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Susan Starker, 59, and Lee Gordon, 45, said in court papers they had nothing to do with the case of the 6-year-old Harlem boy whose death last year exposed massive failures at the Administration for Children’s Services.
The demoted ACS staffers argued that their only offense was not immediately responding to messages from their superior while they were out of the office to observe Rosh Hashanah.
But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez dismissed the suit Thursday, saying “professional failures” sparked the pair’s demotions.
“The record indicates that petitioners were suspended and demoted solely for their failure to adhere to their job responsibilities and follow-up on an ACS audit that raised serious concerns about an ACS caseworker,” Mendez wrote.
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Mendez said that Starker and Gordon cited a few emails “taken out of context” that may have suggested the suspension and demotion was a retaliation for the Rosh Hashanah radio silence.
But “the emails together paint a vastly different picture,” Mendez wrote.
“The decision by ACS was not arbitrary and capricious considering the circumstances of the tragic murder of the young boy.”
Zymere died Sept. 26 in a case that led to punishment for nine staffers.
His mother’s boyfriend Rysheim Smith, 42, was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. His mother Geraldine Perkins, 27, was hit with one count of manslaughter.
The pair are both assigned to the ACS’ general counsel’s office.
Starker was a $130,000 managing attorney while Gordon was an assistant director earning $110,000 a year.
Amid the fall-out over Zymere’s case, they suffered a 20% pay cut and the removal of their managerial titles.
“We are pleased this meritless suit has been dismissed,” said a city law department spokesman.
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“The judge ruled there was sufficient evidence in the record showing that ACS responded appropriately to address certain failures by the plaintiffs in connection with the handling of a tragic case.”
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