Officer cleared of second set of charges

Hughes receiving full pay under disability law

A Public Employee Relations Board arbitrator has found Bethlehem Police Officer Christopher Hughes not guilty of disciplinary charges leveled against him by the department in June of 2009.

Hughes was charged with absence without leave, improper use of sick time, filing a false report and insubordination, stemming from an early-April incident.

Hughes said the decision supports his long held stance the department made baseless accusations in order to intimidate him.

This is what I've been dealing with for two years. In my opinion it's just nonstop harassment, he said. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to, in my opinion, realize it wasn't going to fly."

Hughes was the officer who, after being brought up on the charges in question, went to then-Supervisor Jack Cunningham and the media with information about a recording of Chief Louis Corsi uttering a racial slur during a telephone call in his office. Hughes was later charged with another disciplinary action, which was dropped by way of arbitration in December.

"I don't think they really knew what to do with me," Hughes said. "It was pretty clear cut."

In short, Hughes, having been denied a request for a day off on Friday, April 3, to attend a fishing trip, called in sick that day and the two subsequent days, according to the arbitrator's decision.

Hughes saw a physician and submitted a doctor's note indicating he missed work as the result of illness. A strep culture came back negative. The department ruled the doctor's note insufficient evidence to justify the absence.

The insubordination charge resulted from a verbal dispute between Hughes and Lt. Thomas Heffernan over the requested personal leave and the scheduling of a conference with an assistance district attorney. The town was seeking a 30-day suspension.

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