It’s not often that a golf course groundskeeper convinces a federal jury that his civil rights have been violated, but that’s what happened last week in the Southern District of New York.
Timothy Cronin was a groundskeeper on Ramapo, New York’s Spook Rock Golf Course. In 2005, Cronin refused to permit campaign signs for the town supervisor, Christopher St. Lawrence, to be posted on his lawn. Eleven months later, Cronin was scheduled to face a disciplinary hearing that he believed was pre-ordained to result in his being fired. Rather than risk the termination, he agreed to resign with accumulated leave time. Cronin had worked at the course for more than ten years.
Thereafter, Cronin brought suit, claiming that the town’s action was retaliatory for his refusal to post the supervisor’s campaign signs. The town countered that the disciplinary proceeding was in response to Cronin’s insistence on taking vacation at the same time that another employee was scheduled for the same vacation slot. Cronin contended that there were no written policies precluding him from taking the vacation, and no one specifically directed him not to. Cronin’s version of events can be found here.
Cronin’s suit, brought in federal court, went to verdict last week, with the jury finding that Cronin’s civil rights were violated. However, the jury awarded $1, finding that Cronin proved no financial harm.
The attorneys for Cronin (George Cotz) and the town (Michael Klein) are spinning the verdict as expected. Mr. Cotz stated that Cronin “feels he was vindicated; that he did prove that his termination was not because of his conduct but because of some sort of unconstitutional retaliation by [the town supervisor].” Mr. Klein, on the other hand, stated that he expects the judge to dismiss the case in light of the jury’s failure to find damages.
A video account of the verdict is available here.