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May 11, 2021

Adopting disciplinary procedures applicable to a town's police officers pursuant to §155 of the Town Law

An employee organization [Union] brought a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking dismissal of disciplinary charges filed against a police officer [Officer] in the collective bargaining unit represented by the Union by the appointing authority [Town] pursuant to §155 of the Town Law and "the disciplinary procedures outlined in the police manual."

The Union contended that such disciplinary charges must be brought pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law and the collective bargaining agreement [CBA] between it and the Town. Union also sought a court order compelling the Town to reinstate Officer, who had been suspended without pay pending a disciplinary hearing to the payroll. Supreme Court granted the Article 78 petition and the Town  appealed.

The Appellate Division vacated that part of the Supreme Court's judgment prohibiting the Town from conducting disciplinary proceedings pursuant to Town Law §155 and that part of the court's order directing the Town "to abide by Civil Service Law §75 and the collective bargaining agreement regarding disciplinary issues, and by reinstating the amended charges against [Officer]."

The Appellate Division indicated that Town Law §155 states that "[t]he town board shall have the power and authority to adopt and make rules and regulations for the examination, hearing, investigation and determination of charges" against members of the town police department. Further, said the court, "although the police manual does not specifically reference Town Law §155, the police manual contains language that mirrors that statute.

Citing Matter of Town of Wallkill v Civil Serv. Empls. Assn., Inc. [Local 1000, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Town of Wallkill Police Dept. Unit, Orange County Local 836], 84 AD3d 968, affd. 19 NY3d 1066, the Appellate Division concluded that the police manual "invokes the Town Law" and, contrary to [Supreme Court's] determination, the lack of any specific reference to §155 in the police manual does not mean that the police manual was not adopted pursuant to that section of the Town Law, and does not preclude the Town from using the procedures set forth in the police manual.

The Appellate Division also held that Town Law §155 does not specify the methods to be used by a town board when adopting rules and regulations regarding police discipline, and thus the statute does not require that police disciplinary procedures be adopted by passing a local law rather than a resolution.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division held that "where, as here, a town board has adopted disciplinary rules pursuant to Town Law §155, those rules are controlling and Civil Service Law §75 and any collective bargaining agreement are inapplicable." Thus, said the court, the Town had the authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings established pursuant to Town Law §155 against the Officer.

The court, however, sustained Supreme Court's reinstating Officer's salary and benefits, noting that the police manual states that, "[p]ending the hearing and determination of charges of incompetency or misconduct, an officer or employee against whom such charges have been preferred may be suspended without pay for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days."

Click HERE to access the text of the Appellate Division's decision.

 

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