Monday, April 10, 2017

Employee organization's authority to expel a member cannot be used to suppress free expression and free political opposition


Employee organization's authority to expel a member cannot be used to suppress free expression and free political opposition
Montero v Police Assn. of the City of Yonkers, Inc., 2017 NY Slip Op 02040, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Police Association of the City of Yonkers, Inc., also known as Yonkers Police Benevolent Association, [PBA], had charged one of its members, Raymond Montero, with providing information to the author of articles published online, providing that author with an email from [the PBA's] president to the member of the PBA, publishing that email online himself, with comments, and "being involved in an altercation with another member." Montero was given notice of these charges and of the date and time of the hearing scheduled to consider these allegations. He elected to not to appear at the hearing and subsequently the PBA expelled Monterofrom its membership.

Montero file an Article 78 petition challenging the PBA's action but Supreme Court  denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding. Montero appealed and the Appellate Division annulled the Supreme Court's ruling and granted Montero's petition.

In Polin v Kaplan, 257 N.Y. 277, the Court of Appeals said "It is well established that where the constitution and by-laws of a voluntary association reasonably set forth grounds for expulsion and provide for a hearing upon notice to the member, judicial review of such proceedings is unavailable, unless the reason for expulsion is not a violation of the constitution or by-laws or is so trivial as to suggest that the action of the association was capricious or corrupt, or unless the association failed to administer its own rules fairly."

The Appellate Division found that in this instance the PBA's determination that Montero was guilty of conduct that was "prejudicial to the welfare of the Association," in violation of its bylaws, was arbitrary and capricious.

The court explained that with respect to the charges filed against Montero concerning the e-mail, there was only one "identified email" in the record. Accordingly, said the court,  there is no basis in the record on which to determine what, if any, other information was provided to the author of the articles by Montero, and whether such unidentified information was detrimental to the PBA.

As to the email in the record, that e-mail was characterized as confidential by the PBA. The Appellate Division, however, observed that there is no reason to conclude that the email, which was sent to all of the PBA's members, was confidential and, in fact, it contained a statement indicating that sharing the email was merely "discouraged."

In any event, said the court, the record provides no support for a determination that Montero's sharing the widely distributed email or making certain online comments about the email, was detrimental to the welfare of the PBA.

Again quoting from the decision in Polin v Kaplan noted above, the Appellate Division said "If there be any public policy touching the government of labor unions, and there can be no doubt that there is, it is that traditionally democratic means of improving their union may be freely availed of by members without fear of harm or penalty. And this necessarily includes the right to criticize current union leadership. . . . The price of free expression and of political opposition within a union cannot be the risk of expulsion or other disciplinary action. In the final analysis, a labor union profits, as does any democratic body, more by permitting free expression and free political opposition than it may ever lose from any disunity that it may thus evidence."

The Appellate Division's decision also ruled that "there is no rational basis for the conclusion that a brief physical altercation between [Montero] and another member "prejudice[d] the welfare" of the [PBA].

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/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

Caution:

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.

THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material in this blog is presented with the understanding that the publisher is not providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader should seek such advice from a competent professional.

Items published in NYPPL may not be used for commercial purposes without prior written permission to copy and distribute such material. Send your request via e-mail to publications@nycap.rr.com

Copyright© 1987 - 2017 by the Public Employment Law Press.



___________________



N.B. From time to time a political ad or endorsement may appear in the sidebar of this Blog. NYPPL does not have any control over such posting.

_____________________

.