Mary Zlotnick no longer works for the city.
Zlotnick was a clerk in the city Accounts Department when she caused an uproar in city political circles by claiming there were improprieties in the way the Assessor’s Office conducts business.
She was suspended at the end of August and underwent a disciplinary hearing in September after being charged with five counts of insubordination and misconduct.
The hearing officer submitted his recommendation earlier this month, finding in favor of the city on three of the five counts, and recommended that Zlotnick be fired. Accounts Commissioner John Franck then had the option of accepting or not accepting those recommendations. He mailed his decision to Zlotnick last week, and Zlotnick officially received that response on Monday.
Commissioner Franck said he arrived at his decision after once again going through the hearing records. “I reviewed the hearing documents, both one and two, and accepted the hearing officer’s recommendation,” Franck said Monday.
“Until I talk to my attorney, I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Zlotnick said shortly after getting the letter. “This has cost me quite a bit,” she said about the expense of fighting the charges against her. When asked if the Accounts department was a place she would want to go back to, she replied simply, “No.”
But she says she did enjoy her work for the city. “I have a ton of positive comment cards from all the people I helped.”
Zlotnick claimed that Assistant City Assessor Tony Popolizio gave preferential treatment to Diane Young, owner of DCY Consultants. Young was grieving property assessments for owners of condominiums. A property owner’s annual property taxes are based on the property’s value as assessed by the city. If owners feel their assessment, and their taxes, are too high they can complain through a process called grieving. Young was offering her services in assisting condominium owners with the grieving process.
Zlotnick claimed that the Assessor’s office was providing special help to Young in this process.
Zlotnick also said that friends and associates of Commissioner Franck received special treatment in regard to assessments on property they owned.
Those charges became the foundation of a number of news stories this past summer.
Zlotnick still has two options remaining if she wants to continue fighting the charges. She can file a direct appeal with the city’s Civil Service Commission. Or she can appeal to the State Supreme Court. Both options are provided under Article 76 of the state’s Civil Service Code. She has 25 days from the date her termination notice was mailed to make any appeal.
Mark McCarthy represents the city on labor matters. He said he’s satisfied with the 64 page decision by hearing officer Christopher Nicolino. “He exhaustively went through everyone’s testimony, he made decisions about the credibility of witnesses, and he examined the evidence for all the charges. It’s hard for me to be upset with the decision because it was so thorough.”
McCarthy said there are a number of things Zlotnick’s attorney could look at as possible grounds for appeal. “She would have the right to attack anything she thinks was done improperly throughout the process. If the original charges weren’t properly filed she could theoretically attack that. If the commissioner had not appointed the hearing officer in writing that would be another reason for appeal.”
But McCarthy said because of the hearing officer’s thoroughness, it’s unlikely an appeal would succeed. “Appeals in general are unsuccessful. I don’t know what the percentages are, but in the court system most appeals are denied.”
One element left outstanding is an investigation of Zlotnick’s charges by the State Attorney General’s office. Zlotnick filed a written complaint with the state in May of 2012. According to a spokesperson for the Attorney General, no formal investigation was launched. Rather, the office has been conducting a more informal review of the claims. That review is still underway, but is expected to be completed shortly.
Zlotnick, meanwhile, said she hasn’t been sitting around waiting for the decision. She said she had to rent her house out in order to pay the mortgage. She has also completed a masters degree, and just finished celebrating her father’s birthday. “My life will go on. I’m already working with a friend who’s opening a restaurant. And I can get a better job, it’s just a little difficult this time of year.”
Zlotnick’s attorney, Mark Walsh, has not responded to requests for comment.
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