A police officer can not receive back pay for the time he was suspended on charges of attempting to fix a relative’s DWI case, a panel of judges ruled this week.
Clifton Gauthier, a Rockaway Township cop, was accused of official misconduct and suspended from the force in 2014 during disciplinary proceedings. He would eventually plead guilty to a lesser charge and be admitted to the pre-trial intervention program (PTI).
The main legal question in the case was whether PTI constituted a “favorable disposition” of charges, a legal standard necessary for someone seeking back pay.
“Only those who receive favorable dispositions enjoy that benefit,” the Superior Court appellate judges wrote in an opinion published Wednesday. “That list does not include PTI.”
In 2012, authorities previously alleged, Gauthier called a state trooper who had arrested Gauthier’s cousin on a DWI charge, and lied about having a conversation with the municipal prosecutor.
Gauthier told the trooper, Nagib Saad, that he would not need to appear in court for the DWI case, citing the fictitious conversation with the prosecutor. Saad then called the prosecutor, Denis Driscoll, who filed a complaint that led to an investigation against Gauthier.
As part of a plea deal, Gauthier was admitted to pre-trial intervention and sentenced to probation and 25 hours community service. The official misconduct charge was dismissed and Gauthier pleaded to a third-degree charge of witness tampering and disorderly persons offenses, the Daily Record reported at the time.
Gauthier returned to work in 2017 after being discharged early from PTI and brought the back pay case to the Civil Service Commission.
The judges’ opinion affirmed an April 2018 Civil Service Commission ruling, which Gauthier had appealed.