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Rochester City Council taking PAB authority fight to Court of Appeals

By: Kevin Oklobzija//June 30, 2021

Rochester City Council taking PAB authority fight to Court of Appeals

By: Kevin Oklobzija//June 30, 2021//

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In an ongoing attempt to empower the Police Accountability Board with disciplinary authority over the department, Rochester City Council will continue to fight rulings by the justice system, even after two legal defeats just five weeks apart.

“From the start, we committed to seeing this fight through to the end,” City Council President Loretta Scott said. “We previously set aside $170,000 (for legal costs) in case we needed to go all the way to the Court of Appeals.”

That’s precisely where the case now will go after council members voted to take the matter to New York’s highest appellate authority.

The Fourth Department earlier this month upheld a ruling by state Supreme Court Justice John J. Ark on May 7 that said empowering the PAB with disciplinary authority was illegal because it circumvented the collective bargaining process.

“The politics swirling around this provision are weighty and fraught, but its legality is not. Local Law No. 2 is invalid insofar as it takes police discipline outside the realm of collective bargaining,” wrote Justice Patrick H. NeMoyer in the ruling by the Fourth Department on June 11.

City Council created local law No. 2 in 2020 and voters overwhelming passed the provision on the November ballot.

The state Supreme Court, however, ruled the law violated the Taylor Law, Civil Service Law § 75, and Unconsolidated Laws § 891. The court therefore declared that “those portions of Local Law No. 2 which authorize and empower (PAB) to conduct disciplinary hearings and discipline officers of the City of Rochester Police Department are determined and declared to be invalid, void and unenforceable.”

The New York City law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady & Maazel LLP, led by Andrew Celli, is representing City Council.

“Everybody gave them a legal opinion from the start but the they still went forward,” said Mike Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, the union representing police. “Of course, if you ask a lawyer you’re paying billable hours, sure he’ll say you’ve got a shot.”

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