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May 04, 2012

Reasons set out in the administrative determination held to trump alternative reasons advanced in the course of litigation

Reasons set out in the administrative determination held to trump alternative reasons advanced in the course of litigation

A candidate for appointment as a firefighter with the City of Buffalo challenged his disqualification for the appointment on the basis of his failing to meet the residence requirement set out in Rule 10 of the City's Classified Civil Service Rules.

Rule 10 requires the applicant to maintain residence for 90 days prior to the date of application or the date of appointment, as the case may be.*

In contrast, the examination announcement stated that applicants for the firefighter position must maintain continuous residence within the City from the date of application to the date of appointment,

Following oral argument, Supreme Court ruled that the City's determination that the candidate failed to comply with Rule 10 was arbitrary and capricious.

The Appellate Division sustained the lower courts ruling.

Noting that the City relied exclusively on Rule 10 of its Classified Civil Service Rules to disqualify the candidate for the firefighter appointment, the court explained that “Although counsel for the City referred during oral argument in Supreme Court to the more onerous residency requirement set forth in the examination announcement, the written notice of disqualification sent to petitioner cited only Rule 10, and the court's decision was based solely on the applicability of Rule 10.”

Further, said the Appellate Division, in its brief on appeal the City referred to Rule 10 and not the residency requirements of the examination announcement. Thus, as Supreme Court determined, the issue presented is whether the City's determination that the candidate failed to comply with Rule 10 was arbitrary and capricious.

Although the examination announcement stated that applicants must maintain continuous residence within the City from the date of application to the date of appointment, as noted the City did not rely on the notice set forth in the examination announcement to disqualify candidate. Thus the Appellate Division concluded that the City's determination to disqualify the applicant based on his purported failure to comply with Rule 10 was arbitrary and capricious.

* There was no dispute that the candidate was a City resident when he applied for the firefighter position and that he had been a City resident for at least 90 days without interruption prior to the date of his application.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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