The suspension is retroactive to January 8, when Rossi was last paid.  Longo has ordered Rossi to return to duty today, July 9.

Rossi has not worked since Christmas of last year, when he left the police station in a rage after being ordered by a superior officer to work Christmas Day, according to Longo’s report.  Rossi’s attorney, Stephen Pfaff, maintains that his client has been unable to work because of hypertension and stress caused by the superior officer that issued the order.

“In deciding what punishment is appropriate,” Longo explained in his three-page report, “I must balance the severity of the offense with Officer Rossi’s disciplinary record.”

“[Rossi’s] record,” wrote Longo, “has been unremarkable and burdened with minor disciplinary matters.  It is therefore my duty as Town Manager to attempt to return this police officer to duty with the hope that he can perform capably in this position.”

Both Chief DeLuca and Pfaff were disappointed by the decision, and both expressed doubts as to whether the issues in the police department that precipitated this disciplinary case have been resolved.

DeLuca thought Longo’s decision was too lenient.  “I was disappointed,” he said.  “I think he should have been terminated.”

“But by the same token,” he added, “it is an opportunity for us to provide some assistance to [Rossi], and bring him back into the mainstream of the department.”

When asked whether he felt Rossi’s conflict with the superior officer could be resolved, DeLuca was equivocal, and said that Rossi has “a history” of such conflicts. He expressed doubts that there would be a simple solution to the conflict, given how Rossi reacted to “something as mundane as being ordered to work by a superior officer.”

“I am concerned that [Rossi] flipped out the way he did,” DeLuca said.

Pfaff was also disappointed by the decision, but for a different reason.  “I don’t think any discipline was warranted,” he said.

The issue with the superior officer, Pfaff said, “is not resolved, and [Chief DeLuca] has admitted to not investigating or resolving the issue.”  In Pfaff’s opinion, DeLuca’s failure to address the conflict with the superior officer, as recommended in a report from an independent medical examiner hired by the town, should have precluded any disciplinary action on Longo’s part against his client.

“The root of the problem is in the Police Department, but it’s not Cully Rossi,” Pfaff said.

In his decision Longo spelled out a process for tackling the problem between Rossi and the police department.  Longo stipulated that Rossi “contact and cooperate” with the Employee Assistance Program—a town-provided service for employees—within 24 hours, and that he undertake any of the EAP’s recommendations.

Similarly, Longo instructed Chief DeLuca in his report to “implement any recommendations suggested by the EAP necessary to accomplish the goal of integrating Officer Rossi back into the Department while maintaining adherence to the policies and lines of authority within the department.”

Town Counsel Bob Troy, who represented the police department in the Rossi case, called into question Pfaff’s allegations concerning DeLuca’s failure to investigate the conflict with the superior officer.  DeLuca was unaware of any conflict concerning Rossi and a superior officer, and was not immediately informed of the incident last December, Troy said.

Troy further questioned Rossi’s commitment to resolving any conflicts with his superiors in the department.  For instance, Troy said, DeLuca referred Rossi to the EAP in December, but Rossi has yet to contact the service.  “If he had a problem with stress, why wouldn’t he contact the EAP?” Troy asked.

“Rossi has to make a commitment that he’s interested in resolving his problems, rather than using them as an excuse,” Troy said.

Rossi can either appeal Longo’s decision to the Civil Service Commission, or file a grievance and proceed to arbitration under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Pfaff will appeal the decision, but said he has yet to decide which option to pursue.

The facts of the case, as summarized by Longo in his report, tell the story of a back-and-forth battle between Rossi and the town that involved doctors on both sides, and which lasted for nearly three months.

Both Rossi’s doctor, Donald Moore Jr., and the doctor hired by the town, Doctor Naparstek, evaluated Rossi between January and March, but the two doctors arrived at different conclusions concerning Rossi’s condition.

In a report from January 23 quoted in Longo’s decision, for instance, Doctor Moore attributed Rossi’s hypertension to “emotional injuries sustained at work,” and wrote that “just the thought of going back to that job raises his blood pressure to unacceptable levels.”

A week later Doctor Naparstek evaluated Rossi, and wrote in his report that “I repeatedly stated to Mr. Rossi that it is my medical opinion that he is a healthy 34 year old man with a job related stress problem that needs to be worked on by everyone directly rather than using the Heart Law for disability.”

An independent medical examiner, the Occupational Health unit of Jordan Hospital, finally evaluated Rossi on March 25.  According to Longo, the medical examiner’s report made reference to Rossi’s complaints about “several years of conflict” with a first lieutenant in the department.  “What needs to be addressed is the conflict with his superior,” the medical examiner wrote, adding that “after this interpersonal conflict is addressed, Mr. Rossi should be able to work full time with no physical restrictions.”

DeLuca subsequently ordered Rossi to report to duty on March 27, and again on April 3, but Rossi refused to obey the orders, Longo wrote.

These instances of insubordination were a clear violation of department rules, and called for disciplinary action, according to Longo’s report.

Town Counsel Bob Troy said that this disciplinary case may be revisited if Rossi doesn’t report to duty as ordered on July 9.  Longo’s decision, Troy said, “is an opportunity for Rossi, probably his last opportunity.”