It's hard to believe that Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann wasn't aware that poppy seeds can cause trace amounts of opiates to appear on drug tests, even if she never saw the Seinfeld episode on it.
New York City NY December 28 2018
His bagel defense survived a schmear campaign.
A city correction officer won back his job after a yearlong struggle that all started when he chowed down on some poppy-seed bagels — and lit up a routine drug test with traces of morphine and codeine.
The amounts were enough to get him fired, until an obscure city commission took the extraordinary step of overruling the Correction Department’s commissioner.
Officer Eleazar Paz was reinstated to his $82,000 post on Christmas Eve, bringing to full circle a back-and-forth legal battle that spanned nearly all of 2018.
“I wanted to cry when I heard they would take me back,” the 49-year-old Rikers officer said Wednesday.
“It was unbelievable what happened to me, because I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Paz thought his career was over until his Hail Mary appeal to the Civil Service Commission, which typically resolves much more mundane disputes.
In a Nov. 29 ruling, the panel reversed Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann’s firing of Paz, which itself flew in the face of a recommendation by an administrative trial judge that Paz keep his job.
The seedy saga began in January, when Paz, for the first time in his 10-year career flunked his drug exam.
Paz insisted that poppy-seed bagels he had eaten on both the day before and day of the test were to blame, a claim that was backed up at his administrative hearing by toxicology expert Dr. William Sawyer.
Opium is derived from the poppy plant, and while the seeds don’t contain the drug, they can pick up opiate residue if they aren’t thoroughly washed.