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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Part-time paid elected official cannot continue receiving unemployment insurance benefits while serving in office


Cass v Commissioner of Labor, 296 A.D.2d 759

Donald M. Cass applied for and was granted unemployment insurance benefits. While he was collecting unemployment insurance benefits, however, Cass was also serving as a member of the Geneva City Council and received a salary of $208.33 per month. Later Cass was sworn in as the Mayor of the City of Geneva, a part-time position for which he was paid $625 per month. He continued to collect unemployment insurance benefits while serving at Mayor.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board [Board] ruled that Cass was ineligible for benefits because he was not totally unemployed during the time he was receiving unemployment benefits and, in addition, it concluded that he had made willful false statements in order to receive these benefits.

According to the Appellate Division's decision, Cass testified that he had mentioned his status as an elected official when he first applied for benefits and was told, by a clerk at the local unemployment insurance office, not to "worry about it". Thus, he contended, he did not reveal that he had received these payments when he made his weekly certifications for benefits.

In contrast to Cass' testimony, the record before the Board included testimony from the clerk who took Cass' application that if claimant had mentioned his status as an elected official, she would have made a note of it on his application for benefits, and she had not done so. In addition, the record included testimony from another Labor Department representative indicating that she had spoken to Cass concerning his benefits and had specifically instructed him that he was required to report any activities performed by him as an elected official during the benefit period.

The Appellate Division sustained the Board's determination. It concluded that there was substantial evidence in the record to support the Board's finding that Cass was ineligible for benefits because he was not totally unemployed at the time and its further finding that he willfully made false statements in order to obtain benefits.

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