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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Administrative agency required to comply with its own administrative rules of procedure

Administrative agency required to comply with its own administrative rules of procedure
Matter of Blaize v Klein, 2009 NY Slip Op 09021, Decided on December 1, 2009, Appellate Division, Second Department

Beverly Lynch, in her capacity as Rating Officer and Principal of Community School District 22, P.S. 134, rating Gloria Blaize 's performance as "unsatisfactory" with respect to her service as a probationary assistant principal. Supreme Court affirmed Lynch’s ratings* and Blaize appealed.

Blaize had appealed these ratings through the administrative appeals procedure. Both determinations, however, were affirmed by John T. Comer, the Community Superintendent of Community School District 22. Blaize then filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 78 challenging these determinations.

Ultimately Supreme Court ruled that the Unsatisfactory Rating determinations were neither arbitrary nor capricious; the Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court’s determination.

In this action, said the Appellate Division, the sole issue presented is whether the agency complied with its own internal procedures. In such cases the appropriate standard of review is whether the determination was "made in violation of lawful procedure" rather than "the standard" -- whether the administrative determination was supported by substantial evidence.

Further, it is a "fundamental administrative law principle that an agency's rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to statutory authority are binding upon it as well as the individuals affected by the rule or regulation." Accordingly, an administrative agency’s determination must be vacated when it failed to comply with either a mandatory provision, or a provision that was "intended to be strictly enforced."

Finding that a number of procedural errors were made in Blaize’s rating and the subsequent rating appeals process, the Appellate Division concluded that the initial determination was rendered "in violation of lawful procedure” as was so much of the determination dated March 20, 2003, as it, in effect, reaffirmed the initial U-Rating determination.

* Two appeals of ratings were involved: the Appellate Division held that both were procedurally defective.

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