Thursday, May 07, 2015

Applying the doctrine of estoppel against a governmental entity



Applying the doctrine of estoppel against a governmental entity
2015 NY Slip Op 02551, Appellate Division, Third Department

In Owens v McGuire, 121 AD2d 292, the Appellate Division said that the doctrine of estoppel can only be applied “against a governmental entity if failure to apply the doctrine would defeat a right legally and rightfully obtained.”

In 2004 representatives of the New York State and Local Retirement System [System] told an individual [Member] that he was eligible to receive member service credit in the System for his employment with the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County from 1973 to 1975.

In January 2011, Member filed an application for a retirement allowance. However the System then determined that the Legal Aid Society was not a participating employer in the Retirement System and thus Member was not entitled to member service credit for the period during which he served with the Legal Aid Society. Member, seeking a reversal of the System’s determination, requested, and was given a hearing

In the course of the hearing a number of Retirement System employees testified that the Legal Aid Society was not a participating employer and the Hearing Officer denied Member's application for member service credit for the period during which he was employed by the Legal Aid Society. The Comptroller adopted the hearing officer’s ruling and Member appealed.

The Appellate Division sustained the Comptroller’s decision, explaining that a “petitioner has the burden of proof to establish his [or her] entitlement to retirement [member] service credit.” Here, noted the court, Member had testified that he had no evidence that the Legal Aid Society was ever a participating employer in the Retirement System.

Accordingly, said the court, inasmuch as the record reflects that Member was not employed by a participating employer during the period in question, the Comptroller’s denial of the retirement service credit was supported by substantial evidence.

Member had also contended that the System was estopped from denying the retirement member service credit based on the earlier misinformation provided to him by employees of the Retirement System. The court disagreed and rejected this branch of Member’s appeal.

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/

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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