General Municipal Law §209-q(1)(a) requires that individuals satisfactorily complete an approved municipal police basic training program prior to appointment as a police officer on a permanent basis. A certificate of completion issued upon completion of an approved training course remains valid, as relevant in this appeal, during the holder's continuous service as a police officer and during certain specified periods of "interruption" from service (see General Municipal Law §209-q[b]).* The State's Division of Criminal Justice Services [DCJS] is required by law to maintain a registry of all full-time and part-time police officers in the State and all agencies employing police officers are required to immediately report to DCJS when any officer it has employed ceases to so serve.
Executive Law §837 authorizes DCJS to adopt such regulations "as may be necessary or convenient to the performance of its duties." DCJS had adopted regulations requiring an agency employing police officers immediately notify DCJS when a police officer it had employed ceased to serve as a police officer and to indicate the reason for his or her ceasing to serve as a police officer, including reporting his or her "removal for cause".**
Removal for cause included, as relevant in this action, resignation while a disciplinary proceeding was pending against the police officer pursuant to Civil Service Law §75 or pursuant to another statute or a contract disciplinary procedure negotiated pursuant to the Taylor Law.**
Among the issues addressed by the Appellate Division in this action was the effective date of a regulation adopted by DCJS for the purposes of determining the statute of limitations for timely filing a CPLR Article 78 petition seeking to annul a determination made by DCJS pursuant to the challenged regulation.
In April 2018, two former police officer [Plaintiffs] initiated proceedings and actions for declaratory judgments seeking to annul DCJS's determinations to invalidate their respective police officer basic training certificates. Supreme Court "converted these proceeding/action to a CPLR Article 78 proceeding upon consent of the parties" and then dismissed the Article 78 action as untimely. Plaintiffs appealed.
The Appellate Division noted that although the parties concede that this proceeding was governed by the four-month statute of limitations set forth in CPLR §217(1), they disagree as to when their respective causes of action arose and, in the words of the court, "their claims for relief are ultimately grounded on challenges to the validity of the regulations that were promulgated by DCJS in 2016 and 2017" in consideration of their status as police officers.
Citing Thrun v Cuomo, 112 AD3d 1038, the Appellate Division opined that as the challenged regulations "were quasi-legislative acts ... challenges to the validity of regulations accrued when the regulations become effective." Accordingly, explained the court, "inasmuch as the regulations became effective more than four months before this proceeding was commenced, Supreme Court properly found that [Plaintiffs' claims are time-barred."
Addressing an argument raised by one of the Plaintiffs whereby the Plaintiff asserted that he had submitted "his irrevocable resignation letter" on September 19, 2016 and that it had expressly provided that his resignation would be effective on October 31, 2016, five days after the regulations were adopted, the Appellate Division observed that the resignation was submitted in settlement of disciplinary charges that could have resulted in Plaintiff's removal.
Thus, said the court, Plaintiff's "arguments that he resigned before the regulations were enacted or, alternatively, that no disciplinary charges were pending on the effective date of his resignation are precluded by his acceptance of the benefits of the settlement, namely, being permitted to resolve the pending disciplinary charges by resigning and his further receipt of employment benefits from September 19, 2016 through the effective resignation date of October 31, 2016."
* Interruption means separation from employment as a police officer "by reason of such officer's leave of absence, resignation or removal, other than removal for cause" (see General Municipal Law §209-q[c]).
** See 9 NYCRR 6056.2(g), employees removed for incompetence or misconduct.
*** 4 NYCRR 5.3(b) provides in pertinent part, "... when charges of incompetency or misconduct have been or are about to be filed against an employee, the appointing authority may elect to disregard a resignation filed by such employee and to prosecute such charges and, in the event that such employee is found guilty of such charges and dismissed from the service, his termination shall be recorded as a dismissal rather than as a resignation." Also, where necessary and appropriate, such disciplinary action may be conducted in absentia [see Mari v Safir, 291 AD2d 298].
The decision is posted on the Internet at: