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North Hempstead request in arbitration case denied by judge

North Hempstead Town Hall is seen in this

North Hempstead Town Hall is seen in this undated photo. Credit: Town of North Hempstead

North Hempstead Town has lost a lawsuit it brought against the Civil Service Employees Association regarding a former town employee.

A state Supreme Court judge recently denied the town’s request to stop an arbitration proceeding with James Stockwell, a former auto lead mechanic in the Town Highway divisiom.

Town spokeswoman Carol Trottere said Thursday that the decision will be appealed.

Stockwell, 60, retired last June, after being issued nine disciplinary violations pertaining to misconduct and insubordination dating between 2015 and 2016, according to legal documents. Each violation carried a suspension of five days, which were deducted from vacation and sick time accruals, Trottere said. Stockwell’s salary last year was $97,310.

The disciplinary violations cite Stockwell’s comments about town employee Joseph Spinola Jr., 28, who previously was an automotive servicer in the Parks and Recreation Department, with an annual salary of $53,950. In June, he was moved to the position of automotive mechanic at a salary of $54,858.

Stockwell commented on Spinola’s appearance, family and more, according to the lawsuit. His remarks were “offensive, insensitive and inappropriate for the workplace,” according to legal documents filed by the town.

The town’s collective bargaining agreement establishes a three-step grievance process for employees under disciplinary action of five days or less, which can ultimately lead to a court proceeding if a grievance is not resolved.

Following his retirement, Stockwell filed a grievance with the American Arbitration Association to recoup the salary lost during the 45-day suspension. The CSEA was unable to resolve the grievance, and in January the union filed a demand to arbitrate.

The town responded by filing a motion in state Supreme Court in February, arguing that Stockwell failed to follow the grievance process’ third step, which would have been to appeal to the town supervisor.

Over the past few months, the matter has been delayed. The first judge assigned to the case, R. Bruce Cozzens Jr., recused himself because of his relationship with former Supreme Court Justice Joseph Spinola, Spinola Jr.’s father.

As of last week, there were no additional motions on the calendar, Nassau Courts spokesman Daniel Bagnuola said.

Stockwell’s attorney, Louis D. Stober Jr. of Mineola, said Thursday that a private arbitrator has been selected by the American Arbitration Association.

“We will be able to litigate and arbitrate on the merits whether or not the discipline was proper or not against Mr. Stockwell,” Stober said.

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