Conviction For Child Endangerment Automatically Results In Loss Of NY Officer’s Job

Donald Feola was a police officer employed by the City of New Rochelle, New York. Feola was convicted following a jury trial of endangering the welfare of a child for incidents that occurred outside the line of duty. The City summarily terminated Feola’s employment upon his conviction.

Feola sued the City, contending he was entitled to a due process hearing before his termination. New York’s Court of Appeals (the highest court in New York) disagreed, and upheld the termination.

The Court cited a New York statute that conviction for a misdemeanor is considered a violation of a police officer’s oath of office if the underlying crime includes “knowing or intentional conduct indicative of a lack of moral integrity.” The Court found that the crime of which Feola was convicted met that test.

As the Court put it, “a conviction for endangering the welfare of a child conclusively establishes a lack of moral integrity. A conviction requires that the defendant knowingly engage in behavior likely to be injurious to a child victim’s physical, mental or moral welfare. Here, a jury found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Feola knew his conduct could potentially cause injury to a child and that, notwithstanding the likelihood of such injury, he opted to engage in the prohibited conduct. Because one who knowingly engages in conduct likely to be injurious to a child’s welfare would be deemed wanting in moral integrity, any pre-termination hearing into the facts underlying Feola’s conviction would be unnecessary.”

Feola v. Carroll, 890 N.E.2d 219 (N.Y. 2008).

This article appears in the September 2008 issue