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November 09, 2011

Hearing officer’s disciplinary determination vacated on the grounds that he had exceed his authority and failed to make a final award


Hearing officer’s disciplinary determination vacated on the grounds that he had exceed his authority and failed to make a final award
Matter of New York City Dept. of Educ. v Santino, 2011 NY Slip Op 32919(U), Supreme Court, New York County, Docket Number: 11401976/1, Judge Alexander W. Hunter Jr. [Not selected for publication in the Official Reports]

The NYC Department of Education [DOE] filed a CPLR Article 75 motion seeking to vacate the decision of a disciplinary hearing officer who, although finding the accused teacher guilty of incompetence and inefficiency, conduct unbecoming her position, and neglect of duty, directed her being “returned her to the classroom” for additional evaluation. 

DOE contended that the hearing officer had exceeded his jurisdiction and, or, so imperfectly executed it, that a final and definite award was not made. Judge Hunter agreed and granted DOE’s petition.

According to the decision, after finding the teacher guilty of a number of allegations, the hearing officer had directed DOE to return her to the classroom in “a school of its choosing” to undergo a new “evaluation period” of observation for a minimum of three months and he then reserved his decision as to a penalty to be imposed pending completion of the new evaluation.

DOD contended that the award must be vacated because the award was not final and definite; the penalty imposed by the hearing officer was unenforceable and the penalty was not one of the penalty options authorized by Education Law §3020-a.

Judge Hunter ruled that the hearing officer’s award was violative of two relevant provisions set out in the controlling collective bargaining agreement between the United Federation of Teachers and DOE.

In addition, the court found the hearing officer's award was indefinite and not final, and remanded the matter back to the same hearing officer to impose a penalty in accordance with Education Law §3020-a(4)(a). 

In the words of the court, “By forcing [DOE] to violate the UFT/DOE contract and by reserving his decision on a penalty, the matter submitted has not been resolved."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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