Bruso v. Clinton Cnty.

Decision Date05 May 2016
Docket Number521850.
Citation31 N.Y.S.3d 277,139 A.D.3d 1169,2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 03577
PartiesIn the Matter of Zetra BRUSO, Petitioner, v. CLINTON COUNTY et al., Respondents.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

Steven A. Crain and Daren J. Rylewicz, Civil Service Employees Association, Albany (Aaron E. Kaplan of counsel), for petitioner.

Lemire, Johnson & Higgins, LLC, Malta (Bradley J. Stevens of counsel), for respondents.

Before: GARRY, J.P., EGAN JR., LYNCH, DEVINE and CLARK, JJ.

CLARK, J.

Proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 (partially transferred to this Court by order of the Supreme Court, entered in Clinton County) to review a determination of respondent County Administrator of the County of Clinton terminating petitioner's employment.

Petitioner was employed by respondent Clinton County as a registered nurse at respondent Clinton County Nursing Home. In December 2012, the administrator of the nursing home brought charges against petitioner pursuant to Civil Service Law § 75. At a hearing on those charges, petitioner attempted to admit into evidence a “Medication and Treatment Misadventures Form” (hereinafter the form), an internal quality assurance document used by the nursing home to identify and address errors in medicating its residents, as well as a resident's narcotics prescription that was attached to the form. As a result, in April 2013, the administrator of the nursing home brought two additional charges against petitioner, which included three specifications of alleged misconduct and incompetence. As relevant here, petitioner was alleged to have knowingly possessed the form and the attached prescription without authorization from the nursing home.

Following a hearing on the April 2013 charges, a Hearing Officer found that all three specifications were supported by substantial evidence and recommended termination of petitioner's employment. Respondent Michael E. Zurlo, the Clinton County Administrator, accepted the Hearing Officer's findings and recommendation and concluded that termination of petitioner's employment was the appropriate penalty.1 Petitioner then commenced this proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 seeking, among other things, to annul Zurlo's determination. Supreme Court dismissed two of the specifications as untimely under Civil Service Law § 75(4) and transferred the proceeding to this Court (see CPLR 7804[g] ).

We first address petitioner's argument that the determination should be aned because the Hearing Officer was biased. “Because hearing officers are presumed to be free from bias, an appearance of impropriety is insufficient to set aside an administrative determination; [the] petitioner must provide factual support for his [or her] claim of bias and prove that the outcome flowed from that bias” (Matter of Compasso v. Sheriff of Sullivan County, 29 A.D.3d 1064, 1065, 814 N.Y.S.2d 773 [2006] ; accord Matter of

Zlotnick v. City of Saratoga Springs, 122 A.D.3d 1210, 1212–1213, 997 N.Y.S.2d 809 [2014] ). Although the Hearing Officer presided over the hearing on the December 2012 charges, petitioner failed to overcome the presumption and establish that the Hearing Officer prejudged the matter (see Matter of

Compasso v. Sheriff of Sullivan County, 29 A.D.3d at 1065, 814 N.Y.S.2d 773 ). We are similarly unpersuaded by petitioner's contention that the Hearing Officer improperly considered evidence outside of the record.

Additionally, we are satisfied that Zurlo's determination was independent and fully informed. In evaluating whether an administrative determination is informed, courts accord the determination a presumption of regularity and will not disturb it absent “a clear revelation that the administrative body made no independent appraisal and reached no independent conclusion” (Matter of Taub v. Pirnie, 3 N.Y.2d 188, 195, 165 N.Y.S.2d 1, 144 N.E.2d 3 [1957] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]; see Matter of Monahan v. Delaware–Chenango–Madison–Otsego Bd. of Coop. Educ. Servs., 27 A.D.3d 995, 996, 811 N.Y.S.2d 231 [2006] ; Matter of Nehorayoff v. Fernandez, 191 A.D.2d 833, 835, 594 N.Y.S.2d 863 [1993] ). The record reveals that the hearing transcript and exhibits were made available to Zurlo and that he reviewed the posthearing briefs submitted by the parties, as well as the findings, conclusions and recommendation of the Hearing Officer. Contrary to petitioner's assertion, Zurlo was not required to read the entirety of the hearing transcript (see Matter of Perryman v. Village of Saranac Lake, 64 A.D.3d 830, 835–836, 881 N.Y.S.2d 693 [2009] ; Matter of McKinney v. Bennett, 31 A.D.3d 860, 861, 817 N.Y.S.2d 767 [2006] ).

As for petitioner's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting Zurlo's determination that petitioner was guilty of the remaining charge, our standard of review is whether the determination is supported by substantial evidence (see Matter of Longton v. Village of Corinth, 57 A.D.3d 1273, 1274, 869 N.Y.S.2d 682 [2008], lv. denied 13 N.Y.3d 709, 2009 WL 3379123 [2009] ; Matter of Agnew v. North Colonie Cent. School Dist., 14 A.D.3d 830, 831, 787 N.Y.S.2d 521 [2005] ). [T]his Court will not ‘second guess the credibility determinations of the administrative factfinder’ (Matter of McKinney v. Bennett, 31 A.D.3d at 861, 817 N.Y.S.2d 767, quoting Matter of Stephen FF. v. Johnson, 23 A.D.3d 977, 978, 804 N.Y.S.2d 473 [2005] ; see Matter of Perryman v. Village of Saranac Lake, 64 A.D.3d at 835, 881 N.Y.S.2d 693 ).

Here, it is undisputed that the form and the attached...

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    • 11 Mayo 2017
    ...provide factual support for his or her claim of bias and prove that the outcome flowed from that bias" (Matter of Bruso v. Clinton County, 139 A.D.3d 1169, 1170, 31 N.Y.S.3d 277 [2016] [internal quotation marks, brackets and citations omitted]; see Matter of Donlon v. Mills, 260 A.D.2d 971,......
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