Procedural considerations relevant to conducting a disciplinary hearing pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law
Tinter v Board of Trustees of the Pound Ridge Lib. Dist., 2017 NY Slip Op 08385, Appellate Division, Second Department
In this appeal from a disciplinary determination following a Civil Service Law §75 disciplinary hearing that resulted in the termination of the employee [Petitioner], the Petitioner challenged, among other things, the authority of the hearing officer to conduct the hearing.
The Appellate Division said that the Board of Trustees of the Pound Ridge Library District's [Board] minutes reflecting a resolution to appoint the Hearing Officer and the letter addressed to the Hearing Officer on Pound Ridge Library letterhead and signed by the Board's president, advising that the Hearing Officer had been designated to hold a hearing on the disciplinary charges preferred against Petitioner and on "amendments or supplements to the charges as might thereafter be preferred ... sufficiently documented the validity of the Hearing Officer's appointment and satisfied the relevant provisions of Civil Service Law §75(2), citing McKenzie v Board of Education, City School District of Albany, 100 AD3d 1096.
Petitioner also challenged certain members of the Board participating in the Board's review of the findings and recommendations of the Hearing Officer.
Citing Matter of Baker v Poughkeepsie City School Dist., 18 NY3d 714, the Appellate Division stated that while individuals "who are personally or extensively involved in the disciplinary process should disqualify themselves from reviewing the recommendations of a Hearing Officer and from acting on the charges", the "[i]nvolvement in the disciplinary process does not automatically require recusal." The court opined that the Board members who reviewed the recommendations of the Hearing Officer and acted on the charges "were not so personally or extensively involved in the disciplinary process so as to compel the conclusion that they could not fairly consider the evidence and recommendation resulting from the hearing and, thus, that their recusal was necessary."
Another issue raised by Petitioner was the Hearing Officer's involvement in another matter. The Appellate Division said that "[c]ontrary to the [Petitioner's] contention, the Hearing Officer's undisclosed participation in another matter involving the Board's counsel did not compel the Hearing Officer's disqualification."
With respect to Petitioner's claim that the Board's determination should be annulled because the Board made no independent review of the record, the Appellate Division found that the Board "had an opportunity to review the record, transcripts, exhibits, and post-hearing memorandum," and Petitioner "failed to make any clear showing that the Board did not make an independent appraisal and did not reach an independent conclusion."
Note:With respect to an appointing authority's review of the hearing record, in cases in which a board is the appointing authority and is voting to accept a hearing officer’s finding of fact, each member of the board must make an independent review of the record. This means a copy of the transcript must be made available to each member of the board who votes. The appointing authority, however, is not required to read every page of the transcript taken at a disciplinary hearing. In McKinney v Bennett, 31 AD3d 860, the Appellate Division held that the appointing authority was not required to read all 1,228 pages of the hearing transcript and each document submitted, citing Matter of Taub v Pirnie, 3 NY2d 188. In Stanton v Board of Trustees, 157 AD2d 712, the court commented that Stanton failed to demonstrate that the appointing authority "made no independent appraisal and reached no independent conclusion”, quoting Matter of Kilgus v Board of Estimate of City of N.Y., 308 NY 620.
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