2013 NY Slip Op 03230, Appellate Division, Fourth Department
The City of Niagara Falls’ Local Law No. 7 requires City employees to establish and maintain residency within the City throughout the term of their employment. "Residency" for the purposes of this action was defined as "the actual principal place of residence of an individual, where he or she normally sleeps; normally maintains personal and household effects; the place listed as an address on voter registration; and the place listed as his or her address for driver's license and motor vehicle registration, if any."*
The City determined that one of its employees [Petitioner] principally resided outside the City in the Town of Niagara. Concluding that Petitioner did not comply with its residency policy, the City terminated her employment.
Petitioner challenged the City’s decision. Supreme Court granted her petition and directed the City to reinstate her to her former position. The Appellate Division disagreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling and vacated its decision.
The Appellate Division found that the evidence relied upon by the City was sufficient to establish that Petitioner's "actual principal place of residence" was in the Town of Niagara [Niagara] and thus outside the city limits of the City of Niagara Falls.
The evidence presented to the City included an investigative report indicating that Petitioner resided at the Niagara residence, the address of the Niagara residence was listed on Petitioner's joint tax return with her husband, Petitioner's signature appeared on a recent mortgage application for the Niagara residence, Petitioner's husband and children resided at the Niagara residence and Petitioner’s children attend school in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District.
In addition, said the Appellate Division, “a surveillance company observed Petitioner on multiple occasions driving to work from the Niagara residence early in the morning and driving from work to the Niagara residence at the end of the work day, "whereupon she would retrieve the mail and park in the garage."
Petitioner had testified that she resided at a City address and that the City address was listed on various documents, including her voter registration records and her driver's license. Notwithstanding such testimony, the Appellate Division concluded that such "evidence was not so overwhelming as to support the [Supreme] court's determination granting [her] petition."
Citing Beck-Nichols v Bianco, 20 N.Y.3d 540,** a case involving a school district employee’s failure to comply with the district’s residence requirement, the Appellate Division said that under the "extremely deferential standard" of review applicable in Petitioner’s case, it concluded that the City's determination that Petitioner principally resides outside the City is not “without foundation in fact,” and thus the City had "rationally concluded that [Petitioner] did not comply with the residency policy."
The court then reversed Supreme Court's decision "on the law" and the dismissed the City's former employee’s petition.
* The Appellate Division noted that this “definition [of residence] is akin to, if not synonymous with, the legal concept of ‘domicile,’ i.e., ‘living in [a] locality with intent to make it a fixed and permanent home.’”
The City of Niagara Falls decision is posted on the Internet at:
Reprinted by permission New York Public Personnel Law
Mitchell H. Rubinstein