Suspended guard who punched Obama impersonator paid $240K

Written By kom nampuldu on Selasa, 17 Maret 2015 | 18.18

A city hospital guard was paid more than $240,000 NOT to work.

Romeo Vairo, a police officer for the municipal hospital system, was paid his full $48,636 annual salary to sit at home for five years after he was suspended over a 2009 assault case — in which he was accused of slugging a President Obama impersonator.

The Jacobi Medical Center security officer had gotten in a fight in a bodega with actor Louis Ortiz in December 2009. Ortiz claims Vairo slugged him without provocation.

Vairo was suspended without pay for 30 days, the most allowed under a contract with Teamsters Local 237, which represents hospital police.

While Vairo's pay was restored on Feb. 1, 2010, the Health and Hospital Corp. hasn't compelled him to show up for a single day of work since — even after he was acquitted by a Bronx judge in January 2014.

Officials said Vairo had two prior disciplinary cases against him that made them want to oust him regardless of the criminal case's outcome. But they said it is standard protocol to wait until a case is over before taking administrative action.

"Upon completion of a criminal case, and following strict labor and disciplinary protocols, HHC reached an agreement with special officer Vairo to end his employment as of March 31 [2015]," said HHC rep Ana Marengo.

Actor Louis Ortiz, seen here impersonating President Barack Obama.Photo: Wire Image

Vairo couldn't be reached for comment. His lawyer, Bert Oberlander, declined to comment.

Ortiz said he was disappointed.

"It bothered me when I found out . . . that he was getting paid," he said. "I was really, really hoping for, and honestly did think, that he would be found guilty."

Ortiz claims Vairo was acquitted because the judge thought Ortiz had instigated the attack.

"Even if that were the case, that I did mouth off, he has no right to assault me the way he did," he said. "He punched me right in the face."

Former HHC investigator Jerry Brienza blamed Inspector General Norman Dion for not taking disciplinary action quickly.

"This happens continuously because, as the IG drags its feet or does nothing, there are no disciplinary charges filed," he said. "What's unusual here is that someone got paid for five years while this was going on. That's what makes it even more beyond the pale."

Brienza and Ortiz say they saw security-camera video of the fight that backs Ortiz's version. But by the time the case got to trial, the footage had gone missing.


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