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Friday, May 31, 2013

The “personal records” exemption from disclosure set out in Civil Rights Law §50-a (1) applies to both active and former employees of the agency

The “personnel records” exemption set out in Civil Rights Law §50-a (1) applies to both active and former employees of the agency
Hearst Corp. v New York State Police, 2013 NY Slip Op 03900, Appellate Division, Third Department

Supreme Court dismissed the Hearst Corporation’s [Hearst] appeal of an administrative decision denying its Freedom of Information [FOIL] request for “all records” maintained by the Division of State Police concerning a former State Trooper. The Division had claimed that the records sought “records were exempt from disclosure under Civil Rights Law §50-a.”

Essentially §50-a.1 provides that the personnel records of police officers, deputy sheriffs, peace officers, firefighters, firefighter/paramedics and correction officers used to evaluate their performance with respect to their continued employment or promotion are confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of the individual concerned “except as may be mandated by lawful court order.”*

Addressing the Civil Rights Law §50-a.1 arguments advanced by Hearst in seeking a former State Trooper’s personnel records, the Appellate Division sustained the lower court’s ruling, explaining:

1. Under FOIL, agency records are presumptively available for public inspection, without regard to the need or purpose of the applicant unless the requested documents fall within one of the exemptions set forth in Public Officers Law §87(2);

2. Public Officers Law §87(2)(a) permits an agency to deny access to public records that "are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute." One such exemption is found in Civil Rights Law §50-a.1** and

3. Such statutory exemptions to disclosure under FOIL must be narrowly construed and the agency opposing disclosure "carries the burden of demonstrating that the requested material falls squarely within a FOIL exemption by articulating a particularized and specific justification for denying access."

Considering the Hearst newspaper’s claim that “as a matter of law, Civil Rights Law §50-a does not apply to records related to former officers,” the court said that §50-a.1 exempts from disclosure personnel records "used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion" and so long as a document was used “at any time during the officer's employment” to evaluate the officer for promotion or continued employment, it is exempt from disclosure as a personnel record.

The Appellate Division said that the fact that the individual is a “former officer” does not mean that there is no realistic possibility of abusive use of the records against him in litigation, noting that to hold otherwise “would lead to the illogical result that a document ceases to be a personnel record immediately upon the officer's severance from employment.”

Accordingly, the court concluded that a document that is a personnel record within the meaning of Civil Rights Law §50-a does not depend on whether the officer to whom it relates is a current or former employee of the agency maintaining the record.

* Civil Rights Law §50-a.4 provides that “The provisions of this section shall not apply to any district attorney or his assistants, the attorney general or his deputies or assistants, a county attorney or his deputies or assistants, a corporation counsel or his deputies or assistants, a town attorney or his deputies or assistants, a village attorney or his deputies or assistants, a grand jury, or any agency of government which requires the records described in subdivision one, in the furtherance of their official functions.

** Other New York State statutes limiting the disclosure of public records include Education Law, §1127 - Confidentiality of records; and §33.13, Mental Hygiene Law - Clinical records; confidentiality].

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Municipalities intending to promulgate or amend civil service personnel rules must comply with the provisions of Civil Service Law §20

Municipalities intending to promulgate or amend civil service personnel rules must comply with the provisions of Civil Service Law §20
Floyd v City of New York, 2013 NY Slip Op 03772, Appellate Division, First Department

Under color of New York City Mayoral Personnel Orders No. 2012/1 and 2012/2, the City issued rules allocating certain “ungraded” civil service titles otherwise subject to prevailing wage bargaining under Labor Law §220 to positions allocated to a salary grade. Such positions, however, upon their being allocated to a salary grade fell within the ambit of the New York City Collective Bargaining Law rather than the provisions of  Labor Law §220. The City’s rules were challenged by the several unions in this action.

The unions argued that the City's actions unilaterally changed ungraded civil service titles which are subject to Labor Law §220 application of prevailing rate wages and supplemental benefits by effectively deleting these classifications and reclassified the ungraded prevailing rate titles into 14 new “Maintenance and Operation Services” titles in violation of Civil Service Law §20.2.*

The City, on the other hand, contended that it had complied with Civil Service Law §20.1 when it allocated titles to a salary grade because it had not change the  jurisdictional classification of the position as §20 “only applies when a title is changed from competitive to noncompetitive or exempt class.” The City also argued that the Department of Citywide Administrative Services has authority to act as a municipal civil service commission pursuant to the New York City Charter and may review salaries and titles, grade and classify them, and remove them from the scope of Labor Law §220 subject to the Mayor's approval and that “the grading of competitive class titles was rational because it is within the City's managerial prerogative, and therefore notice, public hearings and New York State Civil Service Commission approval are not required.”

Supreme Court Judge Manuel J. Mendez annulled the City’s rules that resulted in the several previously “unallocated positions” being allocated to a salary grade. In the words of Judge Mendez, "the changes proposed and implemented by the [the City] resulted in not just grading but reclassification of job titles subject to the provisions of Civil Service Law §20 [36 Misc.3d 653].

Citing Corrigan v Joseph, 304 NY 172, 185 [1952], cert denied 345 US 924, the Appellate Division dismissed the City’s appeal, ruling that the City had promulgated the rules in question without complying with the procedures mandated by Civil Service Law §20 as they had been adopted without notice, without a public hearing, and without approval by the State Civil Service Commission.

* Civil Service Law §20.2, in relevant part, provides as follows: "Procedure for adoption of rules. Such rules, and any modifications thereof, shall be adopted only after a public hearing, notice of which has been published for not less than three days, setting forth either a summary of the subject matter of the proposed rules or modifications or a statement of the purpose thereof. Except for the city of New York, notice shall be given to any person or agency filing written request, such request to be renewed yearly in December, for notice of  hearings which may affect such person or agency. Such notification shall be made by mail to the last address specified by the person or agency at least thirty days prior to the public hearing  … The rules and any modifications thereof adopted by a city civil service commission or city personnel officer shall be valid and take effect only upon approval of the mayor or a deputy mayor designated in writing by the mayor, such designation to be filed in the offices of the state civil service commission, ... provided, however, that where the mayor, deputy mayor or city manager, or other authority, as the case may be, fails to approve or disapprove a rule or modification thereof within thirty days after the same has been submitted to him, such rule or modification thereof shall be deemed to be approved by him…."
The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Amending the qualifications for appointment to a position in the public service is a “Management Right” and is not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining

Amending the qualifications for appointment to a position in the public service is a “Management Right” and is not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining
Uniformed Firefighters Assn. of Greater N.Y., Local 94 v City of New York, 2013 NY Slip Op 03763, Appellate Division, First Department

State Supreme Court Judge Carol E. Huff denied the Uniformed Firefighters Association petition seeking to annul the New York City Board of Collective Bargaining’s (BCB), decision dismissing the Association’s improper practice complaint.

BCB had rejected the Association’s improper practice charge challenging the New York City Fire Department’s decision to change the job requirements for the position of fire company chauffeur without first negotiating the proposed change with the Association.

Sustaining the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Appellate Division said that BCB's determination was neither arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, nor an abuse of discretion, explaining that the “ … Fire Department's decision to alter the job requirements for the position … was within the sound exercise of its managerial discretion.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Issued during the week ending May 26, 2013 [Click on text highlighted in bold to access the full report] 

DiNapoli Releases Report on Proposed NYS DREAM Act

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released a report on May 20, 2013 estimating the cost and economic benefits of the proposed New York State Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would increase access to financial aid for undocumented college students.

The report concluded that extending eligibility for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program to undocumented undergraduate students would provide economic benefits to the state at a very small cost.

DiNapoli: Poughkeepsie Facing Severe Fiscal Stress

Inaccurate budgeting has created an $11 million general fund deficit in the city of Poughkeepsie, according to an audit issued on May 22, 2013  by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. 

The report also found the city’s debt burden has increased 45 percent over the past five years.

DiNapoli Response to Arrest of Former Old Field Treasurer

While conducting an audit and investigation of the Village of Old Field in Suffolk County, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s staff uncovered the misappropriation of nearly $60,000 in village funds by Andrea Brosnan, the former village treasurer.

Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Municipal Audits

On May 22, 2013 New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced   that his office completed audits of:

Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Audits

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits were issued on May 20, 2013:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Delaying the processing of an application for retirement and the denial of “retiree benefits” because of alleged employee misconduct

Delaying the processing of an application for retirement and the denial of “retiree benefits” because of alleged employee misconduct
Union Endicott Cent. Sch. Dist. v Endicott Teachers' Assn., 2013 NY Slip Op 50833(U), Supreme Court, Broome County [Not selected for publication in the Official Reports.]

State Supreme Court Judge Ferris D. Lebous’ decision in this action considered issues raised by the union on behalf of a retired teacher concerning the school district’s delay in processing her application for retirement benefits and her eligibility for retiree health insurance under a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The events leading to this proceeding was summarized by the court as follows. :

A teacher for the Union-Endicott Central School District became “a person of interest” in an investigation involving stolen school property. The teacher, however, tendered her resignation before the investigation was completed. Although the resignation indicated that the teacher intended to resign and retire at the end of the academic year, the Board of Education decided to delay the processing of the teacher’s application for retirement pending determinations on criminal charges and disciplinary charges.

The Association filed grievances challenging the Board of Education's decision to delay the processing of the teacher’s retirement ("Grievance No.1") and its denial of the teacher’s retiree health insurance benefits ("Grievance No.2"). Judge Lebous stayed the arbitration of Grievance #1 as “not arbitrable,” but ordered the arbitration of Grievance #2 (see Union Endicott Cent. School Dist. v Endicott Teachers' Assn., 25 Misc 3d 1210 [A]).

The Appellate Division affirmed the court's rulings, holding that arbitration could not be compelled with respect to Grievance # 1 [see http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2009/2009_01060.htm ] and that Grievance #2, the grievance challenging the denial of the teacher’s health insurance benefits upon retirement, was arbitrable [see http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_07647.htm ].

Ultimately, the arbitration hearing on the issue of the teacher’s eligibility for health insurance benefits upon retirement was conducted and arbitrator Louis Patack issued an Opinion and Award in favor of the teacher. The school district then filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 75 seeking a court order vacating the arbitrator’s award.

As phrased by the court, “The School District's primary argument in support of it's petition is that the arbitrator failed to consider the issue of [the teacher’s] misconduct” in terms of  “the faithless servant doctrine,” contending that the Appellate Division had “instructed” the consideration of that issue.  The School District claimed that this failure on the part of the arbitrator constituted “misconduct in rendering his award and constitutes a ground for vacating the same under CPLR §7511 (b) (1) (i) and (iii).”

Noting that the Appellate Division “… did not mandate that the arbitrator apply the doctrine but merely stated that '[t]he issue of the effect, if any, of [the teacher’s] alleged misconduct on her entitlement to benefits goes to the merits of her grievance, not to its arbitrability,'” Further, Judge Lebous rejected the School District's representation that the arbitrator failed to consider or address the faithless servant doctrine. Rather, said the court, the record “clearly reflects that the arbitrator did consider whether the doctrine applied under the CBA and held that it did not.”

In addition the court commented that “as outlined by the Association,” the parties had entered into a stipulation at the arbitration hearing that the School District would offer evidence of [the teacher’s] alleged misconduct only if the arbitrator determined that the doctrine applied and because he did not so rule no such evidence was accepted.

Accordingly, the court denied the school district’s petition to vacate or modify the arbitration award and, in addition, denied its application for a stay of enforcement and implementation of the arbitration award.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Including proposed staffing changes in a plan to close schools submitted to the State Education Department does not cloak the staffing issues as a state policy, law or regulation thereby precluding submitting the matter to arbitration

Including proposed staffing changes in a plan to close schools submitted to the State Education Department does not cloak the staffing issues as a state policy, law or regulation thereby precluding submitting the matter to arbitration
Board of Educ.of the City Sch. Dist.of the City of N.Y. v Mulgrew2013 NY Slip Op 03580, Appellate Division, First Department
The New York City Department of Education (DOE) had filed a plan seeking to close 24 “underperforming schools” and to subsequently reopen 24 "new" schools at the identical locations and facilities with the State Department of Education (SED), which conditionally approved the plan.
The Unions filed demands for arbitration to the extent that the plan proposed to "excess" the staff of the closing schools, alleging that DOE’s plan to open new schools was a pretext to circumvent established procedures in their respective collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) for removing unsatisfactory teachers and other personnel. The Unions also contended that DOE’s plan circumvented their CBAs' requirements that excessing of teachers, i.e., "those let go through no fault of their own," be done on the basis of seniority.

The arbitrator concluded [1] that the Unions' disputes were arbitrable and [2] that the plan had "as its primary, if not sole, objective," avoiding undesirable teachers by excessing them under CBA provisions relating to closed or phased out schools, which violated CBA requirements that excessing be done on the basis of seniority.*

Supreme Court, New York County denied the DOE’s CPLR Article 75 petition seeking an order vacating the arbitration award and granted the cross-petition of the United Federation of Teachers, Local 2, and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Local 1, American Federation of School Administrators to confirm the award. The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The Appellate Division explained that the arbitrator neither exceeded his powers under the CBAs, nor did he violate public policy in resolving the merits of the parties' disputes. The CBAs, said the court, provide that unresolved grievances concerning the application or interpretation of the CBAs are subject to arbitration.

Although the definition of a grievance under the CBAs does not include any matter for which a method of review is proscribed by law, or any rule or regulation of the SED having the effect of law, here the grievances seek only to have the arbitrator consider the interpretations of the CBAs and whether the plan, if implemented as written, violates the contractual rights and responsibilities of the parties.

Finding DOE's argument that arbitration necessarily interferes with the SED's statutory and regulatory authority “unpersuasive,” the Appellate Division although DOE “broadly referencing educational laws and regulations,” it failed to identify any law that "prohibit[s], in an absolute sense, [the] particular matters [to be] decided," citing County of Chautauqua v Civil Serv. Empls. Assn, Local 1000, County of Chautauqua Unit 6300, Chautauqua County Local 807, 8 NY3d 513 and commenting that only when the interest in maintaining adequate standards is attached to a well-defined law that public policy is implicated."

The Appellate Division concluded that the underlying grievance in no way impinges on the authority of the SED to approve a plan for the closure or the reopening of the 24 “underperforming schools” as new schools under the Education law (Education Law § 2590-h) nor DOE’s own inclusion of proposed staffing changes in its plan to close schools to support its argument that staffing issues are now a state policy, law or regulation having the effect of law, which removes them from the dispute resolution regimen provided in the CBAs.
Finding that the Unions' grievance does not challenge either the DOE's right to put forth a plan to close schools or the SED's right to approve such a plan. But only seeks only a determination regarding the interpretation and implementation of staffing requirements under the CBAs, the Unions were not, therefore, relegated to raising their dispute in an Article 78 proceeding rather than submitting the dispute to arbitration.

* Although not addressed in the decision, an appointing authority may not excess or lay a tenured employee as a subterfuge for disciplinary action [Young v Board of Education, 35 NY2d 31].

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_03580.htm

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

A “perfect storm” of personnel transactions and decisions

A “perfect storm” of personnel transactions and decisions 
2013 NY Slip Op 03559, Appellate Division, First Department

This decision describes a series of events resulting from a “perfect storm” of personnel transactions and decisions including an incorrect administrative personnel determination by a central personnel agency and a career choice made by the employee [AR] that ultimately resulted in the frustration of AR’s immediate employment expectations.

The genesis of the Appellate Divisions ruling was AR’s filing a petition pursuant of CPLR Article 78 seeking, among other things,

1. Reinstatement to her prior position of permanent Fraud Investigator;

2. Placement on the New York City Department of Homeless Services' (DHS) eligible list for promotion to Associate Fraud Investigator; and

3. Monetary damages for wrongful denial of promotion and wrongful transfer.

Supreme Court denied AR’s petition, which ruling the Appellate Division affirmed on appeal.

According to the Appellate Division's decision, DHS had permanently appointed AR to the position of Fraud Inspector and subsequently provisionally promoted her to Associate Fraud Inspector. However, the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) ruled that AR was ineligible for permanent appointment to Associate Fraud Inspector. AR challenged and successfully appealed DCAS’s decision regarding her eligibility for promotion to the higher title.

AR, however, was employed by the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) when she won her administrative appeal regarding the error made DCAS concerning her eligibility for promotion to Associate Fraud Inspector. This proved to be a critical element in the Appellate Division’s analysis of AR’s several claims.

The Appellate Division said that although DCAS had erroneously ruled AR ineligible for promotion to the position of Associate Fraud Inspector, AR conceded that she was not entitled to be appointed to that position, but only to be placed on a special eligible list and given due consideration for appointment from that list.*

Further, the court ruled that AR’s contention that DCAS acted arbitrarily in failing to place her on an eligibility list certified to DHS — where she was working when the error regarding her eligibility was made, rather than HRA, where she was employed when she won her administrative appeal — was unavailing “as the record indicates that AR turned down the opportunity to return to DHS, evidently believing at that point that her prospects were better at HRA.”**

Addressing another aspect of AR’s personnel related claims, the Appellate Division agreed with AR’s argument that she would not have been laid off as a DHS Fraud Inspector but for DCAS's miscalculation of her seniority. However, the court ruled that AR was not entitled to back pay as a result of this error because she had transferred to a job at HRA with the same title and compensation.

Finally, the court ruled that AR was not entitled to compensation in connection with her demotion from provisional Associate Fraud Inspector to her permanent title, Fraud Inspector. Her provisional appointment, said the court, preceded her transfer to HRA and thus AR “had no expectation of tenure in the provisional position,” and, as a provisional employee, she could be dismissed from that title without a pre-termination disciplinary hearing or any statement of reasons for her termination from that position.

* See Andriola v Ortiz, 82 NY2d 320, Certiorari denied, 511 US 1031

** Although the decision is silent as to the nature of AR's moving from DHS to HAR, this observation by the court suggests that AR resigned, or was deemed to have resigned, from her postion with DHS simultaneously with her appointment to HAR or at some point after her "transfer" to HAR.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An analysis of New York’s new teacher evaluation law

An analysis of New York’s new teacher evaluation law
Source: NYMuniBlog  

Warren Richmond, a Harris Beach partner and member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Practice Group and Educational Institutions Industry Team, published an article in the New York Law Journal that focuses on the new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plans for teachers and the limitations the statute places on school districts to terminate probationary teachers.

The article raises the failure of the law to define “performance” and “significant factor” and the consequences of the legislation in making it more difficult to terminate non-tenured teachers whose performance is inadequate or otherwise problematic.

To read the article, click on the following link, Evaluation Law Could Limit Ability To Terminate Probationary Teachers.”

A school district employee serving in a position in the Classified Service may not perform duties involving the supervision of pedagogical personnel unless he or she obtains the appropriate school leader certification

A school district employee serving in a position in the Classified Service may not perform duties involving the supervision of pedagogical personnel unless he or she obtains the appropriate school leader certification
Appeal of Johnny G. Destino, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 16,461

Johnny G. Destino, a member of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Niagara Falls, appealed the school board’s appointment of Maria A. Massaro, Esq. (Massaro) to the position of Administrator for Human Resources, a position in the Classified Service.

Among the several issues addressed in this Decision of the Commissioner of Education was Destino’s challenge to Massaro’s appointment based on the allegation that Massaro unqualified to hold the Human Resources Administrator’s position because she lacked New York State certification as a School District Administrator (“SDA”).*

The school district's retiring Human Resources Administrator had sent an email dated October 18, 2010 to the Board containing the job description the position that had been adopted by the Municipal Civil Service Commission on March 22, 2007.

He also advised the school board that the posting of the vacancy dated September 13, 2010 reflected the 2007 job description and that “No changes were made to the job description.” The e-mail also reported that the minimum qualifications for the position were expanded to include candidates with a Bachelor’s degree and appropriate "HR experiences," thus permitting candidates for the position to come through either the certificated pathway (School Administrators with a Certificate) or the classified pathway (those candidates who would fall under Civil Service review).

The minimum qualifications attached to the 2007 job description were: “Graduation from a regionally accredited or New York State registered college or university with a Master’s degree and New York State permanent [SDA]certification and three (3) years experience in school administration or human resources” while the  expanded qualifications for the September 2010 job posting stated, in pertinent part:

1. A New York State permanent certification as a School District Administrator (SDA), School Administration and Supervisor (SAS), or New York Sate certification as a School District Leader (SDL) and three (3) years experience in school administration or human resources; or

2. Graduation from a regionally or New York State registered college or university with a Bachelor’s Degree including coursework in personnel management, labor relations, law or education and three (3) years experience in human resources management. 

The announcement also stated that "Additional education beyond a Bachelor’s Degree can be substituted for the required three (3) years experience. Experiences in the areas of labor relations, policy compliance, employee benefits and staff development may be used to fulfill the human resources requirement."

Noting that the position of "Human Resources Administrator" was not among the titles specifically listed in the Commissioner's certifications to the New York State Civil Service Commission pursuant to Civil Service Law §35(g) as being in the teaching or supervisory staff of a school, the Commissioner explained that it such a position would only be considered a pedagogical position for which certification was required if it involved “the function of administration of teaching, i.e., supervision and direction of supervisors, principals and all other members of the teaching and supervisory staffs.”

The Commissioner noted that with one limited exception, the duties described for Human Resources Administrator did not involve supervision and direction of members of the teaching and supervisory staffs. Therefore, said the Commissioner, the position is not one whose routine duties squarely fall within the positions certified as pedagogical in Certification.**.

The Commissioner, however, found that among the 21 “typical work activities” set out in the job description, which remained unchanged notwithstanding the change in qualifications for appointment to the position, it “impermissibly included one pedagogical duty as part of the Human Resources Administrator position that would require an incumbent to possess certification pursuant to Part 80 of the Commissioner’s regulations” --  “[a]cts as chief school officer in the absence of the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent of schools.”

Citing Education Law §3003(1); 8 NYCRR §80-2.4, the Commissioner said that “Although [the school district] disputes that this is a “primary” responsibility of the position, nonetheless, to the extent that Massaro could be required to act as chief school officer in the district in the absence of the superintendent or deputy superintendent and carry out the duties of those positions at any time, she would need to be properly certified. As Massaro is not a certified individual, she may not be assigned as acting superintendent as such a position clearly involves supervision and direction of pedagogical personnel.

However, in light of the facts that this [1] was only one of 21 listed job activities, [2] was not a routine function of the position and [3] would only apply as a contingency in the event of the absence of the superintendent and deputy superintendent, the Commissioner declined to annul Massaro’s appointment, finding that the proper remedy on these facts is to order the school district to remove “acting as chief school officer in the absence of the superintendent and deputy superintendent from Massaro’s duties as Human Services Administrator and [to] refrain from assigning her to serve as chief school officer unless she obtains the appropriate school leader certification.”

Turning to a procedural issue raised by the school district – the timeliness of the appeal – after determining that Destino’s appeal had been timely fined, the Commissioner noted that he “would decline to dismiss the appeal as untimely in any event, because the unlawful employment of an unqualified individual is a continuing wrong.”

Finally, the Commissioner considered the board requests a certificate of good faith “as to the individuals” named in the appeal as respondents pursuant to Education Law §3811(1).

Such certification is solely for the purpose of authorizing the board to defend and indemnify school district officers for legal fees and expenses incurred in defending a proceeding brought against them arising out of the exercise of powers or performance of their duties under the Education Law. Destino challenged only the actions of the board and the superintendent. Noting that “It is appropriate to issue such certification unless it is established on the record that the requesting individuals acted in bad faith,” the Commissioner said that on the record before him he would issue the requested certification for the limited purpose of Education Law §3811(1).

* In addition, Destino asserted that there was an appearance of, or actual, conflict of interest because Angelo Massaro, the board’s general counsel, is Maria A. Massaro’s father. Maria Massaro had been employed with the district since July 1, 1999 in various capacities, including attorney, in-house counsel, member of the administrative staff responsible for district policies and health care insurance, hearing officer and district negotiator in union negotiations.

** The school district received nine applications after posting employment notices in two newspapers, on the district's website, with the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services and with an Association for personnel administration.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Appointing authority's decision to terminate an employee for “serious misconduct” found appropriate under the circumstances

Appointing authority's decision to terminate an employee for “serious misconduct” found appropriate under the circumstances
2013 NY Slip Op 03560, Appellate Division, First Department

A New York City police officer was served with disciplinary charges alleging that [1] he left a loaded firearm unsecured in his backpack on a desk in a library and subsequently made an unauthorized call to a witness in an investigation that followed concerning the incident and [2] made vulgar statements and exposed his genitals to an arrestee while on duty in the precinct.

New York City’s Police Commissioner determined that the officer was guilty of serious acts misconduct and terminated his employment.

The Appellate Division* sustained the Commissioner’s decision noting that the officer had admitted the allegations with respect to the firearm incident and that there was substantial evidence to support the hearing officers determination with respect to the precinct incident.

As to the Commissioner’s decision to terminate the police officer, citing Kelly v Safir, 96 NY2d 32, the Appellate Division said that “The penalty imposed does not shock the conscience since [the Commissioner] is accountable to the public for the integrity of the Department."

* Supreme Court transferred the CPLR Article 78 petition filed with it by the police officer to the Appellate Division in accordance with CPLR §7803.4.with respect to the issue of whether substantial evidence supported the administrative determination made as a result of a hearing held at which evidence was taken.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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There is a constitutional right to be present during the testimony of the complaining child absent some compelling reason to bar the employee from the hearing while the child is testifying

There is a constitutional right to be present during the testimony of the complaining child absent some compelling reason to bar the employee from the hearing while the child is testifying
2013 NY Slip Op 03432, Appellate Division, First Department

A teacher appealed the Supreme Court’s denial of her petition to vacate the adverse disciplinary arbitrator’s award and its granting the employer’s motion to confirm the award.

The critical issue before the Appellate Division: was the teacher denied administrative due process when she was not permitted to be present during the testimony of the “complaining witness,” a student?

The Appellate Division unanimously reversed the Supreme Court’s ruling “on the law” and remanded the matter to the hearing officer with instruction that the hearing officer take testimony from the child complaining witness in the presence of the teacher.

The Appellate Division, citing Matter of Daniel Aaron D., 49 NY2d 788, explained that the teacher's exclusion from the administrative hearing “during the testimony of the only eyewitness to her alleged hitting of a student — the student himself — violated her constitutional right to confront the witnesses against her.”

The court said that nothing in the record indicated that there was a “compelling competing interest” that warranted the teacher’s being excluded from that portion of the hearing and the record was silent as to the basis for the teacher’s exclusion.

Further, the Appellate Division noted that there was no finding that teacher's presence would cause trauma to the student or substantially interfere with his ability to testify.

With respect to another argument advanced by the teacher -- in addition to her constitutional right she had an absolute right to confront witnesses under Education Law §3020-a – the Appellate Division ruled that “she waived that argument by failing to object on the record to her exclusion from the hearing, but had she so objected the argument would have been rejected as the Appellate Division observed that “In any event, there is no such absolute right under §3020-a.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Statewide program to reward highest performing teachers and help improve classroom performance announced by Governor Cuomo

Statewide program to reward highest performing teachers and help improve classroom performance announced by Governor Cuomo
Source: Office of the Governor

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo predicted that New York State’s Master Teacher Program for Teachers will encourage “the best and brightest to stay in education and mentor other teachers.”

Recruiting and retaining quality educators in mathematics and science was among the recommendations made by the new NY Education Reform Commission in its Preliminary Action Plan presented to the Governor in January.

The NYS Master Teacher Program was formed with a partnership between the State University of New York and Jim Simons’ Math for America Program. High-performing secondary science and mathematics (STEM) teachers who make a commitment to mentor other teachers will receive $15,000 annually over four years.

An initial group of 250 STEM teachers will be selected from Mid-Hudson, North Country, Central New York and Western New York in Fall 2013; the program will launch in the remaining 6 regions in Spring 2014. The SUNY campuses hosting the first four groups of master teachers include SUNY Plattsburgh, Buffalo State, SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Cortland.

The NYS Master Teacher Program will be managed by SUNY with technical assistance provided throughout the first phase of implementation by Math for America, a successful program currently operating in New York City and other major cities. The Master Teacher program will be based at and hosted by higher education institutions in each of the 10 regional economic development regions.

Selected master teachers will engage in peer mentoring, attend and create intensive content-oriented development opportunities throughout the academic year. Master teachers will also work closely with pre-service and early career fellows to develop future world-class educators.

Eligible teachers must be ranked “highly effective,” have a minimum of 4 years teaching experience, hold a NYS teaching certification and have their primary teaching responsibilities be in the areas of math and science in grades six through twelve.

Applications will be available on July 1st and due by August 1st. The first round of Master Teachers will be announced on September 1st.

Audits reports issued by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli

Audits reports issued by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli 

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced today the following audits have been issued:

Department of Health, Excessive Medicaid Payments for Services to Recipients Receiving Medicare Benefits (Follow-Up) (2012-F-29)
An initial audit report, issued in September 2010, examined whether DOH was correctly paying claims for services to Medicaid recipients who also had health insurance through Medicare. Auditors identified about $600 million in Medicaid payments that could have been avoided had DOH taken more comprehensive and proactive steps to administer Medicaid reimbursements for services provided to dual eligible individuals. In the audit just released, auditors found DOH and Office of the Medicaid Inspector General officials have made progress in correcting the problems identified in the initial report. All three prior audit recommendations have been partially implemented.

New York State Thruway Authority, Inspecting Highway Bridges and Repairing Defects (2012-S-33)
NYSTA is responsible for inspecting its bridges and repairing any defects found during inspections. If a serious (“red flag”) structural defect is identified during an inspection, NYSTA must notify the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) within one week. NYSTA has six weeks to take appropriate action. In addition, NYSTA must provide DOT with the written determinations from bridge inspections within 60 days. Auditors found the authority repairs defects identified during inspections. However, highway bridges were not always inspected timely and DOT was not always notified of red flags within one week, as required.

Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, Real Estate Portfolio (2012-S-90)
The Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority provides public transportation services in Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wayne, Wyoming and Seneca counties. State law requires each authority to maintain adequate inventory controls for its property and report annually on all property held. It also requires authorities to determine which property shall be disposed of and transfer or dispose of such property as promptly as possible. Auditors found the authority has accounted for all of its property holdings and established a value for them. However, it owns two properties that have been identified as excess holdings for more than 14 years. Additionally, the authority did not accurately report its property holdings during the three years ended March 31, 2012.

Department of Environmental Conservation, Pollution Testing on Exhaust Emissions from Heavy Duty Diesel Vehicles (Follow-Up) (2013-F-3)
The initial audit report, issued in March 2010, examined whether DEC adequately fulfilled its testing program responsibilities for exhaust emissions. Auditors found DEC generally fulfilled its responsibilities but could improve by maintaining critical performance data and coordinating with DMV and DOT to ensure such data was maintained for all aspects of the program. Auditors also questioned whether DEC's coverage of inspection facilities was adequate. In a follow-up report, auditors found DEC officials have made progress addressing the issues identified in the initial report. Of the 12 prior audit recommendations four were implemented, five were partially implemented, and three were not implemented.

State University of New York, Fuller Road Management Corp., College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering - Network Security Controls (2012-S-28)
The college has a number of business relationships with both public and private organizations. As part of these relationships, the college facilitates the management and processing of financial, legal, research, and numerous other types of data. The New York Office of Cyber Security’s Information Security Policy defines a set of minimum security requirements that are considered best practices for all state entities, including SUNY campuses. Auditors found that in addition to the security measures established by the university, the college has implemented its own controls that protect the security of systems and data.

Department of Agriculture and Markets, Disposal of Electronic Devices (2012-S-70)
State policy requires all state agencies to establish formal procedures to address the risk that personal, private or sensitive information may be improperly disclosed. One way information can be compromised is through disposal of electronic devices. Auditors found that 15 of the 132 electronic devices readied for surplus by the agency still contained data, even though the department had certified that all memory devices had been removed. One of the hard drives contained personal, private and sensitive information related to an employee. The printer hard drive and cameras also contained retrievable data, and the cell phones had not been programmed back to their original manufacturer settings.

Capital District Transportation Authority, Real Estate Portfolio (2012-S-91)
The authority’s primary responsibility is the management of the capital region’s bus services. State law requires the authority to report its real property holdings, listings of properties purchased or sold and its sale/lease procedures annually. The authority has a real estate portfolio that consists of nine properties/facilities. In connection with this portfolio, the authority reported that it has entered into 23 leases that generate about $808,000 annually. Auditors found the authority’s annual report for 2011-2012 omitted three properties. In addition, the three properties were not disclosed on the authority website and the report that was available on the website was not dated. The authority also could not document that it achieved fair market value for the properties.

Department of Transportation, Collection of Lease and Permit Revenues (2012-S-6)
DOT has land that it does not use continuously. Interested parties can pay a fee for a permit to use such land temporarily. Auditors found DOT is not effectively collecting all unpaid lease and permit fees. As of May 2012, DOT was owed $6 million in lease and permit revenues, including $2.4 million between two and six years past due and another $1.4 million at least six years past due. In total, 195 permits were more than 30 days past due. Of 45 sampled permits which had outstanding balances, no action was taken on eight. These eight permits had a total of $417,000 outstanding at the time of the audit.

Statewide Travel Audits
As part of a statewide initiative to determine whether the use of travel money by selected government employees was appropriate, auditors looked at travel expenses for the highest-cost travelers in the state for the following state entity:

State University of New York, College at Plattsburgh - Selected Employee Travel Expenses (2012-S-141)
Auditors examined the travel costs of two college employees with $194,805 in travel costs. Most of the expenses examined were appropriate. However, one faculty member charged the College for $708 in expenses that were not related to official business and used his travel card for $177 of other inappropriate expenses.

For other recent audits, including those on travel, go to: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/auditDateList.htm  

An appointing authority’s threatening to take adverse personnel action against an employee that it has a legal right to undertake does not constitute duress

An appointing authority’s threatening to take adverse personnel action against an employee that it has a legal right to undertake does not constitute duress 
2013 NY Slip Op 03252, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Supreme Court determined that the resignation of a tenured teacher [Educator] formerly employed by the school district, "was involuntarily submitted as a result of fraud, coercion and duress" and directed Educator’s reinstatement with back pay and benefits.”

The school district appealed and the Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court’s decision, indicating that further consideration and evaluation of Educator’s allegations of duress by the Supreme Court was required.

Citing Gould v Board of Educ. of Sewanhaka Cent. High Sch. Dist., 81 NY2d 446, the Appellate Division said that as a general rule "A resignation under coercion or duress is not a voluntary act and may be nullified."

In contrast, the Appellate Division, citing Rychlick v Coughlin, 99 AD2d 863, affd. 63 NY2d 643, explained that "it has consistently been held that a threat to do that which one has the legal right to do does not constitute duress."

Stated in the alternative, as the Court of Appeals held in Abramovich v Board of Educ. of Cent. Sch. Dist. No. 1 of Towns of Brookhaven & Smithtown, 46 NY2d 450, motion to reargue denied 46 NY2d 1076, cert denied 444 US 845, "[a] person's resignation may not be considered to be obtained under duress unless the employer threatened to take action which it had no right to take.”

Further, said the Appellate Division, under "appropriate circumstances . . . a tenured teacher may, as part of a stipulation in settlement of a disciplinary proceeding brought against him [or her], waive his or her continued right to the protections afforded by §3020-a of the Education Law" provided that such a settlement is “voluntarily and knowingly made” in contrast to having been made "lightly, inadvertently, inadvisedly or improvidently….”

The Appellate Division ruled that under the circumstances Supreme Court should conducted a trial "to resolve the factual issue raised by the pleadings and affidavits concerning [Educator’s] allegations of duress and to make appropriate findings of fact before proceeding any further" and remanded the case to Supreme Court for that purpose.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

State Comptroller reports a returned 10.38 % on for the State’s pension fund Investments in FY 2013, currently valued at an all time high of $160 billion

State Comptroller reports a returned 10.38 % on for the State’s pension fund Investments in FY 2013, currently valued at an all time high of $160 billion

On May 13, 2013 New York State’s Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) was valued at an estimated $160.4 billion and earned an estimated 10.38 percent rate of return on its investments for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

“The New York State Common Retirement Fund has reached a milestone,” DiNapoli said. “The Fund ended the fiscal year at an estimated $160.4 billion, an all-time high, and it remains well-positioned for growth as the financial markets continue to gain strength. Fiscal year 2014-2015 will be the final year that employer contribution rates will reflect the market loss of 2008-2009.”

Returns for the Fund’s asset classes were:
  • Domestic Equities returned 14.48 percent (at 36 percent of the Fund’s total investments)
  • Fixed Income returned 4.87 percent (28.2 percent)
  • Non-US Equities returned 9.47 percent (14.1 percent)
  • Private Equity returned 11.75 percent (8.6 percent)
  • Real Estate returned 11.08 percent (6.8 percent)
  • Global Equities returned 13.88 percent (2.9 percent)
  • Absolute Return Strategies returned 7.95 percent (3.2 percent)
  • Opportunistic Alternatives returned 7.89 percent (0.2 percent)
The Fund is the third-largest public pension fund in the country and remains one of the nation’s best-managed and best-funded pension plans. In February, Funston Advisory Services completed an independent review of the Fund that found it is well-run, operates with an industry-leading level of transparency and invests effectively on behalf of its members.

The New York State and Local Retirement System provides benefits to over one million state and local government employees, retirees and beneficiaries. Over the last 20 years, 82 percent of the cost of benefits have been funded from investment returns.

Click here for prior year returns.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

NYPPL's Decision of the Week for the Week ending May 18, 2013 - Allegations of unlawful racial discrimination

NYPPL's Decision of the Week 
For the Week Ending May 18, 2013

Allegations of unlawful racial discrimination

This action was brought by the United States Department of Justice pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seg. and alleged that hiring of New York City firefighters was tainted by unlawful racial discrimination and that the New York City Fire Department’s employment procedures for screening and selecting entry-level firefighters had an unjustified disparate impact on black and Hispanic applicants.

The principal issues in this appeal were [1] whether summary judgment was properly entered against the City on a claim of intentional discrimination, [2] whether claims against the City’s Mayor and former Fire Commissioner were properly dismissed, [3] whether an injunction, based both on the finding of intentional discrimination and an unchallenged finding of disparate impact in entry-level examinations, is too broad, and [4] whether, in the event of a remand, the case, or some portion of it, should be reassigned to another district judge.

August Term 2011
Heard: June 26, 2012 Decided: May 14, 2013
Docket No. 11-5113-cv(L), 12-491-cv(XAP)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, THE VULCAN SOCIETY, INC., MARCUS HAYWOOD, CANDIDO NUNEZ, ROGER GREGG, Intervenors-Plaintiffs-Appellees-Cross-Appellants



Before: NEWMAN, WINTER, and POOLER, Circuit Judges

Appeal by the City of New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta from the December 8, 2011, order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Nicholas G. Garaufis, District Judge), issuing an injunction against the City with respect to the hiring of entry-level firefighters, and a cross-appeal by the Intervenors from the February 1, 2012, partial final judgment dismissing federal and state law claims against Mayor Bloomberg and former Fire Commissioner Scoppetta.

The City’s appeal also seeks review of the January 13, 2010, order granting the Intervenors summary judgment on their disparate treatment claim, which alleged intentional discrimination, and, on the appeal from the injunction, seeks reassignment of the case to a different district judge.

Summary judgment on the disparate treatment claim against the City is vacated; dismissal of the federal claims against Mayor Bloomberg is affirmed; dismissal of the state law claims against Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Scoppetta is affirmed; dismissal of the federal law claims against Commissioner Scoppetta is vacated; the injunction is modified, and, as modified, is affirmed; and the bench trial on the liability phase of the discriminatory treatment claim against the City is reassigned to a different district judge.

Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

[Judge Pooler dissents in part with a separate opinion.]

The full text of the majority’s 59-page opinion, together with the 23-page dissenting opinion of Judge Pooler, is posted on the Internet at:

Friday, May 17, 2013

The provisions in a collective bargaining agreement that are otherwise controlling may be waived if the waiver is “knowing and voluntarily” made

The provisions in a collective bargaining agreement that are otherwise controlling may be waived if the waiver is “knowing and voluntarily” made
2013 NY Slip Op 03251, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

In September 2006 an individual [Educator] was hired as a probationary teacher by the school district. At the end of the three-year probationary period, Educator was notified that he would not be recommended for tenure by the Superintendent. In lieu of termination, however, the school district, the Educator and the Teacher Association entered into a Juul agreement,* which extended the probationary period for one year.

In Juul the court held that agreements to extend probationary periods are valid and enforceable when found to be a "knowing and voluntary waiver of the protections afforded by the Education Law."

When the agreement ended, the parties entered into a second Juul agreement that extended Educator's probationary period for a fifth year and in exchange for this extension the Teacher Association "waive[d] any right it may have to pursue a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement [CBA]” relative to the deferral of the Superintendent's tenure recommendation, [or] the termination of [Educator’s] employment."

As the end of his fifth probationary year approached, Educator was informed by the Superintendent that he would not be recommended for tenure and that Educator’s appointment as a probationary teacher with the school district would end on a specified date.

The Association filed a grievance on behalf of Educator contesting his termination under various provisions of the CBA. The school district denied the grievance and the Association served a demand for arbitration.

The school district filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking a permanent stay of the arbitration. The court, agreeing with the school district that a valid agreement to arbitrate this particular dispute no longer existed, granted the school district’s petition.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The court explained that there was not dispute that the arbitration of the claim with respect to the subject matter at issue is authorized under the Taylor Law. Here, however, in accordance with the applicable two-step inquiry to be made by the courts in such situations, it must next be determined whether "such authority was in fact exercised and whether the parties did agree by the terms of their particular arbitration clause to refer their differences in this specific area to arbitration"

It was also undisputed that, absent the second Juul agreement, Educator’s termination would be subject to the grievance and arbitration procedures contained in the CBA. Rejecting the Association’s argument to the contrary, the Appellate Division concluded that the second Juul agreement “clearly manifested an intent to exclude the subject matter of [Educator’s] termination, including the just cause, teacher improvement and code of ethics grounds advanced by the Association, from the provisions of the CBA relating to grievances and arbitration.”

Similarly, employees in the classified service of the State and public authorities, public benefit corporations and other agencies for which the Civil Service Law is administered by the State Department of Civil Service   faced with termination for not satisfactorily completing his or her probationary period may be offered the opportunity to serve a second probationary position in accordance with the provision of 4 NYCRR 4.5 [b] [5] [ii]). Many local civil service commissions have adopted a similar rule.

However this provision requires that the extended probationary term to be served in a different assignment.

This last point is illustrated by the decision in Civil Serv. Employees Ass'n, Inc., Local No. 1000, AFSCME AFL-CIO, Oxford Veterans' Home Local No. 305 v. Venugopalan, 228 A.D.2d 767. In Venugopalan a cook appointed to the position of chief cook and who was required to serve a probationary appointment of from 26 to 52 weeks. When the employee’s 52 week probationary period ended it was determined that his probationary period would be extended for an additional 12 to 24 weeks rather than reinstate him to the cook position.

The court ruled that this second probationary period was “unauthorized” as there was no change in the individual’s “assignment” and thus his appointment as Chief Cook  “ripened into a permanent appointment upon his retention in the position beyond the 52-week period of probation.”

* Juul v Board of Educ. of Hempstead School Dist. No.1, Hempstead, 76 AD2d 837, affd 55 NY2d 648

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

An employee’s satisfying the employer’s residency requirement is critical to his or her continuation in employment

An employee’s satisfying the employer’s residency requirement is critical to his or her continuation in employment
2013 NY Slip Op 03230, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The City of Niagara Falls’ Local Law No. 7 requires City employees to establish and maintain residency within the City throughout the term of their employment. "Residency" for the purposes of this action was defined as "the actual principal place of residence of an individual, where he or she normally sleeps; normally maintains personal and household effects; the place listed as an address on voter registration; and the place listed as his or her address for driver's license and motor vehicle registration, if any."*

The City determined that one of its employees [Petitioner] principally resided outside the City in the Town of Niagara. Concluding that Petitioner did not comply with its residency policy, the City terminated her employment.

Petitioner challenged the City’s decision. Supreme Court granted her petition and directed the City to reinstate her to her former position. The Appellate Division disagreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling and vacated its decision.

The Appellate Division found that the evidence relied upon by the City was sufficient to establish that Petitioner's "actual principal place of residence" was in the Town of Niagara [Niagara] and thus outside the city limits of the City of Niagara Falls.

The evidence presented to the City included an investigative report indicating that Petitioner resided at the Niagara residence, the address of the Niagara residence was listed on Petitioner's joint tax return with her husband, Petitioner's signature appeared on a recent mortgage application for the Niagara residence, Petitioner's husband and children resided at the Niagara residence and Petitioner’s children attend school in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District.

In addition, said the Appellate Division, “a surveillance company observed Petitioner on multiple occasions driving to work from the Niagara residence early in the morning and driving from work to the Niagara residence at the end of the work day, "whereupon she would retrieve the mail and park in the garage."

Petitioner had testified that she resided at a City address and that the City address was listed on various documents, including her voter registration records and her driver's license. Notwithstanding such testimony, the Appellate Division concluded that such "evidence was not so overwhelming as to support the [Supreme] court's determination granting [her] petition."

Citing Beck-Nichols v Bianco, 20 N.Y.3d 540,** a case involving a school district employee’s failure to comply with the district’s residence requirement, the Appellate Division said that under the "extremely deferential standard" of review applicable in Petitioner’s case, it concluded that the City's determination that Petitioner principally resides outside the City is not “without foundation in fact,” and thus the City had "rationally concluded that [Petitioner] did not comply with the residency policy."

The court then reversed Supreme Court's decision "on the law" and the dismissed the City's former employee’s petition.

* The Appellate Division noted that this “definition [of residence] is akin to, if not synonymous with, the legal concept of ‘domicile,’ i.e., ‘living in [a] locality with intent to make it a fixed and permanent home.’”

** NYPPL’s summary of Beck-Nichols is posted on the Internet at: http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2013/02/court-of-appeals-holds-that-residency.html

The City of Niagara Falls decision is posted on the Internet at:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Where there is broad arbitration clause in the collective bargaining agreement, the arbitrator rather than the court is to determine if the subject of the dispute is arbitrable

Where there is broad arbitration clause in the collective bargaining agreement, the arbitrator rather than the court is to determine if the subject of the dispute is arbitrable
Ontario County v County Sheriff's Unit 7850-01, CSEA, Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO), 2013 NY Slip Op 03204, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA] between Ontario County and the Ontario County Sheriff's Unit 7850-01 provided that disputes over the meaning or application of the CBA were initially required to be submitted through the contract's grievance process. In the event the employee was "not satisfied" with the result obtained through that process, the Unit could submit the matter to arbitration .

The Ontario County Sheriff's Unit 7850-01 [Unit] filed grievances on behalf of two correction officers whose request for a shift exchange was denied. Contending that the denial "[v]iolated or [i]nvolved" the clause in the CBA that addressed "time exchanged between employees," the Unit informed County of its intent to seek arbitration. 

The County thereupon filed a petition in Supreme Court pursuant to CPLR Article 75 to stay arbitration and the Unit "cross-moved" to compel arbitration.

Supreme Court denied the County’s petition and granted the Unit’s cross motion.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court’s ruling, noting that “A grievance may be submitted to arbitration only where the parties agree to arbitrate that kind of dispute, and where it is lawful for them to do so." In this instance,” said the court, “the parties do not challenge the lawfulness of arbitrating the instant dispute and, instead, [the County contends] that there is no valid agreement to arbitrate the grievances at issue inasmuch as the CBA did not contemplate shift exchanges."

The Appellate Division rejected the County’s argument, explaining that in determining whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the dispute at issue a court’s review “is limited to the language of the grievance and the demand for arbitration, as well as to the reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom"

In this instance, said the court, there is “a broad arbitration clause and a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the parties.” Accordingly, the court decided that the was arbitrable and it was left to the arbitrator to make “a more exacting interpretation of the precise scope of the substantive provisions of the [CBA], and whether the subject matter of the dispute fits within them.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Governor Cuomo's financial restructuring proposal to assist distressed local governments

Governor Cuomo's financial restructuring proposal to assist distressed local governments

On May 14, 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued a proposal to create a Financial Restructuring Board to help distressed local governments manage their finances. The proposal includes an alternative binding arbitration process that municipalities and unions could voluntarily opt for to resolve contract issues in an expedited procedure.

In the words of the Governor: "Growing retirement costs, declining populations, decreasing property values, and the recent fiscal crisis have all contributed to the difficult financial issues facing localities today …The Financial Restructuring Board will bring together state and local officials to help localities make tough decisions and solve this crisis now instead of kicking the can down the road."

More money is not the solution to help local governments solve their fiscal issues said the Governor. “The State's existing Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) program does not reflect local government need or performance, and already constitutes a large percentage of the budgets of New York's largest cities (outside of NYC)”
The proposal to help fiscally distressed municipalities includes the following elements:

Financial Restructuring Board: The Board would include the State Budget Director, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Comptroller, and one private sector restructuring professional. The Budget Director would establish standards to determine which local governments qualify as fiscally distressed. Fiscally distressed local governments would be able to request the assistance of the Board, and work together to identify a specific restructuring plan.

Implementing Restructuring Plan: The 2013-14 Budget includes up to $80 million to assist local governments with reorganization plans. Recommendations of the Board would be binding upon any municipality that accepts funding. The Board may require development of multi-year financial plans, functional consolidation, mergers, shared services, fewer elected officials, and other measures.

The Board would also serve as a binding arbitration panel: The Board would provide an alternative to the binding arbitration process for police, fire, or deputy sheriff unions if municipalities and unions agree. The Board would render an arbitration ruling within 9 months.

Employee terminated following a disciplinary hearing after receiving counseling memoranda regarding serious and specific deficiencies in her job performance

Employee terminated following a disciplinary hearing after receiving counseling memoranda regarding serious and specific deficiencies in her job performance
Kuznia v Adams, 2013 NY Slip Op 03369, Appellate Division, Third Department

An individual [Petitioner] commenced her employment with the County Probation Department in 1979 and in 2004 was named as the Department's deputy director. When the Department’s director retired, Petitioner “effectively was in charge of the Department” until a new director was named in August 2010.

Although prior to serving as the Department's deputy director Petitioner had consistently received positive performance evaluations,* in March 2010 the County Administrator sent Petitioner a "letter of counseling" raising a number of concerns regarding her leadership, supervisory and time-management skills. Petitioner was encouraged to "immediately make every effort to improve [her] management skills" and was warned that her failure to do so could result in a loss of her employment.

In October 2010, Petitioner received a second counseling notification — this time in the form of a memorandum from the newly appointed director. The director noted, among other things, Petitioner's  failure to timely submit various state-mandated reports and surveys to the Department's oversight agency.

Subsequently it was found that there were significant past deficiencies and omissions in the operation of the Department during Petitioner's tenure as deputy director and  was served with disciplinary charges in March 2011 pursuant to Civil Service Law §75 alleging various acts of misconduct. The Hearing Officer sustained the bulk of the charges and specifications filed against Petitioner and recommended Petitioner's "dismissal from service [as] the only viable solution."

The County Administrator adopted the Hearing Officer's findings and recommendation and terminated Petitioner’s employment. Petitioner appealed, challenging the County Administrator’s decision and asked the court to direct her reinstatement as deputy director of the Department with back pay.

The Appellate Division affirmed the County Administrator’s determination, explaining that "[T]he standard of review to be applied in reviewing an administrative determination made pursuant to Civil Service Law §75 is whether the determination is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.”

The Appellate Division noted that [1] Credibility determinations solely within the province of the Hearing Officer and that it may neither substitute its own judgment for that of the Hearing Officer nor weigh the evidence presented and [2] a finding of incompetence only requires evidence of some dereliction or neglect of duty.

As to the issue of penalty, the Appellate Division said that it was “well settled” that it would set aside the penalty imposed "only if it is so disproportionate as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness."

Despite the Appellate Division's considering Petitioner's many years of service and her prior positive performance evaluations, the court said that it did not find the penalty of termination to be shocking to its sense of fairness, explaining that in this instance “the record reflects that although Petitioner twice was warned regarding serious and specific deficiencies in her job performance, she continued to exercise poor professional judgment with respect to, among other things, the management, training and supervision of [Department personnel].

Further said the court, “The record … illustrates that Petitioner's neglect of her duties — particularly with respect to her failure to implement certain policies and/or comply with mandated reporting requirements — not only created what [Department’s director] aptly described as ‘a huge public safety issue,’ but also exposed the County to liability.”

* According to the decision, written performance evaluations of the Petitioner ceased after 2004 because the then County Administrator “preferred to personally conduct yearly evaluations in his office.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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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