TO SEARCH this database type in a word or phrase in the box in the upper left and any material containing the word or phrase will be displayed for your review.

Also, §22 of the New York State's General Construction Law, in pertinent part, provides that “Whenever words of the masculine or feminine gender appear in any law, rule or regulation, unless the sense of the sentence indicates otherwise, they shall be deemed to refer to both male or female persons.” NYPPL typically follows this protocol.

July 4, 2020

Local government personnel are invited to participate in a survey focusing on their post COVID-19 operations

Engaging Local Government Leaders [ELGL.org] is inviting local government elected officials, officers and other personnel across the nation to share information concerning the impact of COVID-19 on their jurisdiction's traditional operations, procedures and processes via its The Local Government Next Normal SurveyParticipating in this survey offers local government officials an opportunity to share perspectives concerning post-COVID-19 operations and activities in their respective jurisdiction.

The fine print: 

Participants must work for a local government; 
The survey must be submitted by July 8, 2020;
Responses are anonymous;
The results will be analyzed and made available for public distribution; and
It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to complete.

Click here to register to participate in the survey:



This announcement is posted by NYPPL Pro Bono.



July 3, 2020

Audits of New York State Department and Agencies and political subdivisions of the State issued during the week ending July 3, 2020

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits were issued during the week ending July 3, 2020. To access the full report click on the data highlighted in color.


SCHOOL DISTRICT AUDITS

The following school district audits have been issued.
Eastport-South Manor Central School District – Building Safety (Suffolk County) District officials did not provide effective oversight to ensure compliance with required building safety at the junior-senior high school. Auditors determined, district officials did not fix leaks in the heating, cooling and ventilation system requiring buckets in the halls to collect leaked water. In addition, district officials did not create a corrective action plan to address issues found in the 2015 building condition survey.

Margaretville Central School District – Financial Management (Delaware County) The board overestimated appropriations and allocated approximately $1.4 million in fund balance from 2016-17 through 2018-19 that it did not use to fund operations because of generated surpluses. As of June 30, 2019, the surplus fund balance totaled approximately $3.9 million or 32 percent of the next year’s budget, exceeding the statutory limit. Overall, auditors determined the fund balance totaled almost $3.2 million, exceeding the statutory limit by approximately $2.7 million or 22 percent as of June 30, 2019.

Mount Markham Central School District – Financial Management (Herkimer County, Oneida County, Madison County and Otsego County) Officials overestimated appropriations by an average of $1.4 million (5.6 percent) from 2016-17 through 2018-19. In the last three completed fiscal years, the district generated operating surpluses totaling $2.3 million instead of the $2.6 million in deficits planned in the budgets. In addition, district officials have not updated the multiyear financial plan since it was first developed in 2016.

Yorkshire-Pioneer Central School District – Financial Management (Wyoming County, Cattaraugus County, Erie County and Allegany County) The board and district officials overestimated appropriations by a total of approximately $11.6 million from 2016-17 through 2018-19 and annually appropriated an average of $3.3 million of fund balance that was not used to finance operations. As of June 30, 2019, surplus fund balance totaled approximately $5 million and was 9 percent of 2019-20 appropriations, exceeding the statutory limit by approximately $2.7 million

MUNICIPAL AUDITS

The following local government audits have been issued.
Village of Dering Harbor – Board Oversight (Suffolk County) The board failed to comply with statutory requirements when presenting and adopting budgets for 2013-14 through 2018-19. Auditors determined the board underestimated revenues by a total of $151,908 (9.5 percent) and underestimated appropriations by a total of $210,126 (13.1 percent) over the past five years (2013-14 through 2017-18). As a result, the general fund realized operating deficits in four of the five years and general fund balance declined from $61,710 to $3,491. In addition, the board did not properly authorize a local law to exceed the tax levy limit. The 2018-19 levy exceeded the calculated limit of $331,470 by $65,143.

City of Syracuse – Water System Cybersecurity (Onondaga County) City officials could improve information technology (IT) security controls to safeguard water system operations against unauthorized access or disruption. Auditors determined network and local user accounts were not properly managed. Officials did not establish a process for staying current on water system cybersecurity threats. The city also did not have service level agreements (SLAs) with its IT vendors. Sensitive IT control weaknesses were communicated confidentially to city officials. 

July 2, 2020

Can employers require employees to submit to tests for COVID-19?

Parsing a complaint alleging various acts of unlawful discrimination

A tenured associate professor [Plaintiff] employed by the defendant [College], commenced this action alleging that the College discriminated against her on the basis of sex and  her disability and retaliated against her after she complained of such alleged unlawful discrimination. Supreme Court granted the College's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and Plaintiff appealed.

With respect to the alleged disparate treatment and disability discrimination that was based on the College's purported refusal to provide Plaintiff a reasonable accommodations for her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act Contrary, the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court properly granted that portion of the College's motion with respect to Plaintiff's allegations of disparate treatment and disability discrimination based on the College's purported refusal to provide reasonable accommodations for her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Appellate Division explaining that the College had met its initial burden on the motion with respect to those aspects of Plaintiff's causes of action by establishing that an essential function of Plaintiff's job was teaching and that Plaintiff's requested accommodation, -- that she be allowed to work part time without teaching any courses -- was unreasonable.

Addressing Plaintiff's allegation that College violated the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Appellate Division modified the Supreme Court's order based on its finding that the College "failed to establish as a matter of law that the difference in pay between Plaintiff and a less senior male colleague who performed similar work under similar conditions 'is due to a factor other than sex.'" In so doing the court rejected the College's claim that the pay disparity was the result of a merit system, finding that the evidence it submitted in support of its motion [1] failed to demonstrate as a matter of law that there was "an organized and structured procedure whereby employees are evaluated systematically according to predetermined criteria" and [2] that the College's employees "were aware of the purported merit system."

Turning to Plaintiff's causes of action for alleged sexual discrimination under Title VII and the New York State Human Right Law [NYSHRL], the Appellate Division concluded that issues of fact existed as to whether the College's challenged actions were "based upon nondiscriminatory reasons," and thus summary judgment was precluded on those causes of action and that they should also be reinstated.

With respect to Plaintiff's allegations of unlawful retaliation, the Appellate Division opined that to establish a claim for unlawful retaliation under the NYSHRL, a plaintiff must show that "(1) she has engaged in protected activity, (2) her employer was aware that she participated in such activity, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action based upon her activity, and (4) there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action." In contrast, said the court, a defendant may establish entitlement to summary judgment in a retaliation case if the defendant "demonstrate[s] that the plaintiff cannot make out a prima facie claim of retaliation."

The Appellate Division decided that the College's denial of Plaintiff's request to return to work part time without any teaching duties and its requirement that she retain an administrative role that fell "within the duties of [her] position'" were not adverse employment actions and thus Plaintiff failed to make out a prima facie claim of retaliation with respect to these allegations.

In contrast, however, the Appellate Division found that 'issues of fact exist" as to whether  the College unlawfully retaliated against Plaintiff after she complained of gender discrimination when it required her to retain her position as the undergraduate coordinator while at the same time maintaining her regular course load and also reinstated this element of her petition.

As to Plaintiff's allegations of violations of Title VII based on unlawful retaliation, the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court correctly dismissed this element of Plaintiff's complaint because she had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, a condition precedent to going forward with this aspect of her complaint.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


July 1, 2020

Some factors considered by courts in evaluating an arbitration award

The Appellate Division reviewed Supreme Court's denial of an Educator's petition seeking a court order vacating an arbitration award sustaining 13 specifications set out in disciplinary charges served on the Educator alleging incompetence and neglect of duty which resulted in Educator's termination from her employment as a New York City public school teacher by the New York City Board of Education [Board].

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed Supreme Court's ruling and its granting the Board's cross motion to dismiss Educator's petition, explaining that the Hearing Officer's determinations concerning Educator's alleged teaching deficiencies during a four-year observational period:

a. were supported by adequate evidence, including testimony by school administrators and documentation;

b. were was rational, and not arbitrary and capricious; 

c. considered the Board's "significant remediation efforts;" and

d. the Hearing Officer found that those remediation efforts were adequate and supported by the evidence showing that Educator received feedback and suggestions for improvement through observation reports and one-on-one meetings, as well as assistance and support from her colleagues and outside professionals, and was provided with a teacher improvement plan.

Further, said the Appellate Division, in determining an appropriate penalty to be imposed, the Hearing Officer's considered Educator's "long-term pattern of inadequate performance." 

Thus, opined the court, the Hearing Officer's imposing a penalty terminating Educator from her position was, under the circumstances, "proportionate to the offenses" for which Educator was found guilty.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



June 30, 2020

Local government personnel are invited to participate in a survey focusing on their post COVID-19 operations

Engaging Local Government Leaders [ELGL.org] is inviting local government elected officials, officers and other personnel across the nation to share information concerning the impact of COVID-19 on their jurisdiction's traditional operations, procedures and processes via its The Local Government Next Normal SurveyParticipating in this survey offers local government officials an opportunity to share perspectives concerning post-COVID-19 operations and activities in their respective jurisdiction.

The fine print: 
  • Participants must work for a local government; 
  • The survey must be submitted by July 8, 2020;
  • Responses are anonymous;
  • The results will be analyzed and made available for public distribution; and
  • It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to complete.
Click here to register to participate in the survey:



This announcement is posted by NYPPL Pro Bono.

A police officer forfeited his qualified immunity by using excessive force against an individual who posed no threat to the officer or to others

A complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleged that a number of New York City police officers [Defendants] used excessive force against Plaintiff in the course of his being arrested. The jury found that only one officer, Officer A, used excessive force against the Plaintiff when Officer A used "two taser cycles" against him.*

The federal district court granted Officer A's motion claiming qualified immunity** and dismissed Plaintiff's complaint "as a matter of law." Plaintiff appealed the ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

The Circuit Court reversed the lower court's decision, explaining that the evidence before the jury allowed it to reasonably conclude that Plaintiff was no longer resisting arrest and was not a safety threat to the officers, or others, at the time of Officer A used the taser against him a second time.

Citing Garcia v. Dutchess County, 43 F. Supp. 3d 281, in which the federal district court in that action concluded that “[i]t was . . . clearly established law in the Second Circuit as of April 2000 that it was a Fourth Amendment violation to use ‘significant’ force against arrestees who no longer actively resisted arrest or posed a threat to officer safety," the Circuit Court vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the matter "for proceedings consistent with this opinion."

* The jury found that the other officers present during Plaintiff's arrest were not liable. 

** Jones v Muniz, posted on the Internet at https://casetext.com/case/jones-v-muniz

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

June 29, 2020

Conditioning the disclosure of material sought pursuant to a FOIL request upon the prepayment of costs authorized by statute

Supreme Court, among other things, granted Petitioners' motion to prohibit the School District's imposition of costs under color of Public Officers Law §87(1) related to Petitioners' request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law [FOIL]. School District appealed.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the lower court's decision, explaining that School District "failed to demonstrate sufficient justification for the costs sought to be imposed pursuant to §87(1)." 

Citing Matter of Weslowski v Vanderhoef, 98 AD3d 1123, the Appellate Division opined that in the event an agency conditions disclosure of material sought pursuant to FOIL upon the prepayment of costs or refuses to disclose records except upon prepayment of costs, the agency has the burden of articulating a particularized and specific justification' for the imposition of those fees."

In the words of the Appellate Division: "Specifically, the agency must demonstrate that the fees to be imposed are authorized by the cost provisions of FOIL" and found that the School District failed to meet that burden in this instance.

With respect to School District's contention that Supreme Court should have denied, with prejudice, Petitioners' motion seeking attorney's fees and other litigation costs, the Appellate Division concluded that Supreme Court properly determined that the issue of the School District's liability for such payments remained an open question at this stage in the litigation as no determination could yet be made as to whether Petitioners would "substantially prevail" for the purposes of claiming such reimbursement.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

June 28, 2020

Recognizing Juneteenth as a Holiday for State Employees

Consistent with the Executive Order* issued by New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo observing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees in 2020, the New York State Department of Civil Service has published Policy Bulletin No. 2020-03 applicable to the 2020 holiday.

The Text of Policy Bulletin No. 2020-03 is posted on the Internet at:
If you wish to print Policy Bulletin No. 2020-03, a PDF version is posted on the Internet at: https://www.cs.ny.gov/attendance_leave/pb20-03.pdf

To view previous Attendance and Leave bulletins issued by the Department of Civil Service, visit: https://www.cs.ny.gov/attendance_leave/index.cfm

Governor Cuomo plans to advance legislation to make Juneteenth an official state holiday next year and a revised guidance is to be issued addressing future observances of Juneteenth upon the enactment of such legislation.

The Executive Order is posted on the Internet at EO-204.Pdf


NYPPL postings during the week ending June 27, 2020

Links to the most popular NYPPL postings during the week ending June 27, 2020 as reported by Google Statistics.



















June 27, 2020

Audits of New York State Department and Agencies and political subdivisions of the State issued during the week ending June 26, 2020

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits were issued during the week ending June 26, 2020. To access the full report click on the data highlighted in color.

State Department and Agencies

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Purchasing Practices at the Linden Plaza Mitchell-Lama Housing Development (2019-F-50) (Follow-Up) An audit issued in September 2018 found that New York City’s rules were limited in scope and did not encourage Linden Plaza officials to make purchases at competitive prices and none of the $10.7 million in purchases made by Linden Plaza were subject to competitive bidding. With limited exception, there was no documentation indicating that Linden Plaza had conducted price analyses or taken other steps to determine the reasonableness of the prices related to sampled non-contract purchases. In a follow-up, auditors found that HPD officials made limited progress in addressing the problems identified in the initial audit.


State Education Department (SED): Oversight of Smart Schools Bond Act Funds (2019-S-13) It takes SED nearly 300 days on average to approve school district projects funded through the Smart Schools Bond Act, leading to project delays and increased costs. While SED has taken steps to review school districts’ Smart School spending plans, it has not done enough to ensure the money is going to appropriate projects that meet guidelines to get funding.


State Education Department: Through Ages Inc. – Compliance With the Reimbursable Cost Manual (2019-S-56) Through Ages is a New York City-based for-profit organization authorized by SED to provide preschool Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) services to children with disabilities who are between the ages of three and five years. For the three fiscal years ended June 30, 2015, auditors identified $137,377 in reported costs that did not comply with the requirements for reimbursement and recommended those costs be disallowed.


State University of New York Upstate Medical University (Upstate): User Access Controls Over Selected System Applications (2019-S-34) Upstate’s access controls are not sufficient to prevent unnecessary or inappropriate access to various applications. Inappropriate access can lead to intentional or accidental modification, destruction, or disclosure of clinical, educational, and research – and otherwise confidential – information.


School Districts 

Commack Union Free School District – Information Technology (IT) Assets Inventory (Suffolk County) At the time of initial visits to nine district buildings, auditors were unable to locate 146 of 475 IT assets tested (31 percent). It took between 11 and 55 days from the initial visits for officials to locate 80 additional IT assets. Because of inaccurate inventory records, district officials were unable to locate the remaining 66 IT assets (14 percent).


The board overestimated appropriations from 2016-17 through 2018-19, resulting in over $5 million in appropriated fund balance not being used to finance operations. After adding back unused appropriated fund balances each year, the district’s recalculated surplus fund balance exceeded the statutory 4 percent limit each of the last three fiscal years ranging from 12.1 percent to 16.7 percent.


Rochester City School District – 2020-21 Budget Review (Monroe County) Auditors commend the superintendent and board for the actions they have taken to improve the accuracy of budget projections in the 2020-21 budget and restore the district’s overall financial condition, especially in light of the challenges caused by unexpected revenue reductions due to the economic fallout resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Auditors found revenue projections to be substantially accurate. However, appropriations for charter school tuition are underbudgeted by approximately $1.5 million, and salary and substitute costs will have to be closely monitored. Additionally, the budget remains structurally imbalanced because district officials are relying on the city council to approve a waiver to the city charter for the use of $10 million for operation expenditures rather than capital purposes. Therefore, absent recurring additional revenue, appropriation reductions will be necessary for future budgets to be structurally balanced.


Urban Choice Charter School – Information Technology (Monroe County) A former employee’s user account was used to process 510 financial transactions after her resignation. In addition, school officials did not adopt IT policies or a disaster recovery plan. IT users were not provided with IT security awareness training. 


Municipalities and Political Subdivisions

Berkshire Fire District – District Operations (Tioga County) District officials did not comply with their procurement policy when procuring assets. Auditors determined the district could have saved $3,800 if it had purchased propane at state contract prices. Auditors also determined the board did not establish adequate controls to safeguard fixed assets. In addition, the treasurer did not submit required annual financial reports to the State Comptroller’s Office.

Town of North Elba – Cash Collections (Essex County) Auditors determined the town clerk did not deposit collections totaling $100,496 in a timely manner. In addition, the golf director did not provide adequate oversight of golf course collections. Auditors also found the park manager did not ensure employees remitted collections at the end of activities.


Frankfort Hill Volunteer Fire Company – Financial Activities (Herkimer County) Auditors determined the bylaws provided limited guidance on financial responsibilities and the board did not establish any supplemental financial policies or procedures. The treasurer did not maintain adequate accounting records and prepare monthly bank reconciliations. Most claims were paid without membership approval, as required by the bylaws and 47 claims totaling $34,437 were paid without proper supporting documentation. In addition, company officials did not ensure that cash receipts were adequately documented. Of 125 deposits totaling $318,091 made during the audit period, 43 deposits totaling $16,023 were either supported by only a deposit receipt or had no supporting documentation.


Village of Hilton – Financial Management (Monroe County) Auditors determined the board adopted budgets with unrealistic estimates, which resulted in operating surpluses and unused appropriated fund balances in the general, water and sewer funds. In addition, the board maintained unreasonable levels of fund balance in these funds that ranged between 29 percent and 128 percent of subsequent years’ budget appropriations. Also the board did not adopt a multiyear financial and capital plan or a detailed reserve plan that included the need and optimal funding level for each reserve.


Town of Mooers – Highway Asset Accountability (Clinton County) The highway superintendent did not maintain a complete and up-to-date inventory of department assets. Auditors determined department assets were not properly disposed of. In addition, town officials did not adequately monitor fuel use, which resulted in 9,216 gallons of unrecorded fuel used at the highway facility, valued at $20,576. Also, the Mooers Volunteer Fire Department was not billed for 2,413 gallons of recorded fuel used, valued at $4,841.


Town of Mooers – Cash Management (Clinton County) The board did not develop and manage a comprehensive investment program to ensure interest earnings were maximized. Auditors determined that had the supervisor invested available funds in a financial institution with higher available interest rates, revenue could have increased by approximately $31,300 during the audit period.


Town of Mooers – Procurement (Clinton County) The board did not ensure that officials and employees procured goods and services in accordance with the procurement policy. Of the nine purchase contracts totaling approximately $1.3 million that were entered into during the audit period and exceeded the competitive bidding threshold, one purchase contract totaling $61,766 was not procured in accordance with statutory requirements. In addition, of the 15 purchase and public works contracts totaling $150,939 that did not exceed the competitive bidding threshold, 11 contracts (73 percent) totaling $105,010 were not procured in accordance with the procurement policy.


Town of Patterson – Information Technology (IT) (Putnam County) The board did not adopt adequate IT policies or a disaster recovery plan. Auditors found town officials did not have a service level agreement with the IT consultant. In addition, town officials did not provide IT security awareness training to staff. Sensitive IT control weaknesses were communicated confidentially to officials.


Village of Port Chester – Dual Employment (Westchester County) Village officials did not establish adequate time and attendance controls. Auditors could not confirm the three employees identified worked all the hours they were paid for. In addition, village officials did not ensure that employees’ days and hours worked were adequately documented, certified by the employees or verified by a supervisor. Leave usage paid, totaling $3,979, was not deducted from leave accruals, and 536 hours of leave was taken without the use of time off request forms, as required.


Town of Rushford – Procurement (Allegany County) The board and town officials could improve the town’s procurement policy and purchasing procedures. Auditors determined that out of 59 payments totaling $632,000, two purchases totaling $175,000 were not competitively bid as required. They also determined that out of 55 purchases totaling $189,000, 17 purchases totaling $56,000 did not have the required request for proposal or the required number of quotes prior to being made. The town’s procurement policy does not require the solicitation of competition, such as written proposals or quotes, for the procurement of professional services.


Town of Westerlo – Information Technology (Albany County) Town officials did not adequately safeguard IT resources. In addition, town officials have not established appropriate policies and procedures to safeguard IT resources. Auditors also found town officials have not implemented strong access controls over user accounts and have not disabled unnecessary accounts. They also have not formalized a contract describing specific services to be provided by the town’s third-party IT vendor.


West Seneca Fire District #4 – Procurement (Erie County) The district’s procurement policy could be improved and the board of fire commissioners should ensure compliance with the policy. District officials were unable to provide written quotes for 42 purchases totaling $149,854 to demonstrate competitive pricing.


City of Yonkers – Budget Review (Westchester County) The 2020-21 budget relies on nonrecurring revenue of $67.1 million, such as fund balance, one-time state funding and sale of property, to balance its budget. Firefighting overtime costs could potentially be over budget by as much as $4 million and police overtime costs could potentially be over budget by $2.3 million based on the 2019-20 fiscal year overtime costs. The city plans to borrow up to $15 million for tax certiorari settlements in the 2020-21 fiscal year. Over the last 10 years, the city’s outstanding debt has grown 22.4 percent and the city’s debt service payments have risen 25.9 percent. The city will need $82.2 million to service its debt obligations during 2020-21. With the 2020-21 budget, the city will have exhausted 79.91 percent of its taxing authority and the city’s ability to increase property taxes may be limited in future years if property values do not increase.


Also Available from the Office of the State Comptroller

How New York State government money is spent is posted at Open Book New York. Track municipal spending, the State's 170,000 contracts, billions in State payments and public authority data. 

Visit the Reading Room for contract FOIL requests, bid protest decisions and commonly requested data.



Public Personnel Law E-books

The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State set out in a 700 page e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 442-page e-book focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. Now available in two formats - as a large, paperback print edition and as an e-book. For more information click on

http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html


The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - A 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5216.html


General Municipal Law §§207-a and 207-c - Disability Leave for fire, police and other public sector personnel - A 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder. For more information click on

http://booklocker.com/books/3916.html


Please Note:

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or additions or amendments to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed or otherwise have had an impact on 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.

THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. AGAIN, REMEMBER THAT CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG.

THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

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 in this blog is presented with the understanding that the publisher, editor, contributors or members of the staff are not providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to seek such advice from a competent professional.