Four Nassau County traffic court employees who were accused last year of fixing scores of tickets for themselves, relatives and friends got their jobs back this week - along with roughly $190,000 in back pay - after they were cleared of nearly all the allegations against them, county officials and the workers' lawyer said.
Of the six workers who were publicly lambasted and fired in August of last year, only one, Angela Petty of Freeport, was charged with a crime. The case against Petty, who has pleaded not guilty, is pending.
Three of the employees were cleared of wrongdoing and given full back pay, in some cases because the accusations were found to be without merit and in others because the workers were not fired within a year of the alleged offenses, a requirement under union rules, said county officials and Louis Stober Jr., attorney for the county Civil Service Employees Association, who represents the five employees who have been asked to come back to work.
Of the remaining two employees, one got her job back as well, but was docked two months' pay after an arbitrator determined she was guilty of one of 10 accusations against her: failing to check with her supervisor before making a change in her son's ticket in the county computer to reflect a judge's disposition of the case, Stober said.
The other worker also has been asked to come back to work, though the investigation against her is continuing and it was unclear what her job will be.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the county CSEA, said the employees, whose firings were announced at a well-attended news conference by then-County Executive Thomas Suozzi and District Attorney Kathleen Rice, were the victims of "political propaganda."
"These people's careers were damaged for political purposes only," Laricchiuta said.
Suozzi, a Democrat who was running for re-election at the time, said at that news conference that the workers' alleged actions cost the county $25,000 in lost revenue.
Bruce Nyman, a spokesman for Suozzi, vehemently denied any political motivation for the firings. He said Suozzi took action after being advised of wrongdoing by traffic court employees, and that county officials did what was right by referring the cases to the district attorney.
Patricia Reilly, who headed the traffic court during Suozzi's administration and decided to fire the workers, said Wednesday she still believes the employees were fixing tickets and that they should not be allowed back to their jobs.
"This is an affront to any honest county worker," Reilly said.
A spokesman for Rice's office said the investigation is closed, and Petty is the only one facing criminal charges.
According to figures provided by the county, the four employees already back at work are owed a total of about $190,000 in back pay.
The exonerated employees are: Joseph Butindari, an assistant executive director; Priscilla Jordan, a keyboard operator; and Rosanna Alveari, a clerk. Celia Capozzoli, a clerk, received back pay minus the two months pay she was docked.
A fifth worker, Mary Green, has been asked to return to work, though the investigation of her is continuing, because an arbitrator has said any wrongdoing by her was not grounds for firing, Stober and county officials said. Green has not returned to work, however, because her job was filled in her absence and the union is negotiating about what her new job should be. It has not been decided how much back pay she is owed, if any.
Petty, 41, was charged with 10 counts of tampering with public records, 10 counts of falsifying business records and 10 counts of official misconduct.