December 3, 2018

Court denies educator's motion to rescind a settlement agreement resolving a disciplinary action because the educator had a change of mind


Court denies educator's motion to rescind a settlement agreement resolving a disciplinary action because the educator had a change of mind
Nobile v Board of Educ. of the City Sch. Dist. of the City of N.Y., 2018 NY Slip Op 08065, Appellate Division, First Department

Philip Nobile, a former tenured teacher employed by the New York City Department of Education [DOE], sought to rescind a stipulation with DOE settling disciplinary charges brought against him. The stipulation, signed by Nobile, his attorney, and DOE's attorney on October 7, 2016, provided that in exchange for DOE's agreement to discontinue the disciplinary hearing on the pending misconduct charges and to take no further disciplinary action against Nobile while Nobile agreed "to irrevocably retire from his employment with [DOE], effective close of business January 31, 2017."

Annexed to the stipulation was a letter signed by Nobile addressed to the District Superintendent stating, "I hereby irrevocably retire from [DOE], effective close of business January 31, 2017." The stipulation contained a signature line for the Superintendent, who signed it several days later. However before the Superintendent signed the stipulation Nobile notified DOE that he had changed his mind and wanted to rescind the stipulation. When DOE rejected Nobile's efforts to rescind the stipulation, Nobile sued. Supreme Court dismissed Nobile's the complaint and granted DOE's motion to dismiss the complaint, which actions were unanimously affirmed by the Appellate Division.

Although Nobile argued that the stipulation was unenforceable when he changed his mind because not all the parties had signed it, the Appellate Division held that "[t]his argument is unavailing." The court explained that the stipulation signed by Nobile and the attorney acting on behalf of DOE is binding under general contract principles, citing Hallock v State of New York, 64 NY2d 224, as Nobile failed to show that there was fraud, collusion, mistake or accident with respect to the execution of the settlement by Nobile, or that DOE's counsel lacked DOE's consent to enter into the stipulation. Nor, said the Appellate Division, was Nobile's parol evidence, offered to show that the parties did not intend to be bound by the stipulation until the Superintendent had signed it, admissible to add to or vary the terms of the writing.

As Nobile's agreement to retire was irrevocable, and he understood its consequences, his change of mind is not a cause sufficient to set aside his agreement to the stipulation  (see Barclay v Citibank, N.A., 136 AD3d 551, lv to appeal dismissed 27 NY3d 1077).

Nor was Nobile's parol evidence, offered to show that the parties did not intend to be bound by the stipulation until the Superintendent had signed it, admissible to add to or vary the terms of the writing.

A similar result applies with respect to an employee's attempting to withdraw his or her resignation.

Smith v Kunkel, 152 AD2d 893, concerned the issue of an employer’s refusal to permit an employee to withdraw a resignation following its delivery to the appropriate appointing authority.

Smith, a permanent state employee with the State Division of Equalization and Assessment, submitted his resignation for “personal reasons.” The resignation was dated August 21 and was to take effect the following September 3.

On August 29 Smith wrote the Division “seeking to withdraw and rescind” his resignation. Kunkel, the Division’s Administrative Officer, noting that the resignation had been “accepted on August 21,”* refused to approve Smith’s request to withdraw his resignation, citing 4 NYCRR 5.3(c) of the Rules for the Classified Service.**

Further, §5.3 of the Rules provides that if an effective date is specified in the resignation it takes effect on that date; if no date is specified it takes effect “upon delivery or filing in the office of the appointing authority.” 4 NYCRR 5.3 tracks Public Officers Law §31.2 as to the submission of resignations by public officers.

Under the Rules, however, the appointing authority may disregard the resignation in the event disciplinary charges have been filed, or are about to be filed, against the employee and proceed with the disciplinary action notwithstanding the receipt of the resignation.

Finally, the ruling in Silverman v McGuire, 51 NY2d 228, suggests that where the appointing authority makes the final determination with respect to approving the terms and conditions of a stipulation settling a disciplinary action it would be prudent for:

1. The employer’s representative to insist that any settlement of a disciplinary action include a statement to the effect that the settlement is subject to the approval of the appointing authority; and

2. The employee or the employee’s representative to insist on a provision spelling out what is to happen if the appointing officer does not agree to imposed the penalty set out in the settlement proposal.

* Except were otherwise provided by law, all that is required for a resignation to become operative is its delivery to the appointing authority; approval or acceptance of the resignation is not required for the resignation to take effect [Hazelton v Connelly, 25 NYS2d 74]. At most, all that an appointing authority might do is to “acknowledge the receipt” of the employee’s resignation.

** 4 NYCRR 5.3(c) applies to employees of the State as the employer. Many local civil service commissions and personnel officers have adopted a similar rule.

The Nobile decision is posted on the Internet at:

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