WARREN - A former police sergeant with a history of disciplinary problems is being reinstated after an arbitrator ruled that the city failed to prove he lied about participating in a fantasy football draft party.
And because of that ruling, a fellow police officer who was promoted recently to sergeant will be demoted.
Sgt. Man-ny Nites was fired in Dec-ember 2012 for lying to internal affairs investigators about his participation in a fantasy football draft party at an off-duty police officer's home.
Arbitrator James M. Mancini noted although Nites clearly committed serious departmental rule violations, the city did not provide just cause for his termination.
"As a result, Sgt. Nites is to be immediately reinstated to his former sergeant position with full seniority," Mancini wrote.
Mancini, however, said the city will not have to provide any lost wages or benefits for the time Nites was not employed with the city. The termination is to be reduced to a disciplinary suspension.
Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said while the city does not agree with aspects of the ruling, it will follow it.
However, Cantalamessa added bringing Nites back as a sergeant will mean that Geoff Fusco, who was recently promoted to sergeant, will be demoted back to patrolman.
"No officer will lose his or her job," Cantalamessa added.
Mayor Doug Franklin expressed frustration with the ruling. However, he said the message that people should get is the city will not tolerate certain behaviors or hesitate to fire employees that do not live up to its standards.
Nites attended a fantasy football draft party in August 2012 for 2 1/2 hours that took place at Officer Pat Hoolihan's home. It was determined Nites violated department rules by conducting private business while on duty.
During an internal affairs investigation, Nites told Lt. Dan Mason that Hoolihan told him to stop in because they were having a fantasy football draft and he would be grilling burgers and serving wings.
Nites told then-Chief Tim Bowers that he "... didn't participate in the football. I don't know how to do fantasy football."
He also testified that he had worked 13 hours of a double shift and needed something to eat.
Bowers, according to the arbitrator's report, subsequently learned that Nites had actually gone to Hoolihan's home to participate in the fantasy football league. In addition, Bowers learned that Nites did not work a full 20 hours required of a double shift.
In his Dec. 7, 2012, termination letter, Bowers said Nites was being untruthful and gave a misleading statement when he said he did not participate. Bowers also indicated that Nites had failed to properly respond to a dispatch call.
It was the city's position that Nites lied to avoid harsh punishment for dereliction of duty.
The arbitrator also agreed that Nites failed to answer a call that came into his radio at approximately 7:41 p.m. Although Nites argued that he was called off, Bowers testified that Nites' failure to respond constituted a serious rule violation because he could have jeopardizes the safety of another officer.
"Therefore, this arbitrator would have to agree with the assessment that the grievant's failure to timely respond to the call constituted another serious case of dereliction of duty," he wrote.
In 2009, Nites was disciplined for conducting private business - coaching his son's basketball team - on at least 14 occasions while on duty and actually failing to report for duty.
On Sept. 4, 2009, Nites signed a last chance agreement admitting to those violations.
As a result of Nites' 2009 incident, Eric Merkel, now the city's police chief, was disciplined for providing inaccurate information on a time sheet.
Nites has been with the police department since 1989. He earned $65,351 in 2012.