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CMPD airport officer sues city over termination

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

A man who became a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer when the department took over control of the city’s airport last year is suing the department, claiming he deserves a civil service board hearing in connection with his termination in June.

Dominick Mazzeo’s lawsuit says he’s been a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer assigned to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport since his date of hire on May 30, 2007. He was fired on June 14, according to court documents obtained by the Observer.

Most CMPD officers who are cited for termination can appeal to the Civil Service Board, a group of civilians who can overturn or amend police disciplinary decisions. But officers who have been on the job for less than a year are considered probationary and can’t petition the board.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department assumed policing duties at the airport in December, essentially absorbing the airport’s 40-person police staff. According to the lawsuit, police believe that means Mazzeo is an employee with less than a year on the job who can’t appeal his firing.

CMPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment about this story. But in correspondence with Mazzeo’s attorney attached to the lawsuit, a letter from the department’s attorney says Mazzeo became a “sworn officer” in Dec. 2012. “On the date of his termination, June 14, 2013, he was still subject to the police department’s 12-month probationary period,” the letter says.

In a letter to the police department, Mazzeo’s attorney, George Laughrun contends that Mazzeo shouldn’t be treated as a probationary employee.

“Dominick did not have a choice when the airport was “taken over” by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department,” the letter says.

The department assumed responsibility for security at the airport after a review of security last year that was undertaken in the wake of the Devonte Tisdale stowaway case.

Tisdale, a high school student, breached airport security and climbed inside the wheel well of a US Airways jet bound for Boston in November 2010. When the plane approached Boston, Tisdale’s body fell from the plane as the landing gear was lowered. Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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