A public officer of a town, village, improvement district or fire district officer by court may be removed from his or her office pursuant to Public Officers Law §36
Becallo v Zambrano, 2015 NY Slip Op 07091, Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Public Officers Law §36 was enacted to enable a town, a village, an improvement district or a fire district to remove a public officer found to be an unfaithful or dishonest public official. Paul Becallo filed a petition with the Appellate Division pursuant to §36 alleging that a town supervisor was either unfaithful or dishonest in the performance of her duties as the Town Supervisor in an effort to have the Appellate Division remove that individual from her public office.
The Town Supervisor admitted many of the factual allegations set out in Becallo’s petition, including his claim that  she had a romantic relationship with an employee of the engineering firm [employee] that was hired by the Town and  that she signed the contract with the engineering firm and approved invoices for work completed by the employee and  that she had used campaign funds to pay for a bulk mailing of a Town newsletter to senior citizens.
She denied, however, that her acts created a conflict of interest or constituted wrongdoing and submitted documentary evidence refuting another of Becallo’s allegation -- that she had altered the date on a shared services agreement with another Town.
The Supervisor romantic relationship with the employee began in the fall of 2011 while she was serving as a Town councilperson and at that time she had asked the Town Attorney whether there was a conflict of interest as a result of that relationship. The Town Attorney advised her in a written opinion that there was no conflict of interest and reiterated that opinion at a Town Board meeting in April 2014, when she was the serving as the Town Supervisor.
The Appellate Division also noted General Municipal Law §801 provides that "no municipal officer . . . shall have an interest in any contract with the municipality of which [she] is an officer . . . when such officer . . . has the power or duty to . . . approve the contract . . . or approve payment thereunder" but concluded that “[t]hose provisions do not apply here.”
Turning to Becallo’s allegations concerning “the financial arrangement between [the supervisor] and the employee regarding her purchase of a one-half interest in his residence,” the Appellate Division concluded that it cannot "reasonably be inferred that the [financial arrangement] was intended to influence [the supervisor], or could reasonably be expected to influence [her], in the performance of [her] official duties or was intended as a reward for any official action on [her] part." The Appellate Division held that Becallo failed to establish a conflict of interest with respect to the supervisor’s personal relationship with the employee.
As to Becallo’s allegation concerning the supervisor’s use campaign funds, the Appellate Division concluded that even assuming, arguendo, the use of those funds to pay for a bulk mailing of a Town newsletter to senior citizens was improper, such an impropriety does "not remotely rise to the level required for removal pursuant to Public Officers Law §36."
Finding that Becallo’s "petition does not set forth a single act of unscrupulous conduct or intentional wrongdoing, let alone evidence of any gross dereliction of duties or a pattern of misconduct," the Appellate Division dismissed his petition.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: