepson of a Suffolk police officer in the unit that oversees the physical testing of recruits improperly received an extra chance to pass the agility test after twice failing to qualify, according to civil service officials.
Christopher McAdam, who started at the county police academy two months ago, was terminated as a probationary police officer Nov. 20. But he challenged the decision and state Supreme Court Justice John Bivona signed a restraining order restoring him to the police class temporarily until a court hearing Dec. 23.
McAdam, 36, of Islip Terrace, maintains he was “irreparably harmed” by the firing because the county bars anyone older than 35 from taking the hiring test again.
Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said the department has begun an internal affairs investigation into the case. Because of the pending litigation, Fallon declined to confirm the reasons for McAdam’s firing or if his stepfather, Richard Roth, who works in applicant investigation, played any role.
Civil service officials, who have overall responsibility for the county’s competitive police test, first learned of the alleged breach about three weeks ago through an anonymous letter written by another police candidate, who twice failed the agility test but claimed McAdam received special treatment.
Civil service officials say the rule permitting only one retest has been in place for more than three decades and applicants sign a form notifying them of that.
Schneider said changing the results for McAdam could impact the entire class of trainees in the academy. “If they allow this guy to stay in the class, why shouldn’t all those others who failed be allowed to get a third test.”
When civil service officials first called the applicant investigation unit about the anonymous tip, Alan Schneider, personnel director, said its commander, Paul Memay initially gave no response. Two days later, Schneider said Memay acknowledged that he “may have overstepped his bounds” by allowing McAdam an extra chance to pass the test. At the time, civil service officials say, Memay justified his decision, claiming Roth’s stepson was treated unfairly on the agility test in retribution for a relative of an academy staffer who earlier failed on the background investigation.
Roth and Memay could not be reached for comment. Fallon said the department does not want officers discussing issues involved while an investigation is in progress.
While the civil service conducts the written police exam and psychological examinations, other county agencies are also involved in follow-up tests. The Health Department does physicals on candidates, and police do background checks and the agility tests. The agility test requires applicants to do a required number of push-ups and situps as well as a 1.5-mile run within certain time limits based on the age and gender of the job seekers.
According to civil service officials, McAdam initially fell two short of the required 35 situps in the first agility test given with a large group of applicants July 18. He took the test again alone on Aug. 26 but still failed, falling one short. Two days later, he was given a third test alone and met the standard. He also passed the push-up and run tests.
In his lawsuit, McAdams acknowledged he failed to do enough situps in the first test, but said in the second test he was told to do the situp portion before the push-ups “in contradiction . . . to policy and procedures.” He said he was directed to appear for a third test and was told the second test “was void” because the order of the exercises was reversed.
Christopher Rothemich, McAdam’s attorney, said his client was fired for the “alleged impropriety of allowing him to complete the Aug. 28 physical fitness test” even though it was “properly authorized” by Memay. Rothemich also said McAdam was told he was a “good recruit.”
Civil service officials, citing a long-standing consent agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to settle a hiring discrimination suit, said it was important to assure fairness in tests to bolster the chances of hiring minorities.
In all, civil service officials say 75 other applicants were removed from consideration after failing their single retest. Another 22 declined to show up for the retest. Of those who were disqualified by the agility test, 33 were Hispanic, seven were black, two were Asian and one was Native American.
Civil service officials also expressed concern that McAdam had 40 days to prepare by the time he passed the third test, while all applicants who failed the original test were given two weeks and retested Aug. 1. Schneider also said the police department failed to provide civil service with a record of the second test as required. He said internal affairs investigators later found the results in McAdam’s personnel file.