Disciplinary penalty ruled too severe remanded to appointing authority for imposition of a lesser penaltyRapkiewicz v Middle Country School District; 273 AD2d 392, Motion for leave to appeal denied, 95 NY2d 765 Tiano v Middle Country School District, App. Div., Second Dept., 273 AD2d 396, Motion for leave to appeal denied, 95 NY2d 766 The Pell doctrine, typically used to test the reasonableness of a disciplinary penalty, basically states that a disciplinary penalty imposed by a public employer will be sustained unless it is found to be disproportionate to the offense [Pell v Board of Education, 34 NY2d, 222]. In the Rapkiewicz and Tiano appeals, the application of the Pell doctrine resulted in the Appellate Division remanding both cases to the Middle Country School District for the imposition of a less severe penalty. The penalty that had been earlier imposed by the district: dismissal. In 1998 Adam Rapkiewicz and Frank Tiano, then employed as custodians by the district, were found guilty of disciplinary charges that the court described as misconduct, while serious, was an isolated event…. The Appellate Division concluded that mitigating circumstances required it to vacate their respective terminations. The mitigating factors: Rapkiewicz had received outstanding ratings during his seven years of service with the district, while Tiano had over 10 years of satisfactory service with the district — and both were found guilty of an isolated event of misconduct. Although the court held that the findings that both were guilty of misconduct was supported by substantial evidence in the record, it ruled that under all of the circumstances, the penalty of dismissal was so disproportionate to the offense committed as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness. However, the Appellate Division only annulled the penalty imposed by the district and directed it to impose a less harsh penalty — its order provided no other relief such as the awarding of back pay and benefits. Typically, back pay and benefits are awarded when the court finds that the underlying disciplinary action was in some way defective such as the hearing officer lacking jurisdiction or a failure of administrative due process. Here, however, the decision indicates that the disciplinary procedure was conducted properly; the only objection voiced by the court was the severity of the penalty imposed. The fact that Appellate Division decided against directing the district to reinstate Rapkiewicz and Tiano to their former positions suggests that the court would not require the district to provide for an award of back salary in fashioning a penalty less severe than termination. ============================================ If you are interested in learning more about disciplinary procedures involving public officers and employees, please click here: http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/ ============================================
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