November 29, 2019

The lawfulness of subpoenas issued by the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

This appeal raises an important issue concerning the investigative authority of two committees of the United States House of Representatives and the protection of privacy due the President of the United States suing in his individual, not official, capacity with respect to financial records.

The specific issue is the lawfulness of three subpoenas issued by the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (collectively, “Committees” or “Intervenors”) to two banks, Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corporation (“Capital One”) (collectively, “Banks”).

The issue of the lawfulness of the three subpoenas arises on an expedited interlocutory appeal from the May 22, 2019, Order of the District Court for the Southern District of New York denying Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the Banks’ compliance with the subpoenas and denying Plaintiffs’ motion for a stay pending appeal.

The Circuit Court affirmed the Order in substantial part to the extent that it denied a preliminary injunction and order prompt compliance with the subpoenas, except that the case is remanded to a limited extent for implementation of the procedure set forth in this opinion concerning the nondisclosure of sensitive personal information and a limited opportunity for Appellants to object to disclosure of other specific documents within the coverage of those paragraphs of the Deutsche Bank Subpoenas listed in this opinion.

The court noted that the Committees agreed not to require compliance with the subpoenas pending the appeal, once the appeal was expedited.

In her partial dissent, Judge Livingston stated that she preferred a total remand of the case for “creation of a record that is sufficient more closely to examine the serious questions that the Plaintiffs have raised” and to “afford the parties an opportunity to negotiate.”

The majority opined that such a remand would run counter to the instruction the Supreme Court has given to courts considering attempts to have the Judicial Branch interfere with a lawful exercise of the congressional authority of the Legislative Branch. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 22, 2019

Public officer is removed from the position by operation of law should he fail to timely file his oath of office upon appointment or reappointment

§30.1[h] of the Public Officers Law, "Creation  of vacancies," provides, in pertinent part, that an office shall be vacant upon the individual's "refusal or neglect to file his official oath or undertaking ...  within  thirty  days  after  notice  of  his appointment, or within thirty days after the commencement of such  term ...."*

A superintendent of schools, [Petitioner], employed pursuant a written employment contract for a four-year term, was served with "41 charges and specifications" which charges and specifications were later supplemented "with 45 amended charges and specifications."

An impartial hearing officer was designated to conduct a disciplinary arbitration proceeding  “to determine whether charging party [School Board] sustained its burden of proving that [Petitioner] materially breached [his employment contract], acted negligently or engaged in gross misconduct” while serving as superintendent, thereby entitling the School Board to remove him from his position as permitted "pursuant to ... his employment contract.”

The School Board 's general counsel, after reviewing the minutes of School Board meetings for the relevant periods of time, determined there was no indication that Petitioner executed, and timely filed, his required an oath of office with the School District's District Clerk.**

Ultimately the School Board adopted a resolution as follows:

"Resolve, that the office of the District’s Superintendent of Schools is deemed vacant pursuant to N.Y. Public Officers Law §30.1.h and pursuant to [the Commissioner’s decision in Application of Karpen; and further

"Resolve, that the office of the District’s Superintendent of Schools, held by [petitioner], is declared vacant; and further

"Resolve, that the contract between the District and [petitioner] is hereby determined to be void, nullified, and of no force and effect ...."

Petitioner appealed the School Board's action to the Acting Commissioner of Education, Beth Berlin, contending that its resolution was pretextual and a mere attempt to terminate a qualified Superintendent in that "he took and filed an oath of office nunc pro tunc after learning of the requirement" and that “custom and past practices prove that [School Board’s] district clerk has historically administered and filed the oaths of office in a bound oath book for all appointed or elected superintendents, board trustees and officers” – but did not do so for Petitioner." As redress, Petitioner asked the Commissioner to direct his reinstatement to his former position with back pay.

Finding the Petitioner's appeal was timely filed, the Commissioner, nevertheless, dismissed Petitioner's appeal "for lack of proper verification." The Commissioner explained that 8 NYCRR §275.5 requires that all pleadings in an appeal to the Commissioner be verified and if not properly verified, dismissed. Here, said the Commissioner, rather than Petitioner verifying the appeal, the appeal was verified by Petitioner’s attorney.  In words of the Commissioner, "Petitioner’s counsel is not a petitioner in this appeal; therefore, his verification is improper, and the appeal must be dismissed."

Although the Commissioner did not rule on the merits of the School District's argument that Petitioner's failure to file a timely oath of office resulted his removal from his position "by operation of law," it is worth noting that in Lombino v Town Board, Town of Rye, 206 A.D.2d 462, [leave to appeal denied, 84 N.Y.2d 807] the court held that the mandates of §30.1(h) are to be strictly construed in the event the jurisdiction declares a public office vacant because of the failure of the incumbent to file his or her oath of office in a timely manner. Further, the failure to file a timely oath cannot be cured by subsequently filing the required oath [Opinion of the Attorney General, 86-41, Informal]. 

* Subject to other provisions of law, the neglect or failure of any state or local officer to execute and file his or her oath of office and official undertaking within the time limited therefor by law shall not create a vacancy in the office if such officer was on active duty in the armed forces of the United States and absent from the county of his or her residence at the time of his or her election or appointment.

** Public Officers Law §15 provides that the acts of a public officer done without his or her taking or filing an official oath are valid and that this section has been interpreted to confer a right to "the statutory compensation therefor" [Opinions of the Attorney General, 1903 Ops Atty Gen 487 and 1979 Ops Atty Gen 29].

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 21, 2019

Court's dismissal of one or more specification set out in a disciplinary charge requires remanding the matter to the appointing authority for reconsideration of the disciplinary penalty imposed on the employee

The appointing authority filed disciplinary charges against a public safety dispatcher [Petitioner] pursuant to Civil Service Law §75. Charge I consisted of six specifications alleging misconduct and, or, incompetence in connection with the Petitioner's handling of a request for assistance on a specified date and Charge II, consisted of five specifications, alleged misconduct and, or, incompetence in connection with the Petitioner's handling of a request for assistance on a different specified date. Petitioner testified that, aside from the two "911" calls forming the bases of Charges I and II, he had never hung up on callers or yelled at callers.

The appointing authority then directed a further investigation into the Petitioner's handling of other 911 calls. As a result in this investigation the appointing authority filed "seven supplemental charges", Supplemental Charges I through and including VII against the Petitioner, each consisting of multiple specifications, arising from the seven additional calls.

Ultimately the designated disciplinary hearing officer found Petitioner guilty of specifications 5 and 6, as well as a portion of specification 4, of charge I; specifications 3, 4, and 5 of charge II; specification 4 of Supplemental Charge II; specification 4 of Supplemental Charge III; specification 4 of Supplemental Charge IV; specifications 4 and 5 of Supplemental Charge V; specification 4 of Supplemental Charge VI; and specification 4, as well as a portion of specification 6, of Supplemental Charge VII. The hearing officer recommended termination of the Petitioner's employment given "the number and extent of his instances of misconduct and/or incompetence" demonstrating that he is "not a reliable or responsible 9-1-1 dispatcher." The appointing authority adopted the hearing officer's findings and recommendation, and terminated the Petitioner's employment.

Petitioner then initiated a CPLR Article 78 action in Supreme Court seeking a judicial review the appointing authority's determination. Supreme Court transferred the matter to the Appellate Division pursuant to CPLR §7804(g).

The Appellate Division commenced its review of Petitioner's appeal by noting that judicial review of an Article 78 proceeding involving employee discipline made after a hearing pursuant to Civil Service Law §75 is limited to consideration of whether that determination was supported by substantial evidence. The court then explained that "When there is conflicting evidence or different inferences may be drawn, the duty of weighing the evidence and making the choice rests solely upon the [administrative agency]. The courts may not weigh the evidence or reject the choice made by [such agency] where the evidence is conflicting and room for choice exists."

Here, said the court, any credibility issues were resolved by the hearing officer and substantial evidence in the record supports the determination that the Petitioner was guilty of the misconduct alleged in certain, but not all, Charges and Specifications, holding that specifications 3 and 4 of Charge II, and  a portion of specification 6 of Supplemental Charge VII cannot be sustained.

As the appointing authority had imposed a penalty of termination of Petitioner's employment in consideration of "all of the specifications for which he was found guilty, and [the Appellate Division had dismissed] three of those specifications," the court, citing Aronsky v Board of Educ., Community School Dist. No. 22 of City of N.Y., 75 NY2d 997, vacated the penalty of dismissal imposed on Petitioner and remitted the matter to the appointing authority "to consider the appropriate penalty to be imposed upon the remainder of the charges and specifications for which he was found guilty, and the imposition of that penalty thereafter."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances
Determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service found guilty of misconduct or incompetence.
For more information click on

November 20, 2019

State Joint Commission on Public Ethics sued by individual claiming not to be a lobbyist and thus not subject to the filing requirements applicable to professional lobbyists

§1-c of Article 1-A of the Legislative Law, the Lobbying Act, provides as follows: 

"As used in this article unless the context otherwise requires: (a) The term 'lobbyist' shall mean every person or organization retained, employed or designated by any client to engage in lobbying. The term 'lobbyist' shall not include any officer, director, trustee, employee, counsel or agent of the state, or any municipality or subdivision thereof of New York when discharging their official duties; except those officers, directors, trustees, employees, counsels, or agents of colleges, as defined by section two of the education law."*

An individual [Plaintiff] is suing the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics alleging the Commission is conducting an “improper and abusive” investigation into her activities concerning  her efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault and support for the State Legislature's passing the Child Victim’s Act in 2018. Plaintiff claims that she was not involved in lobbying within the meaning of the Lobbying Act and thus is not subject to the filing requirements mandated for professional lobbyists.*

A similar argument was raised by an individual [Petitioner] who was deemed to be a lobbyist under Missouri Law. After a five-year legal battle in federal courts the individual, who claimed he was merely a person spreading his own ideas on limited government and not a paid advocate for others, prevailed.

The full bench of the Circuit Court ruled that Petitioner did not have to register as a lobbyist before speaking to lawmakers, reversing an earlier decision by a three-member panel in a dispute that was reported to have resulted from a complaint against Petitioner filed by the Society of Governmental Consultants.

* See, also, §§1-15 of the Unconsolidated Law.

The text of the Circuit Court's decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 19, 2019

A work-related injury resulting from a concealed cause of the individual's fall may constitute an accident within the meaning of Retirement and Social Security Law

A police officer [Petitioner] exited his patrol car and began walking toward the scene of a third accident in the immediate area when he stepped into a pothole that was covered by snow and ice. He lost his balance and fell backwards, seriously injuring himself. Petitioner's application for accidental disability retirement benefits was denied on the ground that the incident did not constitute an accident within the meaning of Retirement and Social Security Law §363.

Following a hearing, this determination was sustained by a Hearing Officer and the State Comptroller adopted the Hearing Officer's finding, whereupon Petitioner commenced a CPLR Article 78 proceeding challenging the Comptroller decision.

The Appellate Division commenced its review of Petitioner's appeal by noting:

1. An applicant for accidental disability retirement benefits bears the burden of establishing that his disability arose from an accident within the meaning of the Retirement and Social Security Law;

2. The Comptroller's determination in this regard will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence;

3. For purposes of the Retirement and Social Security Law, an accident has been defined as a "sudden, fortuitous mischance, unexpected, out of the ordinary, and injurious in impact; and

4. To be deemed accidental, the injury must not have been the result of activities undertaken in the ordinary course of one's job duties but, rather, must be due to a precipitating accidental event which is not a risk of the work performed.

Conceding that at the time of the incident, Petitioner was performing his ordinary job duties of responding to a series of traffic accidents that had occurred during his shift and that falling on a slippery snow- and ice-covered road may be a risk of Petitioner's ordinary job duties, the Appellate Division, in a 4-1 ruling,*  found that falling due to a pothole concealed under the snow and ice is not such a risk, explaining that given the circumstances leading to Petitioner's fall set out in the record, his injury was the result of a "sudden and unexpected event that constitutes an accident as matter of law."

Accordingly the court concluded that the Comptroller's determination was not  supported by substantial evidence and annulled his decision, remitting the matter to the Retirement System "for further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's decision."

* Judge Clark said that "[the] Court of Appeals has made clear that, to qualify as an accident within the meaning of the Retirement and Social Security Law, there must have been a precipitating accidental event that caused the injury "which was not a risk of the work performed" and, in her view, a fall resulting from stepping  "into a snow- and ice-covered pothole is not a precipitating accidental event "... [a]lthough stepping into the pothole may have been sudden, it was not, on this record, a hazard so out of the ordinary or unexpected under the circumstances so as to qualify as an accident [as Petitioner] ... was equipped with ice cleats to help him traverse the unplowed and unsalted roadway and that, having had ample opportunity to observe and traverse the snow-covered road" while responding to two car accidents at the same location immediately prior to his fall "he was aware of the possibility that road hazards could be concealed."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Disability Benefits for fire, police and other public sector personnel

This e-book addresses retirement for disability under the NYS Employees' Retirement System, the NYS Teachers' Retirement System, General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and similar statutes providing benefits to employees injured both "on-the-job" and "off-the-job." For more information click on


November 18, 2019

The distinction between the internal operations and conduct affecting external relations of an Interstate Compact Commission is critical in determining areas permitting unilateral State action and those requiring bilateral State action

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey [Port Authority] is an interstate compact agency and thus is not subject to New York legislation governing with respect to its internal operations' unless and until both New York and New Jersey having enacted legislation providing that such legislation is applicable to the Port Authority.

Plaintiff sued the Port Authority and Skanska USA Inc., and Skanska USA Building Inc.*alleging that he sustained injuries as a result of defendants' negligence and failure to comply with Labor Law §§ 200, 240, 241, and 241-a; 29 CFR Part 1910 and Part 1926; and a number of New York Department of Labor Regulations.

Plaintiff alleged that on July 18, 2016, while working at a construction site at One World Trade Center, New York, New York. Supreme Court's rejected the Port Authority's motion to dismiss the Petitioner's CPLR Article 78 action alleging violations of New York State's Labor Law §§240(1), 241(6) and §241-a and the Port Authority appealed. The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the lower court's ruling.

The Appellate Division, conceding the status of the Port Authority as an interstate compact agency, explained that in Agesen v Catherwood, 26 NY2d 521, the Court of Appeals held that the Port Authority is still "subject to New York's laws involving health and safety, insofar as its activities may externally affect the public." The court noted that contrary to the Port Authority's interpretation of Malverty v Waterfront Commn. of N.Y. Harbor, 71 NY2d 977,** the Court of Appeals "did not in overrule its holding in Agesen in deciding Malverty."

In Malverty the Court of Appeals concluded that in "the absence from the text and legislative history of [Article 23 of the New York State's Correction Law] of any reference to the Waterfront Commission, coupled with the absence of an express statement that the Legislature was amending or supplementing the provisions of the "Compact" and that article 23-A would take effect upon the enactment by New Jersey of legislation of identical effect, if it had not already done so, indicates that the New York Legislature never intended article 23-A to apply to the Waterfront Commission. 

The Agesen court held that that "in the instant matter ... there is no showing of any sort that section 220 of the Labor Law was ever intended to apply to the Authority, or any justification, by way of practical construction or otherwise, for the unilateral imposition of such regulation on its internal operations." The court, however, then opined that "[t]he distinction between the internal operations and conduct affecting external relations of the Authority is crucial in charting the areas permitting unilateral and [those] requiring bilateral State action. New York and New Jersey have each undoubted power to regulate the external conduct of the Authority, and it may hardly be gainsaid that the Authority, albeit bistate, is subject to New York's laws involving health and safety, insofar as its activities may externally affect the public (see 1949 Opinions of the Attorney General, 118-121)."

In addition, the Appellate Division pointed out that courts have repeatedly held that the Port Authority is subject to New York Labor Law with respect to its external conduct, citing  O'Brien v Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 29 NY3d 27; Nolan v Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 162 AD3d 488; Jerez v Tishman Constr. Corp. of N.Y., 118 AD3d 617; Verdon v Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 111 AD3d 580; and Sferrazza v Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 8 AD3d 53.

* 2018 NY Slip Op 31104 [not selected for publication in Official Reports].

** The Waterfront Commission was established by Interstate Compact, approved by Congress, 67 US Stat 541.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 15, 2019

The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals limits the reach of Janus in public union representation case

In an article captioned "First Circuit Limits Reach of Janus in Public Union Representation Case," Joseph Fawbush, Esq. notes that:

"Lower courts are now interpreting this decision, and mostly interpreting Janus narrowly. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, on October 4, distinguished and limited the reach of Janus.

"The unanimous panel held that an economics professor at the University of Maine relied on an improper reading of both state law and Janus when claiming that, as a non-paying employee represented by a labor union with which he disagrees, his First Amendment rights were violated."

The complete text of Mr. Fawbush's article is posted on the Internet at:

Cost-of-Living Adjustments Limits for 2020

The Internal Revenue Service [IRS] has released the 2020 COLA limits for retirement plans and IRAs indicating the contribution, deferral and compensation limits for 2020.

Another element to review: the IRS posting for the tax year 2020 annual inflation adjustments for more than 60 tax provisions, including tax rate schedules and other tax changes.

As a general rule, where there is a reasonable relationship of a grievance and the general subject matter of the collective bargaining agreement the dispute is arbitrable

This litigation involved a dispute between the City of Yonkers [City], and Yonkers Fire Fighters, Local 628, IAFF, AFL-CIO [Local 628], concerning a paramedic training course funded by a federal Assistance to Firefighters grant the City had offered its firefighters.

After the City denied Local 628's requests for documents related to the paramedic training course, Local 628 filed a grievance asserting that the City violated, among other provisions, Article 33 of the parties' collective bargaining agreement [CBA]. Exhausting its internal grievance remedies, Local 628 demanded arbitration of the dispute.

The City then initiated a proceeding pursuant to Article 75 of the CPLR seeking a court order permanently staying arbitration. Supreme Court granted City's the petition, ruling that the dispute between the parties was not arbitrable because there was no reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA.

Local 628 appeal and the Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court's ruling "on the law."

Citing Matter of City of Long Beach v Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc.-Long Beach Unit, 8 NY3d 465, the court explained that "[a]s a general rule, public policy in this State favors arbitral resolution of public sector labor disputes."

The Appellate Division, however, cautioned that "[a] grievance may be submitted to arbitration only where the parties agree to arbitrate that kind of dispute, and where it is lawful for them to do so," citing Matter of City of Johnstown [Johnstown Police Benevolent Assn.], 99 NY2d 273]. Further, said the court, in determining whether a grievance is arbitrable, a court must "first ask whether there is any statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration of the grievance," and if there is no such prohibition against arbitration, the court must "then examine the CBA to determine if the parties have agreed to arbitrate the dispute at issue."

As it was undisputed that there is no statutory, constitutional, or public policy prohibition to the arbitration of Local 628's grievance, the only issue to be addressed by the Appellate Division was whether the City and Local 628 had agreed to arbitrate this particular dispute. Finding that the relevant arbitration provision in the CBA was "broad," providing for arbitration of any grievance "involving the interpretation or application of any provision of this Agreement," the Appellate Division opined that a court "should merely determine whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA."

Absent a finding that there is no reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA, the Appellate Division said the court should rule the matter arbitrable, whereafter "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."

Local 628 had contended that the City, by offering a paramedic training course to its firefighters, violated Article 33 of the CBA, which contains various provisions concerning the EMS Program, including a provision stating that the "EMS Program shall mean the level of services provided as of the date of this Agreement."

Finding that a reasonable relationship exists between Local 628's grievance and the general subject matter of the CBA, the Appellate Division concluded that resolving "the question of the scope of the substantive provisions of the CBA is a matter of contract interpretation and application reserved for the arbitrator."

Accordingly, the Appellate Division held that the Supreme Court should have denied the City's petition to permanently stay arbitration and dismissed the proceeding.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 14, 2019

Courts should not "second guess" the format or the methods used in designing and using civil service examinations where the method chosen meets the mandates of the Constitution and statutes

The New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services [DCAS]  included 20 "research questions" in an examination for Associate Fraud Investigator. The candidates' answers to these question were not rated for the purposes of establishing their "test score" but were included in an effort to allow DCAS to develop alternate forms of an examination "for a given title that would yield measurably equivalent outcomes" and to provide a means for testing "the validity of examination questions, ensuring that these questions were valid across differing groups of test-takers, regardless of their racial or ethnic background." In addition, the time for taking the examination was extended to provide adequate time to answer all questions.

The Social Services Employees Union Local 371 [Local 371] filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 78 seeking a declaration that results of a civil service examination administered by the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services [DCAS] were null and void. Supreme Court dismissed Local 371's petition which action was unanimously affirmed by the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division explained that Local 371 "failed to establish" that DCAS's inclusion of 20 ungraded research questions in an examination administered for the position of Associate Fraud Investigator violated the merit and fitness mandate set out in Article V, §6 of the New York State Constitution or §50(1) of the New York State Civil Service Law* or that DCAS action in including the research questions in the examination was otherwise arbitrary and capricious.

In the words of the Appellate Division, DCAS is "afforded considerable discretion in preparing and administering civil service examinations" and as long as the examination is "reasonable in testing for the skills identified for the position" and " competitive' in the constitutional context," courts should not "second guess the format or the methods of the examination."

Further, said the court, Local 371 failed to "sufficiently allege that the inclusion of these ungraded questions was arbitrary or capricious" as all candidates were scored the same way on the graded questions, and the test did not inherently disadvantage any one candidate. The decision also notes that the candidates were evaluated only on the basis of questions that had already been validated as providing an accurate measure of merit and fitness for the role.

Unanimously affirming the lower court's ruling, the Appellate Division opined that DCAS is not required to adopt Local 371's preferred method of testing proposed examination questions, particularly where the method chosen meets the constitutional and statutory mandates.

* §50.1 of the Civil Service Law provides as follows: "Positions subject to competitive examinations. The merit and fitness of applicants for positions which are classified in the competitive class shall be ascertained by such examinations as may be prescribed by the state civil service department or the municipal commission having jurisdiction."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 13, 2019

The Restoration of Honor Act gives certain military veterans denied an honorable discharge from military service the right to apply for New York State veterans' benefits

On November 12, 2019, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation enacting The Restoration of Honor Act,* giving LGBTQ veterans who were denied an honorable discharge because of their sexual orientation or gender identity the right to apply to have their New York State veterans' benefits restored. 

Under Don't Ask Don't Tell and similar policies hundreds of thousands of veterans** received less than honorable discharges. As a result of that those individuals are ineligible for veterans' benefits. Although discharge from federal military service decisions can only be formally changed by the federal government, The Restoration of Honor Act allows certain veterans to apply to claim their New York State benefits.

The Restoration of Honor Act also restores benefits eligibility for veterans who received less than honorable discharges as a result of military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder.  

The Restoration of Honor Act amends relevant provisions of the Executive Law, the Civil Service Law, the County Law, the Economic Development Law, the Education Law, the Election Law, the General Construction Law, the General Municipal Law, the Military Law, the Correction Law, the Environmental Conservation Law, the General Business Law, the Highway Law, the Insurance Law, the Judiciary Law, the Private Housing Finance Law, the Public Health Law, the Public Housing Law, the Public Officers Law, the Real Property Tax Law, the Social Services Law, the Tax Law, the Town Law, the Vehicle And Traffic Law, and the Workers' Compensation Law.

New York is the first state in the nation to restore the benefits of veterans who received less than honorable discharges from military service either because of these traumas or because of their LGBTQ identity.

* Chapter 490 of the Law of 2019

** §350.3 of the Executive Law defines the term "veteran" as "a person, male or female, resident of this state, who has served in the active military or naval service of the United States during a war in which the United States engaged and who has been released from such service otherwise than by dishonorable discharge, or who has been furloughed to the reserve."

November 12, 2019

Supreme Court's granting Defendant's pre-answer, pre-discovery motion dismissing Plaintiff's CPLR Article 78 action alleging unlawful discrimination reversed "on the law"

An educator [Plaintiff] filed a CPLR Article 78 petition alleging that he had suffered various act of unlawful discrimination as the result of actions taken against him by the school principal [Principal], a Caucasian woman, because of his Haitian origin and her belief that he is a voodoo priest,* including the Principal's falsely accusing him of misconduct that subjected him to an Office of Special Investigations investigation, during which Principal falsely accused Plaintiff of being a voodoo priest.

Plaintiff also asserted that Principal assigned him to an unsanitary basement office upon his return from a temporary administrative office assignment, contending this was done maliciously in disregard of his seniority even though there were other available offices and that, ultimately, Principal demoted Plaintiff to the position of temporary substitute, assigned on a weekly basis to different schools.

The defendant in the action, the New York City Department of Education [DOE] submitted a pre-answer, pre-discovery motion seeking a court order dismissing Plaintiff's complaint. Supreme Court granted DOE's motion and denied Plaintiff's cross motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. 

The Appellate Division unanimously reversed the Supreme Court's ruling "on the law," denying DOE's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs complaint and granting Plaintiff's cross motion to amend his complaint.

The Appellate Division explained:

1. Plaintiff's  complaint "states a causes of action for unlawful discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment in violation of the New York State and New York City Human Rights laws;" and

2. Plaintiff's allegations were sufficient to give DOE "fair notice" of the nature of Plaintiff's claims and their grounds, which is all that is required "to survive at the pleading stage."

As to DOE's contention that Plaintiff's alleged certain acts by Principal occurred more than one year before he commenced this action and it is thus untimely, the Appellate Division, citing Education Law §3813[2-b], opined that the court could not state that, as a matter of law, "that these acts, if proven, were not part of a single continuing pattern of unlawful conduct extending into the one-year period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint" and that, in any event, Plaintiff "is not precluded from using the prior acts as background evidence in support of a timely claim."

DOE, in support of its motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, also contended that "there were legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the actions taken against Plaintiff." The Appellate Division, however, said that this argument advanced by DOE merely stated a potential rebuttal argument to a prima facie case of unlawful employment discrimination, "which is misplaced at this early procedural juncture." 

Under the circumstances, said the court, Plaintiff's cross motion for leave to amend his complaint should have been granted by Supreme Court.

* Plaintiff alleged that he studied voodoo but does not practice voodoo.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 08, 2019

Fungal risk vectors in the context of climate change

Below an abstract of an article by Dr. Robert Michaels [] recently published in the Environmental Claims Journal addressing emerging health problems in the context of climate change.  


The trend toward increasing frequency and intensity of storms has exacerbated mold and other moisture-related health problems, and can be extrapolated to the future. Mold growth therefore exhibits increasing significance in the context of changing climate. The decades-old hypothesis of mold causation and/or exacerbation of asthma previously has been deemed unproven, though not rejected. The present investigation assesses the status of this hypothesis within the industrial, regulatory, scientific, medical, and legal communities. To assure accuracy, statements from these communities are quoted. Recent high-level reviews, such as by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and the United Nations World Health Organization, have failed to consider literature that was available, and studies postdating NAS IOM and UN WHO reviews have confirmed and augmented available literature. As a result, all nine of the Hill criteria of causation in epidemiology now are satisfied. I conclude that, with exposure of sufficient intensity and duration, some molds can cause asthma and/or exacerbate preexisting asthma, and that the hypothesis indeed has been accorded broad acceptance in the communities considered.

The full text of the article can be downloaded from ResearchGate at no charge, via the following URL:

Prosecuting whistleblower lawsuits brought pursuant to the federal False Claims Act

A qui tam lawsuit, typically called a whistleblower lawsuit, is brought under the False Claims Act, [FCA], 31 U.S.C. §3729, et. seq. The FCA authorizes bringing an action against any person or entity who knowingly submitted a false or fraudulent claim for payment to the federal government. The FCA also provides for rewarding whistleblowers successful in cases where the government recovers funds lost to fraud.

The United States government may bring the FCA action, or a private citizen, known as a “Relator,” may bring a qui tam action “for the person and for the United States Government,” and “in the name of the Government.”

In this action the Relator, proceeding pro se,* brought the qui tam action on behalf of the United States and California, Connecticut, Florida, and New York under color of the FCA.**

The federal district court dismissed the qui tam action because Relator, who was not an attorney, was not represented by counsel. Relator appealed the ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

Limiting its review to the dismissal of Realtor's action by the district court for failure to retain counsel, the Circuit Court opined:

1. "The right to appear pro se in civil litigation in federal court is guaranteed by 28 U.S.C. §1654, which provides that 'parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel.'

2. "A person who is not an attorney and is not represented by an attorney 'may not appear on another person’s behalf in the other’s cause.'

3. "A non-attorney relator in an FCA qui tam action cannot proceed pro se because 'the United States remains the real party in interest in qui tam actions, the case, albeit controlled and litigated by the relator, is not the relator’s own case as required by 28 U.S.C. §1654, nor one in which he has an interest personal to him.'"

4. "The district court therefore did not err in dismissing this action after Relator failed to retain counsel, despite being granted ample opportunity to do so.

Although Relator argued on appeal that appointment of counsel by the district court was warranted, the Circuit Court of Appeals observed that Relator did not move for the appointment of counsel in the district court, and the district court was not required to sua sponte appoint counsel.

* A person who appears before the Court without an attorney to represent him is appearing pro se.

** The Circuit Court's decision notes that the Relator "did not move for appointment of counsel in the district court, and the court was not required to sua sponte appoint counsel."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 07, 2019

Application for renewal of a certification rejected on the grounds that the applicant made material false statements and demonstrated poor moral character

New York City Department of Buildings denied the request submitted by an applicant [Petitioner] to renew his Site Safety Coordinator (SSC) certification on the ground that Petitioner made material false statements and demonstrated poor moral character in his original application for certification.

In his initial application, Petitioner was required to disclose whether any "licenses/certifications/registrations issued to [him]" had ever been revoked.

Petitioner failed to report that he had been authorized as an OSHA outreach trainer and that his authorization had been revoked because he failed to comply with OSHA requirements and falsified safety certificates.

The Appellate Division sustained the Department's determination explaining that although Petitioner's OSHA credentials "may not have been labeled a license, certification, or registration," his OSHA responsibilities were substantially similar to those of an SSC. Accordingly, said the court, the Department rationally concluded that Petitioner was required to disclose the revocation of those credentials.

The Appellate Division further opined that the Department rationally concluded that Petitioner exhibited poor moral character by failing to disclose OSHA's determination that he falsified agency documents.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

November 06, 2019

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli issues audits and examinations

On November 6, 2019 New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits and examinations had been issued.

Click on the text highlighted in color to access to access the full report

The audit identified $20.1 million in Medicaid payments made by DOH for therapy services and drugs that should have been paid for by Medicare.

An audit issued in September 2018 found that a transportation provider did not maintain the required documentation to support claims prior to 2016, totaling $1.4 million. In a follow-up, auditors found DOH made some progress in addressing the problem identified in the initial report. The Office of the Medicaid Inspector General opened an investigation into the provider; which remained ongoing at the time of the follow-up review.

An initial audit released in September 2018 identified $770,935 in Medicaid overpayments for Medicare Part C cost-sharing. In a follow-up, auditors found DOH made some progress in addressing the problems identified. However, no action had been taken to recover the inappropriate payments.

An audit issued in June 2018 concluded that inspectors did not always perform thorough elevator inspections. As a result, hazardous and other unsafe conditions were not always identified and corrected. In a follow-up, auditors found that of the prior recommendations, DOB implemented three, partially implemented four, and did not implement two.

CVS Health did not seek rebates from drug manufacturers on claims that were, in fact, rebate-eligible. Auditors identified $428,958 in rebate revenue that is due to the state Department of Civil Service for rebate-eligible claims in the account for the period Jan. 1, 2014through Dec. 31, 2018

An earlier report found that, while the TBTA makes efforts to collect unpaid tolls, $11.3 million in tolls were either written off or uncollected. In addition, TBTA had more than $72 million in unpaid fees for the Henry Hudson Bridge from 2013 through 2015. In a follow-up, auditors found TBTA officials have made progress in addressing the issues identified. However, additional improvements are needed.

An audit issued in September 2017 found the SED was not completing investigations, particularly for complaints that pose a substantial danger to public health and safety, in a timely manner. In a follow-up, auditors found SED made some progress in addressing the issues identified in the initial audit.

A report issued in December 2017, determined that the department deposited all funds received into the General Fund, as required. However, it did not assess penalties on 39 deposit initiators that failed to file required quarterly reports, nor did it assess penalties on those who filed late, and took little action to improve compliance. In a follow-up, auditors found the department has made significant progress in addressing the issues identified in the audit.

Employee Organization Leave

Employee organization leave has been an issue since the adoption of the Taylor Law. In response to demands that State employees elected to a leadership position of an employee organization representing state employees be provided with "paid organization leave," the State agreed to provide for “Employee Organization Leave” and enacted §46 of Chapter 283 of the Laws of 1972 to this end.

This law provides that a State employee organization may obtain approval for paid full or part-time leaves of absence of its representatives provided it agrees to fully reimburse the State for the salary and other compensation paid to the individual and, in addition, for all employer contributions for fringe benefits made on behalf of the individual while he or she is on Employee Organization Leave. The individual would continue as a State employee, on the State’s payroll, during this time. 

Another element affecting State employees on Employee Organization Leave: The State Ethics Commission has advised that “State employees on Employee Organization Leave or State employees on leave without pay who serve as employee organization representatives for CSEA … who have terminated their State service and are now employed by CSEA are subject to the "revolving door" provisions of the Public Officers Law and the corresponding restrictions on post-employment activities” [see Advisory Opinion #90-a ].

Presumably this opinion would be applied with respect to State employees on employee organization leave serving with other employee organizations.

Failure to respond to a request for documents sought pursuant New York State's Freedom of Information Law

An individual [Petitioner] had made numerous requests to the County District Attorney's Office [Respondent] pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law [FOIL] for copies from the negatives of crime scene photographs related to his criminal case. Not receiving any response to his FOIL request,* Petitioner eventually commenced a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking to compel the Respondent to produce the photographs. Supreme Court dismissed the petition based on the Respondent's certification that the requested records could not be located and Petitioner appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court's decision, explaining that in the event the custodian of the record or records sought is unable to locate documents properly requested pursuant FOIL, Public Officers Law §89(3) requires the custodian to certify that it does not have possession of the requested record or the record cannot be found "after diligent search."**

However, said the Appellate Division, "even where an entity properly certifies that it was unable to locate requested documents after performing a diligent search, the person requesting the documents may nevertheless be entitled to a hearing on the issue where he or she can 'articulate a demonstrable factual basis to support the contention that the requested documents existed and were within the entity's control.'"

In this instance Petitioner did not establish his entitlement to a hearing as FOIL only requires the custodian of the record to provide copies of "any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for the [Respondent]." Although Petitioner submitted a police department property report that listed a roll of film, the court said that nothing in the record indicates that the roll of film or any photographs that may have been developed therefrom were ever in Respondent's possession.

Citing Gould v New York City Police Dept., 89 NY2d at 279, the Appellate Division held that as Respondent had adequately certified that "no requested documents could be found after a diligent search," the Supreme Court had properly dismissed the Petitioner's Article 78 action.

* Public Officers Law §89[4][a] provides that a failure to respond is deemed a constructive denial of a Freedom of Information Law request.

** The statute, however, does not specify the manner in which an agency must certify that documents cannot be located and neither a detailed description of the search nor a personal statement from the person who actually conducted the search is required.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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.
NYPPL Blogger Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. 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 posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
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