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April 6, 2011

The date of the certification of the candidate for appointment rather than the date a candidate's name is reachable for appointment controls

The date of the certification of the candidate for appointment rather than the date a candidate's name is reachable for appointment controls
Matter of Woods v New York City Dept. of Citywide Admin. Servs., 2011 NY Slip Op 02719, Court of Appeals

Among the qualifications for appointment as New York City firefighter was that the candidate, by the date of appointment, have “successfully completed 30 semester credits from an accredited college or university or obtained a four-year high school diploma and completed two years of honorable full-time U.S. military service.”

Robert Thomas Woods passed a civil service examination and his name was placed on a list of eligibles to be appointed as a New York City firefighter.

Woods did not meet these requirements at the time he sat for the examination nor did he meet them at the time his name was initially reached for appointment as a firefighter. However, Woods was on active military duty when his name was initially reached on the list.

When Wood was discharged from military service he filed an "Application Under State Military Law for Determination of Rights on Eligible List" with the New York City Department of City-wide Administrative Services [DCAS] for “a determination of his rights under Military Law §243.” §243, in pertinent part, provides that any person whose name is on an eligible list and comes up for certification while on duty, shall have his or her name placed on a special eligible list if a request is made within 90 days of his or discharge from active duty.

DCAS decided that Woods’ name could not be placed on a special eligible list because on the date when his name initially had been reached for appointment from the list, he was not qualified for appointment on that date.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that Military Law §243(7) required DCAS to place petitioner on a "special eligible list", from which he could be certified for appointment after his military duty ended. The court explained that so long as Woods met the qualifications for appointment when the time to certify him for appointment arrived, it did not matter that he did not satisfy them when his name was first reached for certification for appointment from the list, at which time he was on military duty.

DCAS, said the court, “misconceived the statutory scheme,” pointing out that §243(7), by using the word "shall" rather than "may" gives DCAS no discretion to refuse to put names on a special eligible list.

Although Civil Service Law §50.4 allows DCAS to exercise its discretion not to certify names of people who do not meet the required qualifications, that discretion, said the Court of Appeals, may be exercisable at the time when the decision about such certification is made — here when Woods’ name “was or should have been reached on the special list” and certified for appointment.

Accordingly, said the court, Supreme Court and the Appellate Division determinations that Woods’ name should not be placed on a special military eligible list were incorrect and must be vacated.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_02719.htm
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