The Doctrine of Legislative Equivalency defeats a Mayor’s unilateral decision to abolish a position in the civil service
Moser v Tawil, 2016 NY Slip Op 00501, Appellate Division, Second Department
Robert T. Moser was employed by the City of Middletown as a part-time code enforcement officer. On April 27, 2012, the Mayor of Middletown unilaterally decided to abolish that position for economic reasons. Moser filed a CPLR Article 78 petition seeking a court order annulling the Mayor’s decision that resulted in his termination and directing his reinstatement to his former position with back salary.
Following a hearing, Supreme Court determined that the Mayor had exceeded his authority under the Middletown City Charter and granted Moser’s petition.
The Appellate Division commenced its review of Mayor’s appeal by noting that “The questions that may be raised in a CPLR Article 78 proceeding include "whether a determination was made in violation of lawful procedure, was affected by an error of law or was arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion."
Finding that Supreme Court correctly concluded that the Mayor did not have the authority to unilaterally abolish the position of part-time code enforcement officer, the Appellate Division explained that the City Charter “grants the Middletown Board of Estimate and Apportionment the power to create civil service positions in Middletown by providing that it "shall fix the powers and duties and regulate the salaries and compensation of all city officers and employees."
While the City Charter authorizes the Mayor, with certain limitations, to suspend an employee for cause, there is nothing in the City Charter granting the Mayor authority to unilaterally abolish civil service employment positions.
Sometimes referred as the Doctrine of Legislative Equivalency, the court said that the general rule, when not qualified by positive law, is that the power which creates an office may abolish it in its discretion and this rule applies to municipal offices created by the act of some municipal body. Accordingly, “having been granted the power to create civil service employment positions in Middletown, it is the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and not the Mayor, that is vested with the power to abolish them.”
The Doctrine of Legislative Equivalency, applied by the Court of Appeals in deciding the Torre v County of Nassau, 86 NY2d 421, sets out the principle that a position created by a legislative act can be abolished only by a correlative legislative act.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: