April 15, 2017

Audits issued by the New York State Comptroller during the week ending April 15, 2017 Source: Office of the State Comptroller

Audits issued by the New York State Comptroller during the week ending April 15, 2017
Source: Office of the State Comptroller

Links to material posted on the Internet highlighted in COLOR

Audit finds major problems with City of Rochester School District's payments

The Rochester City School District's payroll processes are disorganized, highly decentralized and not administered uniformly, resulting in errors that are costing taxpayers, according to an auditreleased by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

Auditors also found numerous problems with how the district managed its purchases.

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli also announced his office completed audits of the

Town of Arietta – Budgeting

Buffalo Sewer Authority – Industrial Waste Section

Town of Cheektowaga – Credit Card Purchases

Town of Dover – Fire Protection and Ambulance Services

Village of Ellicottville – Procurement

Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District – Cash Receipts and Disbursements

Village of Malverne – Procurement

Village of Pelham – Information Technology

Rochester Land Bank Corporation – Monitoring Subcontractor Performance

Schroon Lake Fire District – Cash Disbursements

Village of Speculator – Claims Auditing
and the

Village of Walton – Bio-Digester Capital Plan.

April 14, 2017

A disciplinary hearing officer may not consider disciplinary charges and specifications not preferred against an employee

A disciplinary hearing officer may not consider disciplinary charges and specifications not preferred against an employee
Nitti v County of Tioga, 2017 NY Slip Op 02868, Appellate Division, Third Department

The appointing authority brought disciplinary charges against an employee [Petitioner]  alleging that she, among other things, made three false statements to a subordinate employee and to the appointing authority about her friend's Medicaid application. 

After a Civil Service Law §75 hearing, a Hearing Officer found that the evidence supported the charges and specifications filed against Petitioner and recommended that she be terminated from employment.

A deputy of the appointing authority adopted the Hearing Officer's findings and recommendations and concluding that termination of Petitioner's employment was the appropriate penalty. Petitioner commenced [1] a proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 78 contending that the Hearing Officer's findings were not supported by substantial evidence and [2] an action for declaratory judgment seeking, among other things, a court order annulling the deputy's determination.

Although Petitioner initially raised the issue of substantial evidence she subsequently abandoned that argument by failing to raise it in her brief presented to the Appellate Division. Instead Petitioner contended that the Hearing Officer violated her due process rights by finding her guilty of uncharged conduct, i.e., that she deliberately committed fraud by trying to obtain Medicaid benefits for her friend when she knew — and attempted to conceal — that the friend was not financially eligible for the benefits.

While the Appellate Division agreed that it is certainly true that a disciplinary hearing must be limited to the charges and specifications preferred against an employee, the court said that a review of the Hearing Officer's written recommendations revealed that, although he "note[d]" his belief that Petitioner's intent was to submit a fraudulent Medicaid application given her friend's "obvious lack of financial eligibility," the ultimate recommendations of guilt were limited solely to the evidence of Petitioner's charged misconduct.

Indeed, said the court, "the Hearing Officer made clear that his findings of guilt were based upon the evidence that Petitioner lied about who signed the Medicaid application and her 'false representations' to her subordinate and the Commissioner." Accordingly, the Appellate Division said that it could not agree with Petitioner that she was found guilty based upon conduct outside the scope set out in the notice of disciplinary charges served upon her.

Turning to the penalty imposed, termination from her employment, the court said that "in light of the responsibilities inherent in Petitioner's high-level position in which she supervised approximately 45 employees, '[w]e do not find that termination of Petitioner's employment is so disproportionate to the offense[s] as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness.'"

However, as Petitioner also had sought declaratory relief, the Appellate Division observed that such relief is not authorized "in a transferred proceeding pursuant to CPLR 7804(g) to the Appellate Division." There, ruled the Appellate Division, that part of the matter "must be remitted to Supreme Court for the entry of an appropriate judgment thereon."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


The Discipline Book - A 458 page guide to disciplinary actions involving public officers and employees. For more information click on

April 13, 2017

Employer's reimbursing its retirees' Medicare Part B premiums for 20+ years held to be a past practice within the meaning of the Taylor Law

Employer's reimbursing its retirees' Medicare Part B premiums for 20+ years held to be a past practice within the meaning of the Taylor Law
Albany Police Officers Union, Local 2841, Law Enforcement Officers Union Dist. Council 82, AFSCME, AFL-CIO v New York Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 2017 NY Slip Op 02719, Appellate Division, Third Department

Since the late 1980s, the City of Albany [City] consistently reimbursed Albany Police Officers Union [Union]members for their Medicare Part B monthly premiums upon their retirement.

In October 2008, the City sent a notice to all retirees of various changes to the City's available health plans. As to Medicare Part B reimbursements, the notice advised the retirees that "[u]nder the City's current policy, the City will reimburse you the Medicare Part B premium on a monthly basis."

A separate notice of the same date was distributed to the active members similarly advising them of various changes to the offered health plans but did not mention anything about Medicare Part B reimbursements.

In October 2009, the City sent a notice to all retirees advising them again of changes to the offered health plans. This notice, however, further stated that, as of December 31, 2009, "the City would no longer reimburse Medicare Part B premiums whose effective date for Part B was January 1, 2010." In addition in October 2009 a notice was sent to all active members in the negotiating unit that also advised them of changes to the offered health plans but, once again, omitted any reference to Medicare Part B premium reimbursements.

The Union filed an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) alleging that the City violated Civil Service Law §209-a(1)(d) by, among other things, unilaterally discontinuing the practice of reimbursing Medicare Part B monthly premiums to retirees.

After a hearing, a PERB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) dismissed the charge holding that no violation of the Civil Service Law had occurred because "retirees are not covered by the [Public Employees' Fair Employment Act] and the City has made no announcement to current bargaining unit members of its intention to cease . . . and/or terminate certain Medicare Part B premium reimbursements."

PERB sustained the ALJ's determination, but on different grounds, concluding that the Union failed to carry its burden of establishing the existence of past practice. PERB said that the October 2008 notices "eliminated or altered various plans and benefits" and, therefore, interrupted any past practice of reimbursement of Medicare Part B monthly premiums.

In addition, PERB also found that the phrase, "under the City's current policy," as provided in the October 2008 notice to retirees, "served to provide notice that such policy [of reimbursing Medicare Part B premiums] could not be relied upon to continue indefinitely."

The Union appealed PERB's ruling.

Addressing the merits of the Union's appeal, the Appellate Division said "whether the reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums was a past practice depends on whether such 'practice was unequivocal and was continued uninterrupted for a period of time under the circumstances to create a reasonable expectation among the affected unit employees that the practice would continue.'" The Appellate Division then explained that "[T]he expectation of the continuation of the practice is something that may be presumed from its duration with consideration of the specific circumstances under which the practice has existed."

Reviewing PERB's decision to ascertain if it was supported by substantial evidence, the court concluded that a rational basis does not exist to support PERB's determination that the claimed "past practice" had been interrupted.

The City, said the Appellate Division, has been reimbursing the retirees for their Medicare Part B monthly premiums for over 20 years. At the hearing before PERB, several witnesses testified as to their understanding and expectation that the City would reimburse them for their Medicare Part B monthly premiums upon their retirement and "that such reimbursements would continue for the rest of their life."

The court's decision also noted that one witness testified that in the course of collective bargaining with the City, the issue of reimbursement for Medicare Part B monthly premiums was raised but the City felt it was unnecessary to formalize such benefit into the collective bargaining agreement "because everyone knew that it would last "forever."

In contrast, PERB, relying on the notices sent to retirees and to the active members of the Union by the City, determined that a past practice of reimbursements did not exist based on the documentary evidence in the record. The Appellate Division disagreed, concluding that such documentary evidence did not provide "a rational basis to support the findings upon which [PERB's] determination is predicated."

The court pointed that although the October 2008 notice that was sent specifically to active members advised them of various changes to the health plans offered by the City, it was entirely silent as to the reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums. Furthermore, said the court, the October 2008 sent to the retirees could not have apprised union's active members that the reimbursement of Medicare Part B monthly premiums would not continue indefinitely because this notice was sent only to retirees, a group of former employees not represented by the Union.

Thus, ruled the Appellate Division, PERB's conclusion that the Union never objected to the City's proposed modifications of Medicare Part B reimbursements lacks evidentiary support inasmuch as the Union's active members did not have notice of any potential changes to which an objection could be lodged.

Indeed, said the court, "even if [the Union] or its active members had received adequate notification," the five words — "under the City's current policy" — do not constitute substantial evidence connoting either the absence of a past practice of reimbursing Medicare Part B monthly premiums by the City, especially when the record as a whole demonstrates that there was no formal policy for such reimbursements and the City continually reimbursed the retirees for such monthly premiums for a significant period of time, or that such practice would only be temporary."

Finding that PERB's determination was not supported by substantial evidence, it was  annulled by the Appellate Division.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

April 12, 2017

Circumstantial evidence "raised a reasonable inference" that the employee had violated of New York City Charter §2604(b)2)

Circumstantial evidence "raised a reasonable inference" that the employee had violated of New York City Charter §2604(b)(2)
Oberman v New York City Conflicts of Interest Board, 2017 NY Slip Op 02366, Appellate Division, First Department

The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board, adopting the findings and recommendation as to the penalty to be imposed of an Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings' [OATH] Administrative Law Judge, held that Igor Oberman was guilty of having violated New York City Charter §2604(b)(2)* and 53 RCNY §1-13(a) and (b)**when he "used his public employer's resources for private purposes." The penalty imposed: a civil fine in the amount of $7,500.

Oberman initiated an Article 78 action challenging the Board's determination on the grounds that it was not supported by substantial evidence.  The Appellate Division, unanimously confirmed the Board's action.

The court said that there was no basis to disturb the credibility determinations of the OATH Administrative Law Judge*** as the "strong circumstantial evidence" of records of numerous calls involving Oberman's work telephone and donations to Oberman's political campaign, raised a reasonable inference that had used his public employer's resources for private purposes in violation of Charter §2604(b)2).

The Appellate Division then opined that "penalty is not shockingly disproportionate to the offense, in light of the extent of [Oberman's] misconduct, the warnings he had received against such misconduct, his failure to accept responsibility, and the high ethical standards to which he was held as an attorney." 

* §2604(b)(2) provides that "No public servant shall engage in any business, transaction or private employment, or have any financial or other private interest, direct or indirect, which is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties. 

** 53 RCNY §1-13(a) and (b) provide that:
            (a) Except as provided in subdivision 3 of this section, it shall be a violation of  City Charter §2604(b)(2) for any public servant to pursue personal and private activities during times when the public servant is required to perform services for   the City.
            (b) Except as provided in subdivision 3 of this section, it shall be a violation of City Charter §2604(b)(2) for any public servant to use City letterhead, personnel, equipment, resources, or supplies for any non-City purpose. 

*** See Office of Administrative Trials and Hearing Index #1657/14:

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

April 11, 2017

Election of administrative remedies

Election of administrative remedies
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision #17,062

The Board of Education assigned a teacher to teach five classes following a reduction in her position from a full-time position to a .83 full time equivalent (“FTE”). 

The teacher filed a grievance challenging the Board's action contending that because she continues to teach five classes each day she is "a 1.0 FTE teacher." The teacher's employee organization advised her that it would not be advancing her grievance to arbitration as the information provided did not constitute a violation of any specific provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA] between the organizations and the school district.

The teacher then filed an appeal with the Commissioner of Education seeking the same relief she sought in the grievance. The school district object, contending that the prior commencement of an action or proceeding by filing a grievance for the same or similar relief constitutes an election of remedies which precludes the initiation of an appeal to the Commissioner.

After stating that "It would be contrary to the orderly administration of justice for the Commissioner to decide issues that a petitioner has elected to raise in another forum" and the teacher admits that the relief sought in both the grievance and this appeal is the same, the Commissioner said that the record before her shows that teacher alleged that the district was obligated under the CBA to compensate her at a salary commensurate with 1.0 FTE status in her Level I grievance, to the extent that the teacher elected to pursue her claims through the grievance process, such claims must be dismissed. 

However, noted the Commissioner, in her grievance, the teacher included a claim that the district’s actions are in violation of 8 NYCRR §100.2(i) of the Commissioner’s regulations. In its letter to the teacher declining to advance her grievance to arbitration, the Association stated that a claimed violation of statute is not a grievable matter under the CBA as such a claim does not allege a violation of a specific provision of the CBA.

In view of this, the Commissioner declined to dismiss the teacher’s claim that the school district acted in violation of §100.2(i) of the Commissioner’s regulations.

Turning to the merits of this claim advanced by the teacher, the Commissioner noted that  §100.2(i), relating to teaching assignments, provides that "The number of daily periods of classroom instruction for a teacher should not exceed five.  A school requiring of any teacher more than six teaching periods a day, or a daily teaching load of more than 150 pupils, should be able to justify the deviation from this policy."

Observing that in an appeal to the Commissioner, the petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which the petitioner seeks relief, the Commissioner noted that the teacher did not argue that her number of daily periods of classroom instruction exceeds five nor that . she is assigned a daily teaching load in excess of 150 students.  Rather teacher contends that as §100.2(i) defines a full-time teaching load as five classes, she is entitled to compensation as a full-time teacher. 

The Commissioner explained that §100.2(i) merely establishes a policy that teachers should not be assigned more than five classes or a teaching load of 150 pupils and requires that a board of education be able to justify any such assignment, for the purpose of maintaining quality instruction for students -- it does not define full-time status for purposes of compensation, which as in this case, is a matter governed by the applicable CBA.

The Commissioner then held that the teacher "has not established that [the school district's] actions are in violation of §100.2(i) of the Commissioner’s regulations and dismissed the appeal.

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.
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.
Copyright 2009-2023 - Public Employment Law Press. Email: