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February 8, 2016

In the event there is a conflict between a provision in the County Code and the County Charter, the provision in the County Charter controls


In the event there is a conflict between a provision in the County Code and the County Charter, the provision in the County Charter controls
James Carver v County of Nassau, 2016 NY Slip Op 00466, Appellate Division, Second Department
[See, also, James Carver v County of Nassau, 2016 NY Slip Op 00467, Appellate Division, Second Department]

Prior to 2007, the Nassau County Charter and the Nassau County Administrative Code both provided that the Commissioner of Police had control over the discipline of members of the Nassau County Police Department. In 2007, the Nassau County Legislature amended §8-13.0 of the County Administrative Code by adding subdivision (e), which amendment allowed for the resolution of certain disciplinary matters through binding arbitration.

In 2008, the Police Benevolent Association of the Police Department of the County of Nassau, N.Y., Inc. [PBA] and the County of Nassau entered into a collective bargaining agreement that, in pertinent part, provided that police officers “subject to a fine, penalty, or suspension of 10 or more days without pay, or its monetary equivalent,” had the option of proceeding to binding arbitration in lieu of a departmental disciplinary hearing. 

In 2012, the County Legislature enacted Local Law No. 9-2012 of the County of Nassau, repealing §8-13.0(e) of the County Administrative Code.

PBA challenged this action by the County Legislature seeking a court order declaring that the 2008 agreement was valid and was not altered by Local Law No. 9-2012. In addition, PBA alleged Local Law No. 9-2012, repealing §8-13.0(e) of the County Administrative Code, “did not impact the parties' contractual obligations pursuant to the 2008 agreement and, therefore, [PBA is] entitled to a permanent injunction enjoining the enforcement of Local Law No. 9-2012 of the County of Nassau.”

Supreme Court ruled that as the County Charter vested the power to discipline members of the Nassau County Police Department exclusively with the Commissioner of Police, the County Legislature's attempt to divest the Commissioner of a portion of that disciplinary authority by amending the County Administrative Code to allow for binding arbitration of certain disciplinary matters created a conflict between the Code and the Charter, and, in the face of such a conflict, the Charter controlled.

The Appellate Division agreed, holding that Supreme Court “properly concluded that the County Legislature's enactment of §8-13.0(e) of the Nassau County Administrative Code was invalid and that the subsequent repeal of §8-13.0(e) of the County Administrative Code by Local Law No. 9-2012 of the County of Nassau was proper and should not be enjoined.”

Citing Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York v PERB, 6 NY3d 563 and Town of Wallkill v CSEA, Town of Wallkill Police Department Unit, 19 NY3d 1066, the court said “as the [Nassau] County Legislature expressly committed disciplinary authority over the Nassau County Police Department to the Commissioner of Police, collective bargaining over disciplinary matters was prohibited.”

In the Patrolmen’s case, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York (NYCPBA) sought to annul a decision by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) that the City need not bargain with the PBA over five subjects, even though those subjects had been dealt with in an expired collective bargaining agreement. The Court of Appeals sustained PERB’s ruling, explaining “that the New York City Charter and Administrative Code, as interpreted in Matter of City of New York v MacDonald (201 AD2d 258, 259 [1st Dept 1994]), required that the discipline of New York City police officers be left to the discretion of the Police Commissioner.”

In Wallkill, the Court of Appeals ruled that although for more than a decade collective bargaining agreements (CBA) between the Town of Wallkill (the Town) and the Town of Wallkill Police Officers' Benevolent Association, Inc. (PBA) provided that police officers subject to discipline by the Town had the right to a hearing before a neutral arbitrator, in 2007 the Town adopted Local Law No. 2, which sets forth disciplinary procedures for police officers different than those set out in the CBA.

The Court explained that notwithstanding “the strong and sweeping policy of the State to support collective bargaining under the Taylor Law," police discipline may not be a subject of collective bargaining under the Taylor Law “when the Legislature has expressly committed disciplinary authority over a police department to local officials."

Noting that Civil Service Law §76(4) states that "[n]othing contained in section seventy-five or seventy-six of this chapter shall be construed to repeal or modify any general, special or local" preexisting laws,” the Court of Appeals concluded that “that the Town properly exercised its authority to adopt Local Law No. 2 pursuant to Town Law §155" and that police discipline “is a prohibited subject of collective bargaining between the Town and the PBA.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at: