Friday, October 25, 2013

The statutory text provides the clearest indication of “legislative intent” and should be construed by the courts to give effect to its plain meaning


The statutory text provides the clearest indication of “legislative intent” and should be construed by the courts to give effect to its plain meaning
Sheriff Officers Assn., Inc. v County of Nassau, 2013 NY Slip Op 06870, Appellate Division, Second Department

In June 2011, the Nassau County Legislature approved a bill authorizing the amendment of the County's 2011 budget in order "to abolish certain positions of employment . . . as a means of addressing the current economic shortfall." The County Legislature subsequently adopted a bill amending the budget [Local Law 198-2011] permitting the abolition of, among other things, up to 48 correction corporal positions.

Section 1 of Local Law 198-2011 stated, in relevant part, that the positions listed in "Appendix A to this Ordinance" "shall be deemed abolished effective no later than December 29, 2011." Section 3 of Local Law 198-2011 provides that, "Appendix A to this Ordinance may have individual line items in it stayed by Executive Order. Nothing contained herein shall limit the stay to an individual line and this shall be interpreted as permitting a stay applicable to individual job titles."

Consistent with the Local Law 198-2011, the County Executive ultimately stayed the abolition of 18 of the 48 correction corporal positions. The incumbents of the remaining 30 correction corporals were demoted to correction officer positions as their correction corporal upon the abolishment of the positions they encumbered.

The Sheriffs Association filed an CPLR Article 78 petition with Supreme Court alleging that the County Executive acted in violation of Local Law 198-2011 when he abolished the 30 correction corporal titles, contending that Local Law 198-2011 was not self-executing and required the County to take some affirmative action to abolish the listed positions before December 29, 2011.Thus, argued the Association, the County Executive untimely demoted 30 of the 48 correction corporals on January 12, 2012.

The Appellate Division ruled that the Association failed to meet its burden of proof in that it did not prove that the County Executive acted in violation of lawful procedure or that his act was affected by an error of law, was arbitrary and capricious, or was an abuse of discretion. The court explained that “When considering questions of statutory interpretation, a court's ‘primary consideration is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the Legislature.’ The statutory text provides the clearest indication of legislative intent, and should be construed to give effect to its plain meaning."

Here, said the court, “Supreme Court correctly found that the statutory language at issue was unambiguous, and that the provision of section 1 of [Local Law 198-2011] providing for the abolition of listed titles was self-executing.” Further, noted the Appellate Division, there is  “nothing in [Local Law 198-2011] which requires any enabling act by the County in order to abolish the positions.”

As to the County Executive’s stay of the abolition of several of the positions on or about December 28, 2011, and his amending that stay on January 12, 2012, the Appellate Division ruled that Local Law 198-2011 was self-executing, and that, as of December 29, 2011, all 48 of the correction corporal positions would have been deemed substantively abolished, but for the executive stay that was issued.

Rejecting the Association’s argument to the contrary, the court concluded that the County Executive's determination on January 12, 2012 did not constitute an illegal or untimely attempt to abolish the relevant correction corporal positions.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_06870.htm
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

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Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions 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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