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April 19, 2010

Hearing officer to determine the weight to be given to evidence offered in the course of disciplinary hearing

Hearing officer to determine the weight to be given to evidence offered in the course of disciplinary hearing
Matter of Board of Educ. of Byram Hills Cent. School Dist. v Carlson, 2010 NY Slip Op 03120, Decided on April 13, 2010, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Byram Hills Central School District served disciplinary charges upon Gregory E. Carlson pursuant to §3020-a of the Education Law. The hearing officer dismissed the charges that the School District had filed against Carlson.

Byram Hills filed a petition pursuant to Article 75 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules* seeking to vacate the hearing officer’s decision. The district contended that the hearing officer erred in refusing to give substantial weight to a tape recording and the documents that it had introduced into evidence in the course of Carlson's disciplinary hearing. Supreme Court affirmed the hearing officer’s decision.

The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court’s decision, noting that the district:

[1] had not demonstrate any basis for vacating the determination as provided set out in CPLR §7511** and

[2] the hearing officer’s determination had a rational basis and was supported by the record.

The court said that it was up to the hearing officer to determine what, if any, weight should be given to the evidence and a court should not substitute its judgment for that of a hearing officer, citing Altsheler v Board of Educ. of Great Neck Union Free School Dist., 62 NY2d 656.

* Although most challenges to a decision made by a quasi-judicial body are filed pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, Education Law §3020-a[5] provides that appeals of a decision by a hearing officer shall be processed pursuant to Article 75 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

** Essentially an arbitration award may be vacated if the court finds corruption, fraud or misconduct in procuring the award; than an arbitrator appointed as a neutral was not impartial, [except where the award was by confession]; or that the arbitrator failed to follow the procedures set out in Article 75 [unless the party applying to vacate the award continued with the arbitration with notice of the defect and without objection]. In addition, a court may vacate an arbitration award if it finds that it is violative of a strong public policy, is irrational, or clearly exceeded a specific limitation on an arbitrator's power.

N.B.
Not withstanding the statute of limitations set out in Article 75 for filing a timely motion to vacate an arbitration award, the Education Law §3020-a[5] allows only 10 days after receiving the hearing officer’s decision to file an appeal challenging the hearing officer’s determination.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_03120.htm


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If you are interested in learning more about disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State and its political subdivisions, please click here: http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/2010/03/discipline-book.html
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