Appellate court affirms ruling to fire Hudson County corrections officer for failed drug test


The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed a prior ruling to fire a Hudson County corrections officer for a failed drug test back on August 16th, 2018.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Latera Griffin had worked for the Hudson County Department of Corrections for about 13 years before the state Attorney General’s Office issued a new directive in March 2018 that mandated two urine samples in order to employee’s to challenge a failed test by having the second sample tested at an independent lab.

The county’s policy, first implemented on November 19th, 2011, indicated that a second urine sample could be submitted, but could also sign a waiver to decline this option.

“Contrary to both the AG’s Drug Testing policy and HCDC’s Drug-Free Workplace policy, Griffin provided only a single urine sample and did not sign a waiver of her option to provide a second sample. As noted, Griffin’s urine sample tested positive for a cocaine metabolite,” Appellate Court Judges Michael J. Haas and Arnold L. Natali, Jr. wrote.

“HCDC issued a preliminary notice of disciplinary action and charged Griffin with: conduct unbecoming a public employee … neglect of duty .. and other sufficient cause. After a departmental hearing, HCDC terminated Griffin from her position and entered a final notice of disciplinary action (FNDA). Griffin appealed the FNDA and the matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested case.”

Griffin lost her appeal there and took the case to New Jersey Civil Service Commission, who upheld the determination by the administrative law judge.

“After an independent evaluation of the record, including Griffin’s supplemental exceptions, the CSC accepted and adopted the ALJ’s factual findings, legal conclusions, and penalty in a September 22, 2021 order,” the appellate court explained.

“The CSC also rejected Griffin’s ‘renewed arguments pertaining to the issues presented in the interlocutory review request’ as well as her ‘argument that the ALJ should have been recused.’ This appeal followed.”

Griffin contends that her due process was denied by the department of corrections for not following the AG’s drug testing guidelines to a tee, which would’ve mandated a second urine sample.

While the appellate court concurs that the HCDOC violated the policy, that does not necessarily entitle Griffin to relief in this scenario.

“We are satisfied HCDC’s technical deviations from the AG’s Drug Testing policy did not deprive Griffin of her due process rights or render the testing process fundamentally flawed,” the judges wrote.

“As noted, the ALJ determined, based on the testimony adduced at the evidentiary hearing and her credibility findings, that Detective Diaz fully informed Griffin of her option to provide a second sample, she knew providing a second sample was her only avenue to challenge a positive test result, and she nevertheless refused to provide a split sample. The ALJ’s conclusions were fully supported by the testimony of HCDC’s witnesses, particularly Detective Diaz.”

They continued that Griffin at no point challenged the validity of the results, the efficacy of the testing procedures, of the chain of custody of the sample, and therefore, the department of corrections’ deviation from the AG policy did not undermine the process.

” … We are satisfied any prejudice was self-inflicted and resulted from Griffin’s own refusal to submit a second sample,” the court determined.

“Indeed, the fact Griffin refused to provide a second sample after being informed of her right undermines her due process challenge and validates the urine collection process, notwithstanding HCDC’s deviation from the collection procedures mandated with the AG’s Drug Testing policy.”

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    • This county needs fields of rugs to sweep things under, as they continue to do. Unless.. it’s decided today is the day everybody takes accountability starting with them setting the right example.

  1. Reading this article that’s about me, boils MY BlOOD! I can’t see this and not respond.

    Thank u, to those that posted remark on my behalf. Making statements that truly identify my character and work ethic.

    Reading this article, I’m in shock of the lies. This is embarrassing and tarnishes my reputation. But I will not allow this to define me as the person that I am. For 13 years I devoted my life to my career. Day in and day out, I was ordered to work overtime by being mandated. I can probably count on my one hand how many times I refused mandatory, never abusing the medical excuse of intimate leave. Always did what I was instructed to do as an officer given an order. So why would I refuse the second cup if I was instructed to split my sample from someone of an outside agency. Because if that was the case, I’m pretty sure I would have been reprimanded for being insubordinate.. Five years I’ve waited for a decision, and this it? No way…. The process done for the analysis in my case was incomplete by the county, incomplete by the outside agency. With paperwork errors, testimonial lies, starting with the Judge of my kangaroo court by not allowing my lawyer to present credible evidence of new findings during the process in my defense. The Detective , whom conducted the urine process, sat on that stand and lied! Lied to protect himself. I’ve never met this detective before, I don’t know him from anywhere. Upon introduction, this detective was so self absorbed, he talked about himself for about 30 minutes before even administrating the actual process. He handed me and everyone else that was with me a single cup, no one was given two cups. Let’s just say he forgot. Like I said, I do what I’m instructed as an officer. I was never given a second cup to split the sample. And that’s the bottom line.

    Now I know how Trump feels when you can’t get a fair trial. It’s collusion!! …….

  2. This county needs fields of rugs to sweep things under, as they continue to do. Unless.. it’s decided today is the day everybody takes accountability starting with them setting the right example.

  3. Girl. How bout a certain sergeant that was always drunk. But they said that’s just how he is, and when his time came he was allowed to retire. May his soul rest in peace.. I don’t have to say names. But facts is facts

  4. You called it, collusion! Also, if there’s anything guaranteed in life it’s change, taxes and death. What goes up will have to come back down but what we need is everyone doing their part to transition to better, not worse.