On May 15, 2023, the Honorable Robert A. Neary, Westchester County Supreme Court Justice, issued a Decision and Order in Nedelcu v. Town of New Castle, Index No. 60481/2022, reiterating the supremacy of the Westchester County Police Acts (“WCPA”) and Rockland County Police Acts (“RCPA”) over other general statutes in holding that the NYS Legislature’s 2019 amendments to the Town Law did not affect the right of towns and villages to suspend officers without pay pursuant to the WCPA during the pendency of disciplinary charges.
The WCPA and the RCPA as they apply to towns and villages provide, that the town/village board or board of police commissioners “shall have the power to suspend, without pay, pending the trial of charges, any member of such police [department/force].” Effective December 20, 2019, the Legislature amended Town Law § 155, to provide that, “Notwithstanding chapters one hundred four [the Westchester County Police Act applicable to Towns] and five hundred twenty-four [the Rockland County Police Act applicable to Villages] of the laws of nineteen hundred thirty-six, such board shall have the power to suspend, without pay, pending the trial of charges, any member of such police department in accordance with subdivision three of section seventy-five of the civil service law.” Section 75(3) of the Civil Service Law only provides for a limited suspension without pay of thirty (30) calendar days.
In Nedelcu, the question before the Court was whether the 2019 amendment to Town Law § 155 had the effect of superseding the provisions of the WCPA (and thus, the RCPA). The Court found that it did not. In so holding, the Court reasoned that in failing to amend the statutes in question directly, it seemed unlikely that the Legislature meant to effectuate such change via the indirect approach of amending Town Law § 155. Furthermore, the Court pointed to Civil Service Law § 76(4), which specifically provides that nothing contained in Civil Service Law § 75 “shall be construed to repeal or modify any general, special or local law or charter provision relating to the removal or suspension of officers or employees in the competitive cases of the civil service of the state or any civil division.” As the WCPA (and thus, RCPA) is a special law, the Court stated that it seemed clear that this provision applied to the statute in question. Thus, the Court held that the WCPA (and thus, RCPA) must be specifically amended to effectuate any change to the suspension provisions.
As such, pursuant to both the WCPA and the RCPA, town and village boards may continue to suspend, without pay, any member of the police force, pending the trial of disciplinary charges.
Our office remains ready to answer any questions or assist you in determining how individual situations should be addressed. Please contact any of the firm’s Labor Relations & Employment Law attorneys for assistance.