Justice Lucy Adams Billings

 

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Ex-teacher Mirenberg sought vacatur of a disciplinary decision by Department of Education (DOE) terminating his employment. Mirenberg previously resigned from PS 188 after being cautioned about excessive absences. He took a job at PS 307K, and DOE alleged he was absent on various days for which he submitted an allegedly forged doctor’s note. After an investigation it was concluded Mirenberg forged numerous notes and charges were preferred against him—excessive absences and submitting forged notes, among others. He admitted to altering the notes, but argued his absences and fraud did not impact his effectiveness as a teacher. A Hearing Officer (HO) found against Mirenberg on all, but one, charge, recommending termination. Mirenberg challenged the decision. The court found DOE conceded it terminated Mirenberg’s employment due to unprofessional conduct—dishonesty and excessive absences—but nowhere did the HO conclude if excessive absences were removed from the analysis, Mirenberg’s dishonesty alone warranted termination. As Mirenberg did not need the notes to obtain paid leave his vacation days would have covered, the penalty imposed, if not based on excessive absences, may be disproportionate. DOE’s motion to dismiss was denied.

Justice Lucy Adams Billings

 

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Ex-teacher Mirenberg sought vacatur of a disciplinary decision by Department of Education (DOE) terminating his employment. Mirenberg previously resigned from PS 188 after being cautioned about excessive absences. He took a job at PS 307K, and DOE alleged he was absent on various days for which he submitted an allegedly forged doctor’s note. After an investigation it was concluded Mirenberg forged numerous notes and charges were preferred against him—excessive absences and submitting forged notes, among others. He admitted to altering the notes, but argued his absences and fraud did not impact his effectiveness as a teacher. A Hearing Officer (HO) found against Mirenberg on all, but one, charge, recommending termination. Mirenberg challenged the decision. The court found DOE conceded it terminated Mirenberg’s employment due to unprofessional conduct—dishonesty and excessive absences—but nowhere did the HO conclude if excessive absences were removed from the analysis, Mirenberg’s dishonesty alone warranted termination. As Mirenberg did not need the notes to obtain paid leave his vacation days would have covered, the penalty imposed, if not based on excessive absences, may be disproportionate. DOE’s motion to dismiss was denied.