Friday, April 07, 2017

Termination of a public officer from his or her position by operation of law


Termination of a public officer from his or her position by operation of law
Munroe v Ponte, 2017 NY Slip Op 02041, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction [Department] summarily terminated Timothy Munroe, a New York City Correction Officer, from his position pursuant to Public Officers Law §30(1)(e) following Munroe's conviction of a misdemeanor, falsifying business records in the second degree.

POL §30(1)(e) provides for the dismissal of a public officer "by operation of law" upon the officer's conviction of a felony, or a crime involving a violation of his oath of office.

Munroe was served with disciplinary charges in March 2009 alleging that he left his assigned post without permission and had "an undue relationship" with an inmate and making "false entries in the . . . enhanced security post logbook." In October 2009, Munroe was indicted on several charges, including falsifying business records in the second degree and attempted assault in the third degree and in 2013 he was convicted of violating Penal Law § 175.05[1], falsifying business records in the second degree.

Notified in February 2014 that his employment was terminated pursuant to Public Officers Law §30(1)(e), in August 2014 Munroe initiated a CPLR Article 78 action alleging, among other things, that his termination was arbitrary and capricious. The Department moved to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the petition failed to state a cause of action and that the proceeding was time-barred.

Supreme Court granted the Department's motion on the ground that the proceeding was time-barred, and dismissed the proceeding. The Appellate Division affirmed Munroe's termination but "on a different ground than that relied upon by the Supreme Court."

After explaining why Munroe's Article 78 action was not untimely, the Appellate Division ruled that "[p]ursuant to Public Officers Law §30(1)(e), an office is deemed vacant upon an officer's "conviction of a felony, or a crime involving a violation of his [or her] oath of office".]*

Citing Feola v Carroll, 10 NY3d at 573, the Appellate Division said that "Summary dismissal is . . . justified in circumstances where [a] misdemeanor for which the officer is convicted demonstrat[es] a lack of moral integrity,' namely, one that involves a willful deceit or a calculated disregard for honest dealings.'"  In this instance, said the court, Munroe was convicted of falsifying business records in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor, an offense involving willful deceit, and which resulted in the "automatic vacatur of his position pursuant to Public Officers Law §30(1)(e)."

The Appellate Division ruled that under the circumstances in this case Munroe's Article 78 petition failed to set forth allegations sufficient to make out a claim that his termination was made in violation of lawful procedure, was affected by an error of law or was arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion.

* Although not all public employees are public officers, all public officers are public employees.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



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