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August 9, 2012

Estoppel is not available against an administrative agency for the purpose of ratifying an administrative error


Estoppel is not available against an administrative agency for the purpose of ratifying an administrative error
Appeal of Jennifer Geiger, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision #16,379

This decision illustrates that an individual’s actions in reliance on information provided by a school official that subsequently proves to be incorrect will not excuse the individual's not complying with statutory or regulatory requirements.

Jennifer Geiger filed a petition as a candidate for election to the school board.

Education Law §2608(1) proves that candidates for office of member of the board of education must file a nominating petition “in the office of the clerk of the board of education between the hours of nine a.m. and five p.m., on or before the twentieth day preceding the day of the annual election.” §2608(1) also provides that “[t]he clerk shall refuse to accept petitions ... which are not timely.”

With respect to the election in question, the statutory deadline for filing nominating petitions was five p.m. on April 25, 2012.  The school district admittedly had advised individuals seeking election to the board that nominating petitions were due by four p.m. on April 27, 2012. 

Ms. Geiger submitted her petition after five p.m. April 25, 2012, but prior to the district’s published deadline of four p.m. on April 27, 2012. The district clerk, however, rejected Geiger's nominating petition as untimely because it was not filed by the statutory deadline of five p.m. on April 25, 2012.

The Commissioner of Education dismissed Ms. Geiger’s appeal, pointing out that “Because Education Law §2608(1) requires that nominating petitions be filed in the office of the district clerk on or before the twentieth day preceding the day of the annual election, petitions may not be filed after the statutory deadline.” Further, said the Commissioner, the board’s incorrect statement of the filing deadline does not authorize school district officials to depart from the statutory filing requirements….”

The Commissioner’s ruling is consistent with Renaud v City of New York, 269 A.D.2d 283. In Renaud the Appellate Division said that "estoppel is not available against an administrative agency for the purpose of ratifying administrative error."

The Geiger decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.counsel.nysed.gov/Decisions/volume52/d16379.html

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