Central Connecticut State University has been ordered to reinstate its former director of student conduct more than a year after prosecutors dropped a slate of criminal charges against him related to an April 2018 domestic incident in Hartford.
Christopher Dukes was fired from the job without just cause and the university could not convince an arbitrator that Dukes’ conduct the night of the domestic incident still merited his removal after the charges were dismissed in November 2019, according to an arbitration award filed this week.
Now CCSU must bring Dukes back to his former job, remove its discipline from his personnel file and pay Dukes more than $200,000 in back pay, arbitrator Joseph Celentano concluded.
“My family and I are beyond pleased, we’ve been expecting this decision for a very long time,” Dukes said Tuesday evening. “I’m pleased with the fact that instead of focusing on accusations, [the arbitrator] actually took the time that no one else has done, to actually look at the facts and all the evidence.”
CCSU and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system are reviewing the decision, however, and will consider whether to appeal the arbitration award in court.
“It is unfathomable that someone could look at the evidence, listen to the recording of the 911 call, hear the fear in the victim’s voice, and come to the conclusion the arbitrator reached,” CSCU President Mark Ojakian said in a written statement Tuesday. “Our first, last, and most important obligation is to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe while on campus. The arbitrator’s decision makes it more difficult to meet that obligation at the same time it disregards the victim’s account of the situation. At this time, we are reviewing the details of the decision and are keeping all options, including appealing to the courts, on the table.”
Dukes was arrested in April 2018 during an hourslong incident at his Hartford home after his wife reported to police that she had been bound in their basement and assaulted by Dukes during a confrontation. Hartford SWAT officers staged outside the home until Dukes eventually agreed to come out, at which point he was charged with a half-dozen offenses including kidnapping, assault and strangulation.
CCSU fired Dukes in December 2018 but he maintained his innocence and rejected several plea offers, including one that would have dismissed the charges, instead pushing ahead for a trial. But in November 2019, prosecutor Vicki Melchiorre instead dropped all of the charges against Dukes because she said the victim