Thursday, May 21, 2015

The court will sustain an administrative determination if the administrative body’s interpretation of the controlling statute is reasonable and the underlying factual findings are supported by substantial evidence


The court will sustain an administrative determination if the administrative body’s interpretation of the controlling statute is reasonable and the underlying factual findings are supported by substantial evidence
2015 NY Slip Op 519303, Appellate Division, Third Department

Supreme Court dismissed the petitioner's [Retiree] application seeking a review of a determination of State Comptroller denying Retireer's application for “incentive service retirement.”

On November 18, 2010, Retiree applied for the retirement incentive offered temporarily to certain public employees but the New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System [ERS] denied the application as untimely. ERS said that as Retiree's retirement would not become effective until after the open period for the incentive had passed.

The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court’s determination, noting that the controlling statute, in relevant part, provided that, "[f]or the purposes of retirement pursuant to this act, a service retirement application must be filed with the appropriate retirement system not less than [14] days prior to the effective date of retirement to become effective."*

Retiree’s employer Petitioner had adopted an open period for applications for the incentive from August 27, 2010 to November 24, 2010.

Following a hearing, the Hearing Officer upheld the denial of Retiree’s application and the Comptroller adopted that determination. In affirming Supreme Court’s holding sustaining the Comptroller’s decision the Appellate Division said "The Comptroller has exclusive authority to determine all applications for retirement benefits and the determination must be upheld if the interpretation of the controlling retirement statute is reasonable and the underlying factual findings are supported by substantial evidence."

Here, said the court, the Comptroller interpreted the phrase "that is effective during the open period" to refer to an applicant's retirement. Accordingly, inasmuch as an application for the incentive must be filed not less than 14 days prior to an applicant's retirement date, the Comptroller determined that an application had to have been filed by November 11, 2010 for a retirement to be effective during the open period.

Although Retiree contended that the phrase refers to the application and not the retirement date, the Appellate Division said that it found “no error in Supreme Court's analysis, which deferred to the Comptroller's interpretation on the ground that it was based upon "his specialized knowledge and utilization of underlying operational practices."

As the court could not conclude that the Comptroller's interpretation was "irrational, unreasonable or inconsistent with the governing statute," it said that it would not be disturbed.

* Laws of 2010, Chapter 105,  Part B, §1 [h], in pertinent part, provides “For the purposes of retirement pursuant to this act, a service retirement application must be filed with the appropriate retirement system not less than fourteen days prior to the effective date of retirement to become effective, unless a shorter period of time is permitted under law.”

Further, Paragraphs 5 and 6 of the fiscal note submitted with the Bill appear to require the individual to:

 5. File an application for Service Retirement that is effective during the Open Period, and

 6. File written notification with the employer of the member on or before the 21st day prior to the end of the Open Period.

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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