Buffalo Police Officer Robert Quintana’s efforts to avoid working light duty because of his claims of a disabling work-related back injury from eight years ago have been rejected by a State Supreme Court justice.
Rather than work in the camera surveillance room at Buffalo Police Headquarters, Quintana is now going over Justice Patrick H. NeMoyer’s head in seeking relief from the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court. The officer is trying to nullify an arbitrator’s 2012 decision that he is fit enough to sit in a chair and monitor live images from cameras situated in different city neighborhoods.
The former Common Council member, who had returned to police work after losing an election, was arrested last year by FBI agents and charged with faking injuries that allowed him to collect his more than $60,000-a-year police salary while on extended sick leave.
Quintana was working at a West Side restaurant owned by his relatives when he came under the scrutiny of federal investigators.
NeMoyer rejected Quintana’s arguments that the arbitrator failed to consider pertinent medical testimony that he was completely disabled and that medications he was taking impaired his ability to perform light-duty functions.
Quintana, whose sick pay was halted following his arrest, had also argued that he would be unable to wear a police utility belt that includes a holster and service weapon, weighing 10 to 15 pounds. NeMoyer discounted that argument, pointing out that officers monitoring cameras are seated.
Officers assigned to the camera room do not wear the traditional utility belt or their service weapon. In fact, they are required to turn in their weapon while they are disabled and on limited duty.
The judge also dismissed arguments from Quintana that the city failed to prove he was healthy enough for light duty.
“As the court sees it, the petitioner is simply wrong in asserting that the city presented no evidence of a medical evaluation that the petitioner is now capable of performing specified types of light duty,” NeMoyer stated.
Represented by the Buffalo law firm of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, Quintana is on unpaid medical leave while his efforts to void the arbitrator’s ruling are pending in the Appellate Division in Rochester, where his lawyers succeeded in having the case transferred.
Timothy P. Murphy, one of Quintana’s lawyers, said Friday he expects to be filing a brief with the appellate court by August, arguing that the arbitrator’s decision is “erroneous.”
Quintana was one of two officers arrested by the FBI in May 2012 for allegedly faking injuries to receive full pay under the department’s “injured-on-duty” policy, which by state law requires pay and benefits. If convicted in U.S. District Court on the pending charges of mail fraud and health care fraud, Quintana could face up to 20 years in prison.
Quintana obtained IOD status after he slipped on ice at the top of a stairway and injured his lower back while responding to a police call March 16, 2005.
In refusing to return to work for light duty two years ago, he requested a hearing that was conducted in February 2012, a few months before his federal arrest. At the hearing, the city provided the arbitrator with evidence, including results from MRIs of his lower back that showed there were no injuries. It was also noted that Quintana was never considered a candidate for surgery.
Quintana has insisted he did nothing illegal by occasionally working at the Niagara Cafe, a well-known restaurant owned by his wife’s parents. He claims he worked for an hour or so each day and only when his pain would permit it.
Efforts to reach Quintana were unsuccessful.