Matter of Montella v. Bratton, 1999 N.Y. Int. 0093 (June 8, 1999).

CIVIL SERVICE - POLICE OFFICER DISCIPLINE


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue

Whether the New York City Civil Service Commission has jurisdiction to hear and decide appeals by uniformed police officers disciplined pursuant to § 14-115 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York.

Disposition

The Civil Service Law explicitly limits the Commission's jurisdiction to appeals from discipline imposed pursuant to Civil Service Law § 75; punishment imposed by the New York City Police Commissioner pursuant to section 14-115 does not fall within that provision.

SUMMARY

Police Department dismissed Officer Montella after a drug test revealed traces of a cocaine metabolite in his system.

Montella first appealed the dismissal in an article 78 proceeding, alleging that the determinations were not supported by substantial evidence. Appellate Division agreed, and ordered a new Police Department hearing.

After he was found guilty at the second hearing and dismissed pursuant to § 14-115 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, Montella appealed to the Civil Service Commission. The Commission reversed the dismissal. The Police Department, however, refused to reinstate Montella, and requested that the Commission withdraw its determination because it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Montella commenced a new article 78 proceeding to compel his reinstatement, while the Police Department brought an article 78 proceeding to request annulment of the Commission's determination.

The Supreme Court consolidated the two proceedings and concluded that the Commission had had jurisdiction to hear Montella's appeal: although the charges against Montella were not based upon Civil Service Law § 75, the Commission had overall authority pursuant to New York City Charter § 812(d) to determine appeals by any person aggrieved by a determination of a personnel director.

The Appellate Division affirmed on other grounds, concluding § 14-115 was simply a local law administering Civil Service Law § 75. The court thus held that the Civil Service Law "affords officers the option of either article 78 review or an appeal to the City Civil Service Commission."

The Court of Appeals reversed. The provisions of the City Charter and Administrative Code, the Court held, vest disciplinary power over police officers in the Police Commissioner, whose determinations are subject only to article 78 review. Civil Service Law §§ 75, 76. The Court also observed that since the disciplinary provisions of the Code predate the applicable Civil Service Law provisions, the former could not have been enacted simply to implement the latter, as the Appellate Division had concluded.