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Judge rules Jeff-Lewis BOCES met county’s payroll requirements

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A state Supreme Court judge has ruled that a local Board of Cooperative Educational Services has provided all the required information Jefferson County needs to certify payroll for civil service employees in eight school districts.

Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES filed an Article 78 proceeding April 19 against Valerie M. Borland, director of human resources and municipal officer for the county, claiming that a demand for additional information “far exceeds” what the county’s Human Resources Department is statutorily allowed to ask for regarding payroll data.

State Civil Service Law requires that a municipal civil service commission certify, at least annually, the payrolls of the local governments within its jurisdiction to make sure that the people employed are, among other things, working within their respective positions and classifications in accordance with the law and that no one has been promoted, transferred, assigned or reinstated in any way that violates the law. It also is designed to ensure that employees are enrolled in an appropriate retirement system where such membership is mandatory.

It is the county’s Human Resources Department’s responsibility to certify BOCES’s and its school districts’ employees’ payrolls, with BOCES claiming that “for decades” it submitted all of the information necessary to obtain the required certification. Specifically, BOCES has provided the civil service commission with employee names, positions, gross salaries or wages, confirmation that no employee’s appointment has been continued beyond the date authorized by Civil Service Law and information on membership in the state retirement system.

BOCES claimed that, beginning in 2010, the county began asking for excessive and possibly personal information, specifically pay stubs, that BOCES argued was an “unwarranted invasion of its employees’ personal privacy” and “a serious breach of confidentiality” if it had to provide the information without a statutory reason to do so.

At the crux of the issue is “classified” versus “unclassified” employees, which includes teachers and supervisory employees. BOCES argued that these employees are under the jurisdiction of the state Education Department, not the state Civil Service Department, and the county has no statutory authority to certify unclassified employees.

In a decision filed last week at the county clerk’s office, Judge James P. McClusky agreed with BOCES, saying there is nothing in the statute about classified or unclassified employees or the county being responsible for ensuring the employees listed are properly done so as unclassified.

“The court does not and will not read into this statute an obligation to insure nonclassified employees are, in fact, nonclassified employees,” Judge McClusky wrote in his decision.

The judge ordered that BOCES must provide only the name of the employee, the title of his or her position assigned by the local civil service agency, gross salary or grade of pay and an indication that their appointment has not continued beyond the date authorized by the agency, as well as whether the employee is a member of the state retirement system.

The judge also ordered that the county not withhold certification of BOCES’s payroll for failing to provide any additionally requested, but not required, information. County Attorney David J. Paulsen could not be reached Wednesday for comment on the ruling.

The school districts affected by the decision are Belleville Henderson, Carthage, General Brown, LaFargeville, Lyme, Sackets Harbor, South Jefferson and Thousand Islands.

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