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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Former employee’s law suit alleging statements in the minutes of a board meeting were defamatory dismissed


Former employee’s law suit alleging statements in the minutes of a board meeting were defamatory dismissed

A court clerk was terminated by the town justice. The next day the town justice appeared at a special meeting of the Town Board to discuss the clerk’s termination and to request approval to hire a replacement court clerk.

The former town clerk then sued the town justice and the Town alledging that defamatory statements concerning her work and qualifications were recorded in the minutes of the Town Board’s special meeting and the minutes, that were later approved, were posted on the Town's Web site.*

Although the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court erred in dismissing the slander cause of action filed by the former court clerk against the town justice as untimely,** it held that the lower court had correctly determined that all of the statements the former court clerk alleged to be defamatory were either [1] opinion; [2] not directed at former court clerk; or [3] needed extrinsic facts to make them defamatory.

Thus, concluded the court, Supreme Court “correctly determined that the statements were not defamatory as a matter of law” and dismissed the complaint.

* See Public Officers Law §106

** The Appellate Division observed that if the town justice was acting solely on his or her own behalf, the Town would not be liable for his or her actions and the CPLR §215[3]’s one-year statute of limitations would apply to the cause of action. In contrast, if the town justice was acting within the scope of his or her employment with the Town, the Town may be liable for his or her conduct and would thus be the real party in interest; and under those circumstances the provisions set out in General Municipal Law §50-i would control.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_02546.htm

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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