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Monday, June 20, 2011

Not being familiar with the rules not a valid excuse for failure to follow procedures


Not being familiar with the rules not a valid excuse for failure to follow procedures
Broome Co. Sheriff's Law Enforcement Supervisors v Sheriff's Department, 32 PERB 3054
Binghamton Police Supervisors Association v City of Binghamton, 32 PERB 3055

Ignorance or a misunderstanding of PERB's rules is not an acceptable excuse as the Law Enforcement Supervisors and Binghamton Police Supervisors decisions illustrate.

The Broome County Sheriff's Law Enforcement Supervisors Association filed a representation petition with PERB's Director of Employment Practices and Representation. The Association wanted to have the Broome County Sheriffs PBA decertified and the Association designated as the collective bargaining representative for a unit consisting of supervisory officers.

PERB’s director of representation dismissed the Association's petition after finding that the “showing of interest” [SOI] simultaneously filed with its petition “did not include a description of the unit the Association alleged to be appropriate....” The section of the Association's SOI form to be used to describe the unit the Association sought to represent was blank. This, said the director, meant that the SOI was not “on a form prescribed by the director” and therefore did not meet the requirements set out in Section 201.4(b) of PERB's' rules [4 NYCRR 201.4(b)].

The Association filed an exception to the director's ruling, contending that it had not been promptly notified of the deficiency and thus was prevented from correcting it in a timely fashion. In addition, the Association's representative said that the representation forms he received from PERB “had not included any form for an SOI petition.”

PERB sustained the director's determination. It said that the rules clearly set out the requirement. “A party who is ignorant of a requirement under the Rules is no differently situated than a person who is mistaken in his or her understanding of the meaning or application of the Rules.”

As an alternative argument, the Association claimed that it used a “floppy disk” of PERB forms that PERB created and offered for sale to the public but that the disk did not contain an SOI petition. PERB rejected the claim, noting that the disk included the SOI petition and “the Association's representative apparently used that computer version of the form to file a corrected SOI petition with the director.”

Commenting that it applies its rules strictly, “especially the Rules pertaining to showing of interest requirements,” PERB sustained the director's dismissal of the Association's representation petition.

In a similar case, Binghamton Police Supervisors Association v City of Binghamton, 32 PERB 3055, PERB rejected the Association's representation petition because, it also, “did not include a description of the unit the Association alleged to be appropriate....”

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