Thursday, August 12, 2010
Amending local civil service commission rules
Formal Opinion of the Attorney General, 98-F3
The New York City Council “jurisdictionally reclassified” a number of city positions without first holding a public hearing concerning the change. New York City’s Director of Personnel advised the State Civil Service Commission that under the circumstances he believed that the State Commission had “no authority to disapprove the proposed changes and should simply note them in its records.”
The State Commission asked the Attorney General for his views concerning the State Commission’s authority under the circumstances. The Attorney General began his analysis by noting that in such matters the courts “have required strict compliance with Section 20.2,” citing Joyce v Ortiz, 108 AD2d 158.
Section 20 of the Civil Service Law sets out the procedures to be followed by a local civil service commission or personnel officer wishing to amend its “personnel rules.” It provides that such rules may be amended only after a public hearing and requires the approval of the State Civil Service Commission. Finally, to have the “force and effect of law,” the amendment must be filed with the Secretary of State to complete the process. Such rules, including the Rules promulgated by the State Commission itself, also provide for the enumeration of positions placed in the exempt, noncompetitive or labor classes by the local commission. All positions in the classified service are automatically in the competitive class unless placed in a different jurisdictional classification by the State Legislature or the State Civil Service Commission.
The key to resolving the issue turned on whether a municipal legislative body was to be equated to the State Legislature for the purposes of Section 20.2, because that Section provides an exception for the Legislature. Section 20.2 specifically indicates that no public hearing is required upon the adoption or modification of a rule required “by reason of a change in any statute in order to confirm the rule to the statute.”
The Attorney General concluded that exception set out in Section 20.2 for conforming to a change in the law “is best given effect by reading ‘statute’ as a reference to a State law, rather than a local enactment.” Accordingly, he advised the State Commission that a political subdivision of the state must comply with the notice, hearing and approval procedures set out in Section 20 if it wishes to amend its personnel rules, including adopting amendments establishing new titles in other than the competitive class and jurisdictionally reclassifying existing positions.
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