A message from President Bill Dobbins
OCA has decided to resolve the issue of charged accruals as a result of the Blizzard of 2018 as follows:
Those who came to work will receive minute for minute comp time for their time spent at work as reflected on their Kronos time card. Those who did not come to work, or never made it to work despite making the effort, will receive a 2-hour credit if their annual leave was charged that day. Those who charged their sick time will not get any credit at all. The accrual adjustments will be made on Tuesday, February 13th.
As I sit down on this rainy Saturday night, 37 days after the Blizzard of 2018, I am angry and disappointed at the lack of respect the Office of Court Administration continues to have for the men and women of the Suffolk County Court Employees Association. On January 4, 2018, the Office of Court Administration refused to close the Suffolk County Courts during the dangerous Blizzard that hit Suffolk County pretty hard. The Blizzard affected Suffolk and Nassau more than any other County in the state. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore made the decision to open our courts despite the warnings that were made, and publicized, the night before concerning the danger this storm could bring. The Chief Judge made a callous and, what appears to be, a political decision to put our members lives in danger, as well as the lives of attorneys and members of the public. She ordered that all the courts throughout the state remain open. It is my belief that she did this as a knee-jerk reaction to the criticism she and her judges received from the Governor at the State of the State the afternoon before the Blizzard. As a result, many of our members risked their lives to go to work that day. Some were able to get to work overcoming hazardous road conditions. Others tried to get to work but their vehicles got stuck. Still, others tried to go to work and were sent home by law enforcement officers who told them that there was a state of emergency and they should not be on the road. All of these people were put at risk because it seems that Judge DiFiore wanted to save face with the Governor and boast about how "Excellent" her courts are. Members of our Association risked their lives to go to work that day. Do you know who didn't risk their lives? The judges. Shamefully only 9 judges in the entire County went to work that day. Judges, who should be held to a higher standard, who should be the standard-bearers of "Excellence", did not even bother to go to work that day. In County Court, only one judge showed up. That's despicable, considering that our members were expected to be at work. What is worse is that those judges who decided to stay at home are not even held accountable. They don't have their vacation time charged because judges never have to charge their time.
As we all know, there has always been a double standard. This disrespectful insensitivity by the Chief Judge, however, has been a kick in the stomach to the men and women of our Association who braved the elements on January 4th. It is a slap in the face to the Court Officer that works in Riverhead, whose car wound up in a ditch adjacent to Sunrise Highway. He ultimately got to work because law enforcement officers took him there. It is a slap in the face to another Court Officer who lives in Babylon and works in Riverhead. He got to work that day around 10:30 only to find out that the courts were closing at 11:00. It is a slap in the face to the 74-year-old woman who works at Surrogates Court in Riverhead. She too risked her life to go to work. She never made it to work however because her car got stuck in the snow. There are many more stories like this. Unfortunately, these brave men and women had their accruals charged if they could not get to work through no fault of their own. Even more callous is that the men and women who were able to get to work, and then spent hours trying to get home when the courts closed at 11:00, simply got a pat on the back for their efforts and nothing more. They should have been compensated more for the time it took them to go home.
We have been trying over the last several weeks to get OCA to make our members whole in some way. At times it appeared as though something had been worked out that would restore some of our faith in the humanity of the officials that run OCA. Quite the opposite happened however as evidenced in the final resolution that OCA has provided to us. Janet DiFiore, does not care about the people that work for her (unless of course, you are a judge). Her message has come through loud and clear through her actions. The Chief Judge endangered many people (non judicial employees, attorneys, and members of the public who showed up for court that day) by her reckless decision, despite the recommendation of Judge Hinrichs, Judge Adams (DAJ in Nassau County), Judge Coccoma and the many weather experts around the state, to open the courts that day. It was a decision that stinks of political motivation and the members of our Association, not the judges, were the pawns in that apparent political game. Don't ever forget the lessons you have learned from this incident. Next time there is a dangerous storm remember how you were treated this time. Remember how it made you feel. Let that memory and that feeling guide you on what you should do next time.