Employer's failure to explain selection decision to rebut eligible's claim of denial promotion negates summary dismissal of employee's petition

Employer's failure to explain selection decision to rebut eligible's claim of denial promotion negates summary dismissal of employee's petition Baker v Elmira, 271 AD2d 906 What may individual who believes that he or she has been passed-over for appointment to a position in the competitive class for political reasons do in such a situation? James A. Baker, Sr., decided that he would sue the City of Elmira when he was not selected for promotion to fire lieutenant for what he alleged were partisan political reasons. Baker, an Elmira firefighter since 1974, took and passed the promotion test for fire lieutenant. The first four firefighters on the list were promoted before the list expired; Baker was fifth on the list. Prior to the expiration of the list Fire Chief Donald Harrison told the Elmira city manager W. Gregg LaMar that there would soon be additional vacancies as result of retirement. Commenting that Baker was next on the list, he recommended three appointments: Baker, Eugene Ottaviani and Patrick Shaw. All had identical examination and seniority scores. Ottaviani was promoted. Baker sued, submitting affidavits indicating that he was not being promoted because of his political affiliation. Although a State Supreme Court judge summarily dismissed Baker's complaint, the Appellate Division reversed. Quoting from McManus v Grippen, 244 AD2d 632, the court said "it was incumbent upon [the defendant] to come forward with admissible evidence showing that plaintiff ['s] political affiliations and activities did not play a substantial part in its decision." While Elmira made a prima facie showing of the propriety of the promotion, it provided no explanation as to why LaMar chose one eligible over the other candidates, since they were all equally qualified. This, said the court, meant that summarily dismissing the case was improper.

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