A veteran Philadelphia homicide detective who was fired for padding overtime then reinstated by an arbitrator wants the city and Commissioner Charles Ramsey to pay for what he says was an indelible, unfair and costly blemish to his reputation.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, Detective Kenneth Rossiter says Ramsey violated his right to due process and caved to media pressure when the commissioner fired him last year, and that the aftereffects continue.
“He is back on the force but little of the damage has been undone; thanks to defendant's defamatory statements to the press, Det. Rossiter is believed by some within the department and outside of the department to be an overtime cheat, and by others to be a target of the Ramsey administration, making them either unwilling or afraid to work with him,” says the lawsuit, filed by attorney Maxwell Kennerly.
Rossiter, 52, an officer for more than 30 years and a homicide detective since 2002, came under scrutiny in 2009 after the department pledged to review its overtime expenses. At one point, he was banking about $90,000 a year in overtime, more than any other officer, city records showed. Ramsey fired Rossiter a year ago, after an internal affairs investigation into complaints he was at home when he claimed to be working.
Rossiter argued that the overtime was justified, and that he, like other homicide detectives, routinely worked from home. According to his lawsuit, he was really fired so Ramsey could curry favor with the press at a time the administration was battling with the police union over contract provisions.
In April, an arbitrator overturned the firing, ruling that it was accepted practice for homicide detectives to work from home and finding insufficient evidence that Rossiter had violated department code.
Still, Rossiter claims that since his reinstatement last month, he has been unfairly transferred, denied his badge and gun, and saw a portion of his arbitration award diverted to the officers' pension fund. He also contends that that the accusations over OT padding have made him a tainted witness, and “the stigma to his reputation” will keep him from earning overtime pay in court again
Like most homicide detectives, his lawsuit says, Rossiter “derives a substantial portion of his income from testifying in court proceedings related to his investigations.”
A city spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.