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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Establishing positions in the public service


Establishing positions in the public service
Charleson v City of Long Beach, 297 AD2d 777

Establishing a new classified service position in the public service of a municipality is typically a fairly routine operation: the civil service commission having jurisdiction reviews the municipality's application and then classifies the position based on its duties as described in the application.*

Once classified, the appointing authority provides for its establishment in accordance with the controlling budgetary procedures.

The Charleson case concerned a variation of this: the establishment of a municipal position claimed to be a "public office." However, although public officers are public employees, not all public employees are public officers.

Carl R. Charleson and his co-plaintiffs filed a "taxpayers' action pursuant to General Municipal Law Section 51." They sought a court order declaring the positions of Director of Operations, Special Projects Manager, and Executive Assistant to the Director of Operations established in the City of Long Beach unlawfully established public offices. The three positions were included in budgets approved by the City Council.

Charleson contended that all three positions had been unlawfully created and thus the appointments of the incumbents, Eugene C. Cammarato, Robert Piazza, and Michelle Meiselman, respectively, to those positions were illegal. According to Charleson, "given the nature of the positions at issue, including the powers, duties, and authority thereunder, and the titles and salaries, the positions are de facto public or city offices that can only be lawfully created by legislative enactment" not merely by inclusion of such positions in a budget.

The Appellate Division's decision notes that "[t]he challenged positions ... are not among the lawfully created offices set forth in City Charter, Article 2, Section 11, which positions may be filled by appointment by the City Manager."

The City argued that the challenged positions were not de facto public or city offices and that the powers and authority exercised by the incumbents are not commensurate with those of public or city offices that may only be lawfully created by legislative enactment. Rather, said the City, the positions were "duly-created civil service positions that require no legislative action and that they were filled by the City Manager in a proper exercise of his general powers under the City Charter, rather than Article 2, Section 11 of the Charter."

After observing that Charleson’s and the City's arguments raised triable issues of fact, the court noted that aspects of the litigation was moot because "the disputed positions of Special Projects Manager and Executive Assistant to the Director of Operations no longer exist ... that Piazza and Meiselman have been reassigned to existing civil service positions, and that the position of Director of Operations has since been duly established as an appointive office by the City Council."

* A municipal position in the classified service is automatically in the competitive class unless placed in a different jurisdictional classification by law or by the State Civil Service Commission pursuant to the procedures set out in Section 20 of the Civil Service Law.

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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