A name clearing hearing available if adverse allegations are shared with another agency or administrator without the assurance of confidentiality

A name clearing hearing available if adverse allegations are shared with another agency or administrator without the assurance of confidentiality Vandine v Greece Cent. School Dist., 2010 NY Slip Op 06059, Decided on July 9, 2010, Appellate Division, Fourth Department Douglas W. Vandine commenced filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 78 seeking a court order directing the Greece CSD to hold a name-clearing hearing with respect to allegations associated with his termination from his probationary position with the district. Supreme Court dismissed Vandine's petition but the Appellate Division ruled that this was incorrect. The Appellate Division noted that in the event "a government employee is dismissed for stigmatizing reasons that seriously imperil [his or her] opportunity to acquire future employment, the individual is entitled to an opportunity to refute the charge" if he or she demonstrates that there "has been a public disclosure by the employer of stigmatizing reasons for the discharge." Typically, said the court, "the submission of a complaint to the New York State Department of Education (SED) based upon the allegations underlying [Vandine's] termination does not constitute such a public disclosure." Here, however, the court decided that although a confidential communication with an authorized governmental administrator or agency does not constitute public disclosure, here SED may determine that, based on allegations in the complaint, there exists a substantial question concerning Vandine's moral character that ultimately could result in the revocation of his teaching certificate. Accordingly the Appellate Division concluded that as 8 NYCRR 83.1 et seq,. the applicable regulations, do not specifically provide for confidentiality, there is a potential for public disclosure sufficient to establish Vandine's entitlement to a name-clearing hearing. Reversing the lower court's decision, the Appellate Division explained that a name clearing hearing was justified because under the controlling regulations Vandine would be given a hearing on the complaint submitted to SED by the school district only if a determination is made that the allegations raise a substantial question concerning his moral character. Accordingly, the Appellate Division ruled that as Vandine is not guaranteed a hearing on the complaint, he may be foreclosed from any opportunity to refute the allegations absent a name-clearing hearing held by the school district. The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_06059.htm

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