Groundskeper wins second chance

Groundskeper wins second chance

By Jessica Beym

Ten years after drug charges cost him his job as a Rowan University groundskeeper, Richard Holland a known advocate for disabled people is allowed to be reinstated and receive back pay, an appellate judge ruled.

However, Holland, 56, of Glassboro, is barred from setting foot on the university's property for allegedly being "hostile" and "aggressive" when he and his partner, Maryann Cottrell, issued tickets to students and faculty for illegally parking in handicapped spaces.

Holland, who has been working with the disabled since he was fired from Rowan in 1997, said he plans to consult his attorney to decide about getting his job back.

He was making $18,413 a year when he was fired, and could be entitled to 10 years worth of back pay, as well as seniority.

Rowan University spokesman Joe Cardona said the university is "still looking at what the results of the case were so we can determine what our options are."

Holland was arrested in August 1995 after police searched his home, and charged him with possession of over 50 grams of marijuana in a school zone, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and operation of a controlled dangerous substance manufacturing facility.

Several weeks after his arrest, he applied for a job with Rowan University. The application asked if he had ever been convicted of a crime, so he truthfully responded "no," according to court papers. The application did not ask about pending charges.

The college has since amended its application to include that question.

In May 1997, nearly two years after Holland was arrested, Rowan University hired him as a groundskeeper. The university fired him that November when he was convicted of the charges.

Holland then appealed both decisions his conviction, and his termination.

It took five years, but the Supreme Court overturned his conviction, saying the evidence against him was from an "impermissible warrantless search."

An administrative law judge decided to reinstate Holland, and a Merit Law Board reversed the decision. The Appellate Division agrees with the prior decision to reinstate Holland.

Most recently, Holland and Cottrell were charged with disorderly conduct on their ticket campaign in Woodbury. Holland was also charged in October with impersonating a police officer, but in May he was found not guilty.

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Date Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 01:00