Newspaper reports admitted into evidence in an administrative disciplinary proceeding

Newspaper reports admitted into evidence in an administrative disciplinary proceeding
2012 NY Slip Op 07479, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

A volunteer firefighter filed an Article 78 petition challenging the Volunteer Fire Company’s decision,  to expel him from membership in the Fire Company following a hearing held pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-l.

The petitioner contended that the Fire Company had violated §160.50 of the Criminal Procedure Law, which provides for the “sealing” of certain record, when the Company admitted into evidence media reports related to the petitioner's arrests or when it presented the testimony of a police investigator who was involved in the relevant criminal investigations.

As to newspaper media reports concerning petitioner's arrests, the Appellate Division, citing New York State Dept. of Mental Hygiene v State Div. of Human Rights, 103 AD2d 546, 549, affd 66 NY2d 752, said that such newspaper reports are not "official records and papers . . . relating to [the petitioner's] arrest or prosecution" within the meaning of CPL §160.50(1)(c). Further, said the court, it is " permissible to consider the independent evidence of the conduct [of the petitioner] leading to the criminal charges."

As to the testimony of the police investigator, the court explained that the police investigator was "free to testify from memory" concerning the conduct that led to the petitioner's arrests.”

The Appellate Division then stated there was substantial evidence establishing that the petitioner had exhibited a lack of "good moral character" in violation of Article II, §2 of the Fire Company's Constitution and By-laws and had committed misconduct under General Municipal Law §209-l".

N.B. §209-l provides for the removal of volunteer officers and volunteer members of fire departments charged with, and found guilty of, misconduct or incompetence after a hearing.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: