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February 12, 2019

A public employee alleging that he or she has been "wrongful terminated" is required to bring a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking reinstatement and unpaid salary

A public employee alleging that he or she has been "wrongful terminated" is required to bring a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking reinstatement and unpaid salary
Village of Northport v Krumholz, 2019 NY Slip Op 00926, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Defendant in this action was appointed Treasurer of the Village of Northport and served in that capacity until the Village discovered that she had been appropriating Village funds to herself.*

The Village commenced this action against Defendant alleging that she had improperly written checks to herself from Village funds. Defendant filed a counterclaim alleged "wrongful termination and violation of Public Officers Law §36"** and asked the court to direct her reinstatement and payment of back salary.

Supreme Court granted the Village's motions summary judgment on its conversion and  its breach of fiduciary duty causes of actions, and dismissed, as time-barred, Defendant's counterclaim. Defendant appealed, contending that Supreme Court should not have granted Village's motion for summary judgment dismissing her counterclaim.

The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court's rulings, explaining that:

1. Defendant was required to bring a proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 78 in order to pursue her claim of wrongful termination and to seek reinstatement and unpaid salary; and

2. Citing Austin v Board of Higher Educ. of City of N.Y. , 5 NY2d 430, a CPLR Article 78 proceeding is the exclusive remedy for a discharged public employee, who must seek reinstatement prior to seeking unpaid salary.

As the Village established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the Defendant's counterclaim as time-barred, the claim not having not been filed within the controlling four-month statute of limitations, the Appellate Division noted that Defendant "was effectively terminated" in March, 2009 but did not file her counterclaim until January 4, 2013.

* Earlier Defendant had brought an action United States District Court "seeking overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act" and alleged that her employment with the Village should not have been terminated without notice and hearing. The federal court dismissed Defendant's Fair Labor Standards Act claim and declined to consider the state law questions she presented. The filing of her federal action, however, did not toll the running of the controlling statute of limitations with respect to the litigation of Defendant's state law issues. Similarly, neither the filing an appeal from an administrative decision in accordance with a grievance procedure [Matter of Matter of Hazeltine v City of New York, 89 AD3d 613] nor a request for reconsideration of a final administrative decision [Cappellino v Town of Somers, 83 AD3d 934] toll the running of the statute of limitations for bringing an Article 78 action.

** §36 of the Public Officer Law sets out the procedures for the removal of a town, village, improvement district or fire district officer other than a justice of the peace.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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