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October 17, 2017

Negotiating disciplinary procedures for City of Schenectady police officers held a prohibited subject of collective bargaining


Negotiating disciplinary procedures for City of Schenectady police officers held a prohibited subject of collective bargaining
City of Schenectady v New York State Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 2017 NY Slip Op 07210, Court of Appeals

The City of Schenectady [Schenectady], under color of §133 of Article 9 of Second Class Cities Law, had announced that it would no longer be bound by negotiated police disciplinary procedures then set out in a collective bargaining agreement between Schenectady and the Schenectady Police Benevolent Association [PBA]. Schenectady advised PBA that was replacing the contract disciplinary procedure, under which an employee upon whom disciplinary charges had been served had the right of appeal to an arbitrator, and, instead, unilaterally adopted disciplinary procedures that substituted the Public Safety Commissioner for the arbitrator as the ultimate administrative disciplinary decision maker.

PBA challenged the City's action, obtained a favorable ruling from the Public Employment Relations Board and ultimately the matter was considered by the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division opined that the Taylor Law mandates that disciplinary procedures for all public employees be the subject of good faith collective bargaining, commenting that “courts have long recognized the 'strong and sweeping policy of the State to support collective bargaining under the Taylor Law." The Appellate Division then ruled that "the presumption is that all terms and conditions of employment are subject to mandatory bargaining" [City of Schenectady v New York State Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 136 AD3d 108].

Schenectady challenged the Appellate Division ruling and appealed the matter to the Court of Appeals. NYPPL summarized* the issue presented in Schenectady's appeal of the Appellate Division's decision to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals framed the issue before it as "Schenectady asks us to reverse the holding of the Appellate Division that the relevant provisions of the Second Class Cities Law were superseded by the enactment of the Taylor Law and thus collective bargaining applies to police discipline in Schenectady."

Noting that this was not the first time it had addressed the impact of the Taylor Law with respect to the issue of police discipline, the Court of Appeals said that its rulings in Matter of Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn., 6 NY3d 563, and Matter of Town of Wallkill, 19 NY3d 1066, resolved the question at issue here: "Is there a public policy strong enough to justify excluding police discipline from collective bargaining?"

In Patrolmen's Benevolent Association the Court of Appeals held that the New York City Charter and Administrative Code gave the police commissioner "cognizance and control over the . . . discipline of the department" and the authority "to punish [an] offending party." In Town of Wallkill, the Court of Appeals pointed out that Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. was "dispositive where Wallkill had enacted a local law vesting disciplinary power with the Town Board.

In Schenectady the Court of Appeals concluded that the Second Class Cities Law, enacted prior to Civil Service Law §§75 and 76, specifically "commits police discipline to the police commissioner" and sets out the relevant disciplinary  procedures.

Finding that the Taylor Law's general command regarding collective bargaining was not sufficient to displace the more specific authority granted by the Second Class Cities Law, the Court of Appeals ruled that its decisions in Matter of Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn.and Matter of Town of Wallkillcontrol and police discipline is a prohibited subject of collective bargaining with respect to the City of Schenectady.

The Court of Appeals then reversed, with costs, the Appellate Division's ruling and annulled the determination of the Public Employment Relations Board challenged by Schenectady.

* NYPPL's analysis of the issues before the Court of Appeals are posted on the Internet at: https://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2017/09/court-of-appeal-to-determine-whether.html

The Court of Appeals' decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2017/2017_07210.htm

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