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August 03, 2020

Determining the fitness of candidates for appointment to positions in the public service

An appointing authority has wide discretion in determining the fitness of candidates, and this discretion is particularly broad in the hiring of law enforcement officers, to whom high standards may be applied.* As long as the administrative determination is not irrational or arbitrary and capricious, courts typically will not disturb it. ** 

Plaintiff commenced this proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 78 seeking judicial review of a Civil Service Commission's decision disqualifying him for a position as a police officer. Supreme Court denied Plaintiff's petition and dismissed the proceeding and Plaintiff appealed the court's ruling to the Appellate Division.

Addressing Plaintiff's complaint that the Commission had wrongfully denied his request for disclosure of information pertaining to his disqualification, the Appellate Division opined that the Commission's denial of Plaintiff's request was proper, citing Grossman v McMahon, 261 AD2d 54. In his appeal Grossman had contended that his request certain the background information should have been approved. The Grossman court disagreed, explaining that in a proceeding "of this nature, where disclosure is available only by leave of court pursuant to CPLR 408," Supreme Court has broad discretion in granting or denying disclosure "... although it must balance the needs of the party seeking discovery against such opposing interests as expedition and confidentiality."*** 

In the instant case the Appellate Division held that the Commission's determination disqualifying the Plaintiff from eligibility for appointment to the position of police officer was neither irrational nor arbitrary and capricious.

Addressing another argument raised by Plaintiff, the Appellate Division said that the Commission's disqualification determination violated neither §296[15] of the Human Rights Law nor §§750[5] or 752 of the Correction Law, citing Little v County of Westchester, 36 AD3d at 617.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division said it agreed with the Supreme Court's determination to deny the Plaintiff's petition and dismissal of the proceeding. 

* See Matter of Rogan v Nassau County Civ. Serv. Commn., 91 AD3d 658. 

** Matter of Verme v Suffolk County Dept. of Civ. Serv., 5 AD3d 498 

*** In Grossman the Appellate Division concluded that "Supreme Court did not abused its considerable discretion in denying disclosure of the background investigation file" Grossman had sought.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: 
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_04304.htm

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New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor 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.
New York Public Personnel Law. Email: publications@nycap.rr.com