To search this database type in a word or phrase in the box in the upper left and any material containing the word or phrase will be displayed for your review.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A police officer's accident disability retirement benefits are to be offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension


A police officer's accident disability retirement benefits are to be offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension
Andino v Mills, 2018 NY Slip Op 04273, Court of Appeals

Does a retired New York City police officer's accident disability retirement (ADR) benefits are a collateral source that a court must offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension?

The Court of Appeals held that a New York City retired police officer's accident disability retirement (ADR) benefits does so operate by [1] replacing earnings during the period when the officer could have been employed absent the disabling injury and then [2] serving as pension allotments. Accordingly, a court must offset the retiree's projected ADR benefits against the jury award for both categories of economic loss.*

Niurka Andino [Plaintiff] is a retired police officer who was injured on duty while riding in a police car that collided with a vehicle owned by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) and operated by NYCTA employee Ronald Mills [Defendants].

Defendants moved to offset the jury award pursuant to CPLR §4545, which permits a court to find that certain awarded damages were or will, with reasonable certainty, be replaced or indemnified from a collateral source. Defendants contended that "when a police officer retires due to an on-the-job injury that leaves the officer disabled, the ADR benefits allotted to that officer for those years when the officer could have been working, if not for the disability, operate as lost earnings. Once the retired officer reaches the age for regular retirement from service, absent the retirement-inducing injury, ADR benefits serve as a pension."

Andino argued that [1] "there is no direct correspondence between her ADR benefits and the categories of economic loss awarded by the jury" and [2] "that ADR displaces Ordinary Disability Retirement (ODR), and the higher amount of ADR benefits as compared with ODR allotments is paid as a reward for services previously rendered." As the Court of Appeals characterized Andino's argument, "... the premium in ADR benefits as compared to ODR benefits is neither "earnings" nor "pension" but paid in gratitude for past services".

The Court of Appeals explained that ADR benefits, and the text and legislative intent of CPLR §4545, as interpreted by the court in Oden v Chemung County, 87 NY2d 81,** provide the basis for concluding that "ADR benefits operate sequentially as payment for future lost earnings and pension benefits." Accordingly, said the court, on a motion pursuant to CPLR §4545, "a court must apply ADR benefits, dollar-for-dollar, to offset the jury award for future lost earnings during the period they represent lost earnings, and future lost pension during the period they represent lost pension."

The court also rejected Andino's alternative argument that "ADR benefits are a 'reward' for the retiree's service which may not be offset against a jury award" as unpersuasive, explaining that "there is no support in the Administrative Code or CPLR §4545 or any available legislative history to treat ADR benefits as a category on its own, exempt from mandatory offset." In any event, said the court, "even if the Legislature sought to reward service members like Andino, who suffer an injury in the line of duty, that would not change the classification of ADR benefits as a replacement for lost earnings and pension allowances" as there is no legal justification for treating a portion of ADR benefits as a reward based on the 25% differential between ODR and ADR benefits. In the words of the Court of Appeals, "CPLR 4545 anticipates a dollar-for-dollar  offset" and that offset "is based on the category of reimbursement, not on a stratification of the collateral source total amount."

The case was remitted Supreme Court for further proceedings "in accordance with the opinion herein and, as so modified, affirmed," Judges Wilson dissenting in an opinion in which Judge Fahey concured.

* By stipulation, the parties agreed to set the period for future lost earnings at 19.24 years and future lost pension at 17.7 years.

** The specific facts of Oden, said the court, explain why that decision provides a different disposition than is called for Andino's case. In Oden, the plaintiff's private sector retirement pension benefits could not offset the jury's award for his future lost earnings because the pension allotments did "not necessarily correspond to any future earning capacity plaintiff might have had," because Oden "would have been free to earn income from his labor in other capacities without loss of his disability retirement pension benefits."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Employees of a state or a political subdivision of a state may not be required to pay an agency-shop fee to a union unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay such a fee

Employees of a state or a political subdivision of a state may not be required to pay an agency-shop fee to a union unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay such a fee
Janus v American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al, 85 U. S. ____ (2018).

Petitioner Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee whose collective bargaining unit is represented by a public-sector union [Union], refused to join the Union because he opposes many of its positions, including those taken by the Union in the course of collective bargaining. Janus, however, was required to pay an "agency shop fee" in lieu of paying "regular dues" to Union. The Governor of Illinois also opposed to many of the Union's positions and attempted to join in the litigation as a plaintiff but was held to "lack standing."

Janus, contending that the state law authorizing agency fees to be paid to a union representing state employees in collective bargaining was unconstitutional, sued the State of Illinois.

The United States Supreme Court held that the State’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violated the First Amendment, overruling its earlier decision in Abood v Detroit Board of Education, 431 U. S. 209.

In Abood the high court ruled that an agency shop fee may cover a union's expenditures attributable to those activities “germane” to the union’s collective-bargaining activities, referred to as chargeable expenditures, but may not cover the union’s political and ideological projects, i.e., nonchargeable expenditures.

Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts  and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and, Gorsuch joined. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion and Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Ginsburg and Breyer and Sotomayor joined.

In the words of the majority, "... States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees. The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Considering the employee's personnel history is setting a disciplinary penalty


Considering the employee's personnel history is setting a disciplinary penalty
Brizel v City of New York, 2018 NY Slip Op 03755, Appellate Division, First Department

Educator was served with disciplinary charges pursuant to Education Law §3020-a. The Arbitrator found the teacher, who had a 27-year career with the New York City Department of Education, guilty of misconduct and terminating his employment.

The Appellate Division confirmed the arbitration award, noting that the Educator's career, "was not without incident, as evidenced by his 2008 settlement of disciplinary charges." The court then observed that the Arbitrator "properly considered" an earlier settlement of those charges in setting the disiplinary penalty in this instance. In addition the Appellate Division noted that the Educator failed to acknowledge the gravity of his misconduct, continues to deny wrongdoing, and attempted to shift blame to his students.

Considering an employee's personnel history in setting a disciplinary penalty is permitted provided, as the Court of Appeals held in Bigelow v Trustees of the Village of Gouverneur, 63 NY2d 470 and Doyle v Ten Broeck, 52 NY2d 625, the individual is advised that this will be done and is given an opportunity to comment on the contents of his or her personnel file.

Further, as the court noted in Shafer v Board of Fire Commr., Selkirk Fire Dist., 107 AD3d 1229, a series of petty offenses by a single individual may have a cumulative impact in the setting of a penalty. In fact, courts have approved the dismissal of an employee for a series of misdeeds that if considered individually would not have been viewed as justifying termination.

In determining the appropriate penalty to be imposed, relevant issues include considering if this is the employee’s first offense of this nature, or is there a pattern of such offenses and had the employee been disciplined or served with disciplinary notice in the past.

In sustaining the Arbitrator's determination as to the penalty to be imposed in this instance, the Appellate Division said that "Under the circumstances presented, the penalty of termination does not shock our sense of fairness," citing Bolt v New York City Department of Education, 30 NY3d 1065.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Arbitration award found "imperfectly executed" vacated


Arbitration award found "imperfectly executed" vacated
Matter of The Professional, Clerical, Tech. Empls. Assn. (Board of Educ. for Buffalo City Sch. Dist.), 2018 NY Slip Op 04128, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Supreme Court granted the petition submitted by The Professional, Clerical, Technical Employees Association [Association] seeking to confirm an arbitration award and denied the Board of Education for Buffalo City School District's [Board] cross petition seeking a court order vacating the arbitration award.

The Appellate Division unanimously reversed the Supreme Court's ruling, on the law, and vacated the arbitration award, explaining:

1. The arbitration proceeding arose from Board's plan to transfer* certain employees previously assigned to work at a single location to new positions requiring them to alternate between two different work locations.

2. The arbitrator's opinion and award, among other things, found that Board had  involuntarily transferred the Association's grievants "to new positions" in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties, and directed the Board to compensate the grievants "for work performed at more than one location from November 30, 2013 until the end of the 2016 Budget Year."

3. Vacatur of the arbitration award is appropriate where the award failed to set forth the manner of computing monetary damages as CPLR Article 75 provides, in pertinent part, that an arbitration award "shall be vacated" where the arbitrator "so imperfectly executed [the award] that a final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made."**

The court noted that the Board's affidavit in support of the cross petition contained a statement that "none of the affected employees was terminated or had his or her compensation reduced as a result of the allegedly wrongful transfers."

However, said the Appellate Division, the arbitration award does not explain the basis for the arbitrator's directing the Board provide compensation allegedly owed to the grievants, nor does the award detail how that compensation should be calculated. Rather, said the court, "[i]t appears that the arbitrator merely copied verbatim the remedy requested by [the Association] rather than making findings of his own."

Accordingly, the Appellate Division reverse the Supreme Court's order, denied the Associations petition, granted the Association's cross petition, vacated the arbitration award, and remitted the matter to Supreme Court.

In addition, Supreme Court was instructed to then remit the matter to the arbitrator to determine whether any compensation is due the Association's grievants, and, if so, "to determine the amount of such compensation or how it can be calculated with reasonable precision."

* Although the term "transfer" is used to describe the personnel change that resulted in the submission of this grievance, the term "reassignment" would be a more accurate of the personnel change in this instance. A movement of an individual from one position to a second position subject to the jurisdiction of the same appointing authority is typically described as a "reassignment." In contrast, the movement of an employee from one position to a second position under the jurisdiction of a different appointing authority would constitute a "transfer" [see Rules for the Classified Civil Service of the County of Erie, Rule XVI].

** An award is indefinite or nonfinal within the meaning of the statute only if it leaves the parties unable to determine their rights and obligations; if it does not resolve the controversy submitted; or if it creates a new controversy.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Rejection of a hearing officer's finding of fact and determination by the appointing authority


Rejection of a hearing officer's finding of fact and determination by the appointing authority
Kelly v New York State Justice Ctr. for The Protection of People With Special Needs, 2018 NY Slip Op 03407, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Petitioner in this action was employed by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities at the Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Service Office as a treatment aid.

The New York State Justice Center for The Protection of People With Special Needs [Justice Center] received a report alleging that Petitioner "committed acts of neglect when [she] breached [her] duty towards multiple service recipients by failing to use appropriate and professional language in their presence."

Ultimately Justice Center informed Petitioner that after reviewing the evidence presented, it determined that a preponderance of the evidence supported a finding of abuse or neglect pursuant to Social Services Law §494 and the matter involving Petitioner's alleged "acts of neglect" was referred to Respondent's Administrative Hearings Bureau.

Following the hearing, an Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] concluded that the evidence did not establish that Petitioner had committed an act of neglect. Justice Center, however, rejected the ALJ's recommendation, finding that, "by a preponderance of the evidence," Petitioner had committed neglect. Petitioner then commenced an CPLR Article 78 proceeding challenging Justice Center's determination, which was transferred to the Appellate Division.

Petitioner argued that the Justice Center was required to adopt the ALJ's recommended decision.* The Appellate Division held that Petitioner's argument was "without merit."  It also disagreed with Petitioner's contention that Justice Center's regulation 14 NYCRR 700.13 conflicts with Social Services Law §494(1)(b), noting that the statute does not require that the ALJ's decision be final and binding upon Justice Center. Instead, the statute merely states that, in the event that a petition is not sustained by the ALJ, such finding must be reflected upon an amended record.

Addressing the authority of Justice Center's "Chief of Staff" to render a final determination, the Appellate Division ruled that "the death of Justice Center's Executive Director did not diminish the Chief of Staff's authority to act as a designee of the Executive Director and, as such designee, render a final determination."

Public Officers Law §9, in pertinent part, provides ... Deputies, their appointment, number and duties. Every deputy ... in case of [the officer's] absence from the office or  his [or her] inability to act, or in case of a vacancy in the office, and if he [or she] shall fail to make such designation, the deputy ... shall so act. If a vacancy in a public office shall be caused by the death of the incumbent, the deputies shall, unless otherwise provided by law, continue to hold office until the vacancy shall have been filled in  accordance with law.

* With respect to court upholds appointing authority's rejection of hearing officer findings, In the Matter of Linda Ziehm, 90 A.D.2d 677, Affd, 59 N.Y.2d 757, the Appellate Division held that where the record contained substantial evidence affording a rational basis for the appointing authority determination, the appointing authority's determination will be sustained. See, also, Delgrande v Greenville Fire Dist., 126 AD3d 968 and Perfetto v Erie Co. Water Auth., 298 A.D.2d 932.  [The appointing authority may reject the findings and recommendations of a hearing officer if its decision is supported by substantial evidence.] Further, in Weill v New York City Dept. of Educ., 61 AD3d 407, the decision notes that the administrative body, rather than its attorney, must indicate the basis for its administrative action or decision.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Friday, June 22, 2018

An adminsitrative tribunal may not rely on evidence not in the record in arriving at its decision


An adminsitrative tribunal may not rely on evidence not in the record in arriving at its decision
Kaplan v New York City Tr. Auth., 2018 NY Slip Op 04068, Appellate Division, Third Department

It is "black letter law" that all administrative agencies must render decisions based on the evidence contained in the record pertaining to the particular case before it.

In this case the Workers' Compensation Board [Board] ruled that the employee's death did not arise out of and in the course of his employment* and denied his survivor's [Claimant] application for workers' compensation death benefits.

The Appellate Division, noting that as required of every administrative agency, the Board must render decisions based on the evidence contained in the record pertaining to the particular case before it said that here the Board relied on medical records "apparently contained in the case file for a separate claim" filed by decedent based on a 2014 fall at work and that one page is the only medical record from 2014 that was included in the current record.

The Board, said the court, relied heavily upon medical records contained in the case file for the 2014 claim although the employer did not request that the Board rely on those 2014 records. Further was the procedure for introducing additional evidence into the administrative appeal that was not before the Workers' Compensation Law Judge was not complied with and the Board's rule provides that, if that procedure is not followed, the Board "will not" consider such new evidence.

The Appellate Division said that Claimant was prejudiced because she was not on notice  until she received the Board decision that the Board would rely on documents from another case file.

The employer contended that 2014 medical reports cannot be objectionable because they accurately reflect the treatment rendered. The court said it could not verify that claim without reviewing those reports.

The Appellate Division also rejected the employer's argument "that no response to the medical records would change the strength of either side's argument"  as constituting "mere speculation" and had those records been properly introduced, either party "may have chosen to submit additional medical records reflecting on decedent's medical treatment from November 2014 until his death in July 2015 had the parties been on notice that this period of treatment would be at issue."

Finally, the court said it could not assume that the Board would have reached the same decision had it not considered the medical records from the earlier case file in view of the fact that "[t]he Board referred to more than one of those medical records, indicated that it considered at least 27 pages and quoted at length from one 2014 document that it found to be 'most telling with respect to the cause of the decedent's death,'" noting that "[i]n one specific finding, the Board stated that any presumption of compensability was rebutted by Brief's medical opinion and the medical evidence in the case file associated with the other claim."

Finding that the Board improperly relied upon documents outside the record, which were not before Court for its review, the Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court's ruling dismissing Claimant's appeal and remitted the matter to the Board "for further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's decision."

* To be compensable under the Workers' Compensation Law, an accidental injury must arise both out of and in the course of employment. In situations where there an unwitnessed or unexplained death occurs during the course of employment is involved, the claimant is relieved of the obligation to submit prima facie medical evidence of a causal relationship but that presumption "may be rebutted if substantial evidence demonstrates that the death was not work related."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Adjudicating the impact of a statute or a regulation that impairs obligations of the parties set out in collective bargaining agreements


Adjudicating the impact of a statute or a regulation that impairs obligations of the parties set out in collective bargaining agreements
Buffalo Teachers Fedn., Inc. v Elia, 2018 NY Slip Op 04061, Appellate Division, Third Department

This appeal sought court review of three determinations of the Commissioner of Education resolving disputes between the Buffalo Federation of Teachers [Federation] and the Buffalo City School District [District] concerning the negotiation of a receivership agreement pursuant to the Education Transformation Act of 2015* which provided for the "[t]akeover and restructuring of failing schools."

The Act restricts the subject matter of the receivership agreement to "the length of the school day; the length of the school year; professional development for teachers and administrators; class size; and changes to the programs, assignments, and teaching conditions in the school receivership." The Act further provides that if the parties are unable to reach an agreement with regard to "unresolved issues" must ultimately be submitted to the Commissioner for resolution, whereupon "the Commissioner has five days to resolve the issues in accord with standard collective bargaining principles."

One of the question presented in this appeal was whether the Act was "reasonable and necessary to further the significant and legitimate public interest in 'maximiz[ing] the rapid achievement of students' at schools deemed to be persistently struggling and struggling" with respect to the impairment of provisions set out in a collective bargaining agreement between the parties.

Citing Energy Reserves Group, Inc. v Kansas Power and Light Co., 459 US 400, the Appellate Division observed that "[g]enerally, where a statute or regulation impairs a private contract, courts will defer to a legislature's rationale with regard to its necessity."

In contrast, said the court, less deference is warranted [to the legislature's rationale] where the statute or regulation "is self-serving and impairs the obligations of [the state's] own contracts" because "a [s]tate is not completely free to consider impairing the obligations of its own contracts on a par with other policy alternatives." Further, the Appellate Division continued, "less deference [to the legislature's rationale] may be warranted even where, as here, the state is not a party to an impaired public contract."

The tests applied in determining if an impairment is reasonable and necessary under a "less deference scrutiny" analysis, must be shown that the state did not:

"(1) consider impairing the contracts on par with other policy alternatives; or

"(2) impose a drastic impairment when an evident and more moderate course would serve its purpose equally well; nor

"(3) act unreasonably in light of the surrounding circumstances."

Assuming, without deciding, that the "less deferential standard" applied in this instance, the Appellate Division found that applying the relevant provision of the Education Law was  reasonable and necessary both on its face and as applied, explaining that "the receivership agreement was necessary in order to implement available methods to address the immediate issues that were facing the struggling or persistent struggling schools."

The court observed that the statute provides that the Superintendent of Schools must act in accordance with the existing collective bargaining agreement and, "where, as here, a receivership agreement is requested, the statute limits the scope of the agreement — and impairment." Further, "no modification or impairment can be unilaterally imposed but instead must be negotiated."

The Appellate Division concluded that "As applied, although an agreement was not reached with regard to all issues, the modifications imposed were applicable to the affected schools only for the time limited by the statute" which applied prospectively and limited the scope, application and duration of any modifications to existing agreements, while prohibiting any adverse financial impact. This, said the court, "was reasonably designed and necessary to further the goal of helping students to succeed."

Noting that the Federation contended that there were "means and methods that would be much more effective," the Appellate Division decided that "the relative wisdom of the statute is not for [it] to consider" and  remitted the matter to State Education Department for "further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's decision."

* Laws of 2015, Chapter 56, Part EE, Subpart H, §§1 and 2.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits and examinations have been issued


New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits and examinations have been issued
Source: Office of the State Comptroller, June 19, 2018

Click on text highlighted in color to access the full report.
For the three fiscal years ended June 30, 2015, auditors identified $1,727,960 in reported costs that did not comply with SED requirements for reimbursement, including $1,519,114 in improperly calculated parent agency administrative allocation costs.
Based on the findings of 35 reports, auditors determined significant cost savings to NYSHIP would occur if more out-of-network providers who improperly waive members’ out-of-pocket costs ended this practice and joined the Empire Plan network. Additionally, out-of-network providers who join the Empire Plan benefit plan members by expanding the number of in-network providers from which members can choose. Auditors recommended that action be taken to recover overpayments and prevent out-of-network providers from improperly waiving members’ out-of-pocket costs.

Department of Health (DOH): Examination of Official Station Designation (2015-BSE1-04)
DOH’s designation of the official station for an employee in calendar years 2013 and 2014 was not made in accordance with the state’s travel rules and regulations. As a result of an improper official station designation, DOH paid $16,089.56 and $22,033.71 in travel expenses during calendar years 2013 and 2014 for the employee to commute between his residence and an alternate work location.
The city’s Department of Homeless Services, working under DSS, did not have adequate written standard operating procedures to guide staff on how to perform and document the required oversight reviews and inventory record-keeping practices at shelter locations. DHS did not consistently comply with its own policies to perform periodic reviews of shelter providers’ security expenditures. Auditors found significant compliance-related issues that accounted for $2.2 million in insufficiently documented and/or questionable security expenses. DHS also did not ensure that providers complied with competitive bidding requirements and maintained adequate supporting documentation.

Find out how your government money is spent at Open Book New York. Track municipal spending, the state's 145,000 contracts, billions in state payments and public authority data. Visit the Reading Room for contract FOIL requests, bid protest decisions and commonly requested data.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Determining if a police officer acted within the scope of his or her employment for the purposed of the employer providing for defense and indemnification

Determining if a police officer acted within the scope of his or her employment for the purposed of the employer providing for defense and indemnification
Lemma v Nassau County Police Officer Indem. Bd., 2018 NY Slip Op 04382, Court of Appeals

General Municipal Law §50-1 provides for defense and indemnification of Nassau County police officers, requiring indemnification for civil "damages, including punitive or exemplary damages, arising out of a negligent act or other tort of such police officer committed while in the proper discharge of [the officer's] duties and within the scope of [the officer's] employment."

In this CPLR Article 78 proceeding, the issue is whether the Nassau County Police Officer Indemnification Board's determination revoking a prior defense and indemnification determination in favor of a Nassau County police officer, [Petitioner] was irrational. To answer that question, the Appellate Division said that it must determine the meaning of the phrase "proper discharge of . . . duties" in the context of this statute. Its conclusion: the Board's finding that Petitioner's conduct was not "proper" within the meaning of the statute was rational.

The genesis of this action was an arrest of one Raheem Crews [Crews] for a crime. A few days later, on June 1, 2005, Petitioner questioned another suspect, who admitted his own involvement but said that Crews was in jail at the time of the robbery. That same day, Petitioner confirmed via a police database search that Crews was incarcerated on the date of the robbery. Despite knowledge that Crews could not have been one of the perpetrators, Petitioner told no one.

It was not until September, after Crews was arraigned on an indictment listing the date of the robbery as March 26, 2005, that defense counsel demonstrated that Crews had been incarcerated on that date, securing his immediate release and dismissal of the charges.

Crews commenced an action in federal court pursuant to 42 USC §1983 against Petitioner, among others and Nassau County, unaware at that time that Petitioner had known and failed to disclose that Crews was in jail on the date of the crime, offered to represent and indemnify Petitioner pursuant to General Municipal Law §50-1, based on the Board's initial determination that any actions taken by Petitioner that might give rise to liability were within the scope of Petitioner's employment and a proper discharge of his duties. When some years later, as the result of Petitioner being deposed in the Crews case, it was revealed for the first time that Petitioner had learned a few days after the arrest that Crews was in jail on the date of the robbery, the Board reopened its decision to indemnify Petitioner and held a hearing. Ultimately the Board voted to revoke defense and indemnification.

In affirming the Board's decision, the Appellate Division held, among other things, that "the Board rationally interpreted General Municipal Law §50-1 to limit defense and indemnification, reasoning that the word "proper" was "added . . . to exclude indemnification for intentional misconduct."

Petitioner next sought permission to appeal the Appellate Division's ruling and the Court of Appeals granted Petitioner's motion.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division decision, noting that "Where, as here, no administrative hearing was required, judicial review of an agency determination is limited to whether the Board's determination was irrational or arbitrary and capricious." Citing Williams v City of New York, 64 NY2d 800, the court explaining that an administrative determination of a board or agency involving employee indemnification "may be set aside only if it lacks a factual [or legal] basis, and in that sense, is arbitrary and capricious."

Noting that General Municipal Law §50-1 authorizes Nassau County to defend and indemnify police officers named as defendants in civil actions or proceedings, providing indemnification from "any judgment . . . for damages, including punitive or exemplary damages, arising out of a negligent act or other tort of such police officer committed while in the proper discharge of [the officer's] duties and within the scope of [the officer's] employment" the statute provides that "[s]uch proper discharge and scope shall be determined by a majority vote of a panel" appointed by various Nassau County officials, the Court of Appeals concluded that "[t]he legislature, thus, left the determination of whether the statutory prerequisites are met to the discretion of the Board."

Significantly, the Court of Appeals said that "[t]he decision whether to defend and indemnify a police officer is typically made by the Board at the beginning of litigation or upon discovery of facts previously unknown — long before the facts are litigated and a judgment of punitive damages is ever rendered. The Board may take a different view of the facts than is ultimately adopted by a jury in the underlying civil action against the officer."

Concluding that the Board's determination that Petitioner's conduct was not in the "proper discharge of his duties" was not arbitrary and capricious and that there was evidence supporting the Board's finding the decision notes that "despite knowledge that Crews could not have committed the robbery for which he had been arrested and charged (and for which he remained in pretrial detention for four months), [Petitioner], by his own admission, remained silent — conduct antithetical to proper police work that resulted in a man's loss of liberty."

Holding that the Board's determination was rational, the Court of Appeal held that it was entitled to deference and must be sustained."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Monday, June 18, 2018

Proper service of the petition and notice of the petition of an appeal to the Commissioner of Education critical to the Commissioner assuming jurisdiction


Proper service of the petition and notice of the petition of an appeal to the Commissioner of Education critical to the Commissioner assuming jurisdiction
Appeal of J.M from action of the Board of Education of the Croton-Harmon Union Free School District, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,402

In some instances an appeal to the Commissioner of Education is dismissed for failure to comply with certain procedural requirements. The appeal of J.M. illustrates one of the reasons why an appeal is rejected on technical grounds, in this instance for lack of proper service of the appeal on the respondent parties.

Croton-Harmon Union Free School District, in its reply to J.M.'s appeal, contended that the appeal must be dismissed for lack of proper service. The Commissioner agreed, explaining that the Commissioner’s regulation requires that the petition be personally served upon each named respondent as set out in 8 NYCRR §275.8(a).*

In the event a school district is named as a respondent, 8 NYCRR §275.8(a) requires that service upon the school district "shall be made personally by delivering a copy of the petition to the district clerk, to any trustee or any member of the board of education, to the superintendent of schools, or to a person in the office of the superintendent who has been designated by the board of education to accept service."

J.M.'s affidavit of service indicated that the appeal was served upon the secretary to the superintendent.  Although the affidavit of service attests that the secretary was “duly authorized to accept service,” Croton-Harmon said that the secretary has not been designated by it to accept service on behalf of the school district or the superintendent. 

The Commissioner, noting that J.M. did not submitted a reply or otherwise responded to the Croton-Harmon’s "motion to dismiss" J.M.'s appeal, said that in the event there is no proof that an individual is authorized to accept service on behalf of respondent, "service is improper and the appeal must be dismissed."

The Commissioner observed that considering the record before her, "I cannot conclude that [J.M.] properly served a copy of the notice of petition and petition on [Croton-Harmon]" and, accordingly, J.M.'s appeal must be dismissed.

Another common procedural defect resulting in the dismissal of the appeal is the petitioner's failure to serve a "necessary party" as required by 8 NYCRR 277.1(b).**

A "necessary party" is a  party whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination of an appeal in favor of a petitioner and must be joined as such. Further, joinder as a necessary party requires that an individual be clearly named as a necessary party by name in the caption of the petition and served with a copy of the notice of petition and petition to inform the individual that he or she should respond to the petition and enter a defense.

Further, it is the petitioner's burden to properly serve the petition and the service of the petition and the petitioner must submit evidence that that has been done. In the absence of such evidence, the Commissioner has ruled that the appeal must be dismissed "for improper service."

* 8 NYCRR 275.8, service of pleadings and supporting papers, provides as follows:

(a) Petition. A copy of the petition, together with all of petitioner's affidavits, exhibits, and other supporting papers, except a memorandum of law (unless the appeal is a charter school location/co-location appeal pursuant to section 276.11 of this Title, in which case the memorandum of law shall be served with the petition) or an affidavit in support of a reply, shall be personally served upon each named respondent, or, if a named respondent cannot be found upon diligent search, by delivering and leaving the same at the respondent's residence with some person of suitable age and discretion, between six o'clock in the morning and nine o'clock in the evening, or as otherwise directed by the commissioner. If a school district is named as a party respondent, service upon such school district shall be made personally by delivering a copy of the petition to the district clerk, to any trustee or any member of the board of education of such school district, to the superintendent of schools, or to a person in the office of the superintendent who has been designated by the board of education to accept service. If a board of cooperative educational services is named as a party respondent, service upon such board shall be made personally by delivering a copy of the petition to the district superintendent, to a person in the office of the district superintendent who has been designated by the board to accept service, or to any member of the board of cooperative educational services. Pleadings may be served by any person not a party to the appeal over the age of 18 years. If the last day for service of the petition falls on a Saturday or Sunday, service may be made on the following Monday; and if the last day for such service falls on a legal holiday, service may be made on the following business day.

** In Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision #16,853 the Commissioner noted that although a necessary party had not been named in "the original petition," her Office of Counsel had advised the all the parties that the petitioner's earlier request to join an individual as a necessary party was granted. Consequently, said the Commissioner, “in this instance, I find the failure to include that [individual] in the original petition is not a basis for dismissal of this appeal."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Friday, June 15, 2018

A party filing a motion seeking a permanent stay of a demand for arbitration must satisfy a "two-part test" to prevail


A party filing a motion seeking a permanent stay of a demand for arbitration must satisfy a "two-part test" to prevail
Village of Garden City v Professional Firefighters Assn. of Nassau County, Local 1588, 2018 NY Slip Op 03688, Appellate Division, Second Department

This proceeding involved a dispute between Village of Garden City [Village],  and the Professional Firefighters Association of Nassau County, Local 1588 [PFA] concerning  Village's implementation of a staffing protocol that was formulated to ensure compliance with a prior arbitration award that was earlier confirmed by this court.* The arbitrator in the earlier arbitration had found that the Village violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement [CBA] by assigning the operation of first-line equipment to volunteer firefighters rather than to paid firefighters represented by PFA.  

PFA filed a grievance contending that the new protocol continued to improperly assign the operation of first-line equipment to volunteer firefighters and demanded arbitration. The Village objected to submitting this new grievance to arbitration and filed an Article 75 petition seeking a permanent stay of the arbitration. Supreme Court issued denied the Village's petition and granting PFA's motion to compel arbitration of the grievance. The Village appealed the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court properly denied the Village's petition to permanently stay arbitration of the grievance and granted PFA's motion to compel the arbitration of the grievance noting that in the earlier proceeding it had ruled that  grievances challenging the operation of first-line equipment by volunteers were arbitrable.

Referring to the two-part test used by the courts to determine whether a dispute between a public sector employer and employee is arbitrable** the court explained that:

1. "Initially, the court must determine whether there is any statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition against arbitrating the grievance;

2. "If there is no prohibition against arbitrating, the court must examine the parties' collective bargaining agreement and determine if they in fact agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute;

3. "In examining the collective bargaining agreement, the court must merely determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the [agreement];

4. "If there is, the court should rule the matter arbitrable, and the arbitrator will then make a more exacting interpretation of the precise scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA, and whether the subject matter of the dispute fits within them."

As the Village was unable to demonstrate that arbitration of PFA's instant grievance was prohibited by statutory or public policy or that PFA's instant grievance was not reasonably related to the general subject matter of the CBA, the court again ruled that the question of the scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA was a matter of contract interpretation and application reserved for the arbitrator.



The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2018/2018_03688.htm

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Status of a spouse named as the primary beneficiary of a life insurance policy or similar instrument in the event the marriage is terminated by divorce


Status of a spouse named as the primary beneficiary of a life insurance policy or similar instrument in the event the marriage is terminated by divorce
Sveen, et el v Melin, United State Supreme Court, 584 U.S. ___ (Decided June 11, 2018)

Mark Sveen purchased a life insurance policy, naming his then spouse, Kaye Melin, as the primary beneficiary and designating his two children from a prior marriage, Ashley and Antone Sveen, as contingent beneficiaries. The Sveen-Melin marriage ended in 2007, but the divorce decree made no mention of the insurance policy and Sveen took no action to revise his beneficiary designations.

After Sveen passed away in 2011, Melin and the Sveen children made competing claims for the insurance proceeds. The Sveen children argued that under Minnesota’s revocation-on-divorce law, their father’s divorce canceled Melin’s designation as the primary beneficiary, leaving them as the lawful beneficiaries. Melin, on the other hand, contended that because the law* did not exist when the policy was purchased and she was therein named as the primary beneficiary, applying the later-enacted law to the policy with respect to her rights as the beneficiary violates the Contracts Clause of the Constitution of the United States.**

The Supreme Court observed that the legal system in the United States has long used default rules to resolve estate litigation in a way that conforms to the decedents’ presumed intent. In terms of the instant action, the law would assume that Mark would want the "default result," but, if he did not, he could have rename Melin as the beneficiary after the divorce took effect.

The Supreme Court held that the retroactive application of Minnesota’s statute does not violate the Contracts Clause, which restricts the power of States to disrupt contractual arrangements, but it does not prohibit all laws affecting pre-existing contracts.

The court noted that two tests are applied in such situations:

1. Does the state law result in as a "substantial impairment of a contractual relationship” by undermining a party’s reasonable expectations, and prevents the party from safeguarding or reinstating his, her or its rights.

2. If such factors show a substantial impairment, the inquiry turns to whether the state law is drawn in an “appropriate” and “reasonable” way to advance “a significant and legitimate public purpose.”

The Legal Department [Legal] of the New York State Teachers' Retirement System [NYSTRS] noted that Chapter 173 of the Laws of 2008, codified in the State's Estates, Powers and Trusts Law §5-1.4, addressed the impact of a divorce on the status of a former spouse's designation as a beneficiary. Legal also noted that NYSTRS "Fact Sheet Chapter 173 of the Laws of 2008", posted on the Internet  at http://www.nystrs.org/NYSTRS/media/PDF/Library/Publications/Ch173FactSheet.pdf, provides an overview of the law and the revocatory effect of divorce on designations or nominations of former spouses.

Legal also noted a recent court decision involving Chapter 173, McCauley v New York State Local Employees' Retirement System, 37 Misc 3d 868. In McCauley the court sustained the revocation of a former spouse as the beneficiary of a death benefit on the authority of Chapter 173.

In McCauley the court noted that the Laws of 2008, Chapter 173, §2 provides that "This act shall take effect immediately and shall apply only where the marriage of a person executing a disposition, appointment, provision or nomination in a governing instrument, as defined in EPTL 5-1.4(f)(5), such section as added by section one of this act, to or for the benefit of a former spouse ends in a divorce or annulment, as defined in EPTL 5-1.4(f)(2), on or after such effective date or, where such a marriage ends prior to such effective date, only where such a disposition, appointment, provision or nomination takes effect only at the death of the person who executes it and such person dies on or after the effective date of this act." (Emphasis supplied by the court.)

Significantly, Supreme Court observed that "While the member designated petitioner as a beneficiary and was divorced from petitioner prior to the enactment of chapter 173, the member passed away following its creation. ('This act shall take effect immediately . . . or, where such a marriage ends prior to such effective date, only where such a disposition, appointment, provision or nomination takes effect only at the death of the person who executes it and such person dies on or after the effective date of this act' [citing the Laws of 2008, Chapter 173, §2].) As the law, by its own terms, applies to all deaths on or after July 7, 2008, petitioner's claim has no merit."

The court also agreed with NYSLERS' contention that it was not required to give notice mandated by the State Administrative Procedure Act and Article IV, §8 of the New York State Constitution, explaining that "In this case there was no need for a 'rule,' since EPTL 5-4.1 prescribes by law that the death benefit in question was revoked upon the dissolution of the member's marriage to petitioner. EPTL 5-4.1 is self-implementing."

Further McCauley's reliance on internal policies and procedures adopted by NYSLERS following the enactment of Chapter 173 was misplaced, as these were "internal memoranda meant to explain how [NYSLERS's] employees should proceed under the newly enacted law." The memoranda, said the court, relied on existing regulations and laws for their stated conclusions and thus are interpretive and fall within the exception provided in the State Administrative Procedure Act.

* Minn. Stat. §524.2–804, subdivision 1 provides that if one spouse has made the other the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or similar asset, their divorce automatically revokes that designation.

** United States Constitution, Article I, §10.

The Sveen decision is posted on the Internet at: 

The McCauley decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_22283.htm

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Recent disciplinary findings and penalty recommendations of OATH Administrative Law Judges


Recent disciplinary findings and penalty recommendations of OATH Administrative Law Judges
Source: New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings

Employee's "whistleblower defense" rejected by Administrative Law Judge
OATH Index No. 1883/17

A New York City claims examiner raised a Civil Service Law §75-b whistleblower defense to misconduct charges filed against the individual

Administrative Law Judge Noel R. Garcia found the employee did not establish that the sole motivation for petitioner’s charges was to retaliate against the employee for the complaints that he had filed.

Rather, the ALJ found that the persons who investigated and prosecuted the disciplinary matter had an independent and good faith basis to file the charges.

Among Judge Garcia's findings:

1. Petitioner proved respondent took 288 days of unauthorized absence;

2. The individual operated of a personal watercraft in Florida while on leave for a purported injury; and

3. The employee submitted false documents during the hiring process that indicated that He was employed as an Assistant District Attorney during a period when he, in fact, worked as a paralegal.

Penalty recommended by the ALJ: termination of employment.  

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Only one of several disciplinary charges filed against the employee sustained by proof submitted by the appointing authority at the disciplinary hearing
OATH Index No. 1958/17

In response to complaints filed against a New York City correction officer, the correction officer was charged with aggravated harassment, violating EEO policies, failing to maintain professional boundaries with a female recruit and suppressing the recruit's report about his conduct.

OATH Administrative Law Judge Kara J. Miller found the evidence inconclusive on most charges because the witnesses for both sides had credibility issues, making it difficult for the appointing authority to sustain its burden of proof.

Judge Miller sustained only the charge that the officer failed to maintain professional boundaries by referring to the complainant as “redbone”.

A five-day suspension without pay was recommended.  

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Placing employee on "emergency involuntary leave" as authorized by CSL §72.5  sustained
OATH Index No. 1750/18

An employee challenged his placement on emergency involuntary leave for unfitness to perform his job duties due to mental disability pursuant to §72.5 of the Civil Service Law.

Co-workers credibly testified about the employee’s sudden, unprovoked outbursts, his verbal altercations with women who worked in his unit and his repeated, unsupported claims that the women are sexual predators who physically and verbally harassed him.

A psychiatrist who examined the employee found the employee was unfit because he could not get along with his co-workers.

ALJ Zorgniotti found petitioner proved that the employee was unfit and that petitioner properly placed him on emergency pre-hearing leave.  

The decisions is posted on the Internet at:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

School district resident alleges members of the board of education and school officials and staff of "incompetent, unethical, inappropriate and illegal behaviors."

School district resident alleges members of the board of education and school officials and staff of "incompetent, unethical, inappropriate and illegal behaviors." 
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Commissioner's decision 17,393

In view of the variety issues addressed by the Commissioner in her deciding this appeal by a district resident and taxpayer of the Beacon City School District, the decision is set out below in its entirety.

Appeal of MELISSA RUTKOSKE, on behalf of CONCERNED PARENTS OF BEACON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Beacon regarding board practices.

Decision No. 17,393

Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert, LLP, attorneys for respondent[1], Michael K. Lambert, Esq., of counsel

Elia, Commissioner:

Petitioner Melissa Rutkoske, a district resident and taxpayer, appeals on behalf of Concerned Parents of Beacon City School District (“Concerned Parents”) from various actions taken by the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Beacon (“respondent board”), its school attorney and superintendent (collectively, “respondents”).

The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner Rutkoske asserts that Concerned Parents is a group of parents who support and endorse the instant petition.  Petitioner Rutkoske is an individual taxpayer and community member who resides within respondent board’s district.  In her verification of the petition, petitioner Rutkoske asserts that she is “the Petitioner on behalf of the Concerned Parents of the Beacon City School District.” 

According to petitioner, between the fall of 2014 and a board of education meeting which allegedly occurred on October 14, 2015, respondent board and its officials and staff committed various actions which petitioner characterizes as “incompetent, unethical, inappropriate and illegal behaviors [which] are ongoing and continuous.”  Petitioner cites numerous examples of such conduct; for example, petitioner states that respondent board and respondent’s attorney allowed a board meeting to continue even though the meeting room was over “fire code capacity”; that unethical personal relationships existed between respondent board’s staff, officials and individuals within the district; that personal affairs as well as business were conducted using the district’s email system; that improper gifts were made from a district official to an official of the Beacon Teacher’s Association (“BTA”); that respondent board’s administrative power was used improperly to assist in teacher promotion, teacher transfer, and student placement; and that the school attorney failed to properly investigate or review such alleged improper behaviors. 

Petitioner seeks “[i]nvestigation, audit, and oversight” by the New York State Education Department into the above allegations.  Petitioner further seeks an order “[d]irecting the [b]oard to remove the [superintendent] for cause” and to hire a new law firm to represent the district.

Respondents claim, inter alia, that petitioner’s allegations are without merit and stem from a personal vendetta harbored by petitioner Rutkoske.  Respondents assert that Concerned Parents “is, at best, an unincorporated association” which lacks standing to maintain the instant appeal.  Respondents claim that petitioner inappropriately gained access to district emails attached as exhibits to the petition.  Respondents also argue that petitioner failed to properly identify a respondent or respondents in the caption of the appeal, thus mandating dismissal for failure to join necessary parties.  Respondents further contend that the petition must be dismissed for lack of proper service and as untimely. 

Respondents additionally claim that the officer of the BTA of whom petitioner complains has resigned and, thus, any matters regarding this individual are moot. 

Respondents also assert that petitioner has failed to establish a clear legal right to the relief sought.  Respondents also object to the fact that the petition does not contain petitioner’s name, telephone number, or post office address as required by 8 NYCRR §275.4(a).

As an initial matter, by letter dated January 25, 2016, respondents object to petitioner’s reply, claiming that it contains new material and was not served on their attorney as required by §275.8(b) of the Commissioner’s regulations.  Petitioner’s affidavit of service indicates that the reply was served upon “the Clerk of the Board.”  As respondents note, the Commissioner’s regulations require that “all subsequent pleadings and papers shall be served upon the adverse party or, if the adverse party is represented by counsel, upon such party’s attorney” (8 NYCRR §275.8[b]).  Accordingly, I have not considered petitioner’s reply (Appeal of Reis and Argus, 51 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,335).

Concerned Parents lacks standing to bring this appeal.  As respondents note, there is no evidence in the record suggesting that Concerned Parents is an incorporated association.  Petitioner has merely attached to her petition a list of signatures allegedly belonging to district residents who “support” the instant petition.  An unincorporated association lacks standing to maintain an appeal under Education Law §310 (Appeal of Radford, et al., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,282; Appeal of Torres, 46 id. 301, Decision No. 15,515).  Moreover, an individual representative of an unincorporated association has no greater standing to maintain an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 than the association itself (Appeal of Beilman, 38 Ed Dept Rep 644, Decision No. 14,109; Appeal of Ben-Reuben, et al., 33 id. 299, Decision No. 13,055).  Therefore, neither Concerned Parents nor petitioner Rutkoske, as an individual representative of such unincorporated association, may maintain the instant appeal.

However, although not entirely clear from the petition, to the extent petitioner Rutkoske intends to bring this proceeding on her own behalf as a district resident and taxpayer, she has standing to do so to the extent she is aggrieved.[2]  An individual may not maintain an appeal pursuant to Education Law §310 unless aggrieved in the sense that he or she has suffered personal damage or injury to his or her civil, personal or property rights (Appeal of Abitbol, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,333; Appeal of Waechter, 48 id. 261, Decision No. 15,853).  Only persons who are directly affected by the action being appealed have standing to bring an appeal (Appeal of Abitbol, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,333; Appeal of Waechter, 48 id. 261, Decision No. 15,853).  To the extent petitioner Rutkoske attempts to assert claims on behalf of other parents, however, she lacks standing to do so.  (Appeal of Walker, et al., 53 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,609; Appeals of Giardina and Carbone, 43 id. 395, Decision No. 15,030; Appeal of Gilmore and Jordon-Thompson, 42 id. 334, Decision No. 14,874). 

The appeal must be dismissed for failure to join necessary parties.  A party whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination of an appeal in favor of a petitioner is a necessary party and must be joined as such (Appeal of Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of Murray, 48 id. 517, Decision No. 15,934).  Joinder requires that an individual be clearly named as a respondent in the caption and served with a copy of the notice of petition and petition to inform the individual that he or she should respond to the petition and enter a defense (Appeal of Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of Murray, 48 id. 517, Decision No. 15,934).  As described herein, petitioner raises claims and seeks relief that, if granted, would adversely affect, at a minimum, the board, the superintendent and the school attorney.  However, she has failed to name any of them in the caption of the appeal. Indeed, the caption in this matter as submitted by petitioner Rutkoske reads as follows:

In the Matter of Concerned Parents of Beacon City School District
requesting New York State Education oversight due to
unethical, illegal and inappropriate conduct of the leadership of
the Beacon City School District.

Moreover, petitioner has not personally served the board, superintendent or school attorney.  Section 275.8(a) of the Commissioner’s regulations requires that the petition be personally served upon each named respondent.  If a school district is named as a respondent, service upon the school district shall be made personally by delivering a copy of the petition to the district clerk, to any trustee or any member of the board of education, to the superintendent of schools, or to a person in the office of the superintendent who has been designated by the board of education to accept service (8 NYCRR §275.8[a]; Appeal of B.H., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,246; Appeal of Peterson, 48 id. 530, Decision No. 15,939).  The record indicates that the instant appeal was served only upon the district treasurer.  Although petitioner’s affidavit of service indicates that the district treasurer is authorized to accept service on behalf of the district, the treasurer has submitted an affidavit herein whereby she attests that she is not authorized to accept service on behalf of the district. 

On this record, therefore, in light of the conflicting affidavits, I find that the evidence regarding service of the petition on respondent is in equipoise and petitioner has not met her burden of proving that proper service was made on respondent board (see Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 54 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,780; Appeal of Catalan, 47 id. 176, Decision No. 15,660; Appeal of M.D., 47 id. 51, Decision No. 15,623).

Moreover, the record contains no evidence of personal service upon the superintendent and school attorney.  Therefore, because each individual and entity would clearly be affected by a determination in petitioner’s favor, the appeal must be dismissed for failure to join necessary parties.

To the extent petitioner seeks an order directing respondent board to remove the superintendent, such request must also be dismissed as moot.  The Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Sutton, 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,331; Appeal of a Student with a Disability, 48 id. 532, Decision No. 15,940; Appeal of M.M., 48 id. 527, Decision No. 15,937).  I take administrative notice of information published on the district’s website indicating that Barbara Walkley is no longer the district’s superintendent.  Therefore, subsequent events have rendered petitioner’s request academic (see Appeal of Budich and MacDonald, 54 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,774).

Furthermore, petitioner’s request for the removal of the school district’s attorney and the hiring of a new law firm to replace him amounts to a request that I remove the school attorney pursuant to Education Law §306.  It is well established, however, that a school attorney is not an officer of the district and, therefore, not subject to removal from office by the Commissioner of Education (Application of Balen, 40 Ed Dept Rep 250, Decision No. 14,474; Application of Rojek and Spadone, 24 id. 434, Decision No. 11,453; Application of Sterling, 23 id. 294, Decision No. 11,223).  Accordingly, the appeal must be dismissed against the school attorney.

Finally, to the extent petitioner seeks an investigation, an audit, and/or the oversight by the New York State Education Department “into the behaviors of” the board and various individuals, including the superintendent and school attorney, an appeal to the Commissioner is appellate in nature and does not provide for investigations (Appeal of D.C., 57 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 17,223; Appeal of Huffine, 48 id. 386, Decision No. 15,893).

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties’ remaining contentions.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

[1]As described more fully below, the original caption submitted by petitioner in this matter identified only the “leadership of the Beacon City School District.”  As a result, respondent’s counsel asserts that, in “an exercise of caution,” the verified answer is submitted on behalf of the “leadership of the Beacon City School District.”

[2]In light of this determination, references below to “petitioner” refer to petitioner Rutkoske, the sole petitioner with standing to maintain the instant appeal.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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.