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GOLDBERG v. VILLAGE OF SPRING VALLEY

April 20, 1982;

IRVING M. GOLDBERG, STUART E. GOLDBERG, and HYMAN COHEN, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF SPRING VALLEY, THE SPRING VALLEY URBAN RENEWAL AGENCY, and JOEL ROSENTHAL, EDWARD FRIEDMAN, JACK ROSENBERG, SHEILA REITSKY, and CLAYTON SIMMONS, individually, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EDELSTEIN

OPINION, FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

I

 The Village of Spring Valley is a municipality incorporated under the New York State Village Law. *fn1" Plaintiff Irving M. Goldberg was an Assistant Village Attorney for the village. Plaintiff Stuart E. Goldberg and plaintiff Hyman Cohen were employed by the Spring Valley Urban Renewal Agency ("SVURA"), a state-established administrative agency, created to supervise urban renewal in the village. *fn2" Stuart E. Goldberg was counsel for SVURA, while Hyman Cohen was the executive director of SVURA. Defendant Joel Rosenthal is the Mayor of the Village of Spring Valley. Partial summary judgment was granted in favor of the individual trustee defendants, Edward Friedman, Jack Rosenberg, Sheila Reitsky, and Clayton Simmons, at trial, and an opinion accompanies this decision.

 In September, 1979, defendant Rosenthal and his slate of candidates *fn3" were victorious in a Democratic primary election for mayor and trustees of the village. Plaintiffs actively supported the opposition candidates. On December 3, 1979, with the approval of the board of trustees, Mayor Rosenthal appointed Michael Stone as Village Attorney and Sammy Diament and Irving Damast as Assistant Village Attorneys. This action terminated the position of Assistant Village Attorney held by Irving M. Goldberg. In addition, the board of trustees authorized the transfer of all SVURA funds to the village, thereby eliminating the positions held by Stuart Goldberg and Hyman Cohen. Plaintiffs allege the sole reason for the termination of their employment was the active support they gave to the opponents of defendant Rosenthal and his slate of candidates in the September primary campaign.

 On June 27, 1980, plaintiffs commenced this action, presumably pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, *fn4" seeking reinstatement to their respective positions, or, in the alternative, damages in the amount of their prospective earnings from the date of the termination of their employment until their respective sixty-fifth birthdays. Plaintiffs allege they were non-policymaking, non-confidential government employees who were satisfactorily performing their duties and that their termination was solely for political reasons and violative of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. *fn5"

 II

 The question to be decided herein may be stated as follows: Whether plaintiffs, Irving M. Goldberg, Stuart E. Goldberg, and Hyman Cohen, were non-policymaking, non-confidential government employees who, for political reasons, were dismissed from jobs they were competently performing. See Finkel v. Branti, 457 F. Supp. 1284 (S.D.N.Y. 1978), aff'd without opinion, 598 F.2d 609 (2d. Cir.), aff'd, 445 U.S. 507, 63 L. Ed. 2d 574, 100 S. Ct. 1287 (1979); Nekolny v. Painter, 653 F.2d 1164 (7th Cir. 1981). See also Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 375, 49 L. Ed. 2d 547, 96 S. Ct. 2673 (1976) (Stewart, J., concurring). On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, this court finds no proof that plaintiffs were fired because of their political beliefs. Therefore the court finds no violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments in the dismissal of plaintiffs from their governmental offices.

 III

 The Village of Spring Valley is governed by an elected mayor and an elected board of trustees. Under the New York State Village Law each mayor, with the approval of the village board of trustees, may appoint a village attorney and as many assistants as he chooses, subject only to possible budgetary restrictions. *fn6"

 Prior to June 5, 1979, the Village of Spring Valley employed a village attorney and two assistant village attorneys. On that date, the board appointed Irving Goldberg to a newly-created position of Assistant Village Attorney in charge of the prosecution of housing and related matters, at an annual salary of $ 6,000.

 Spring Valley's urban renewal agency, SVURA, was established in 1973 pursuant to a New York State legislative edict to "correct [the] substandard, unsanitary, blighted, deteriorated or deteriorating conditions, factors and characteristics" that existed in the Spring Valley area. *fn7" The Federal and New York State Governments funded and administered SVURA under the Neighborhood Development Program. In the following years the village board transferred to SVURA additional functions, including the administration of the village's code enforcement and community development programs. SVURA is governed by a board of five members, including the mayor of Spring Valley who is the chairman, and four others appointed by the mayor.

 On June 14, 1977, SVURA retained Stuart Goldberg as Attorney for SVURA at an annual fee of $ 6,600. This retainer was renewed by the SVURA board on September 13, 1978 for a one-year period pursuant to a written agreement, and again on October 23, 1979 for a two year period at an annual fee of $ 7,590 pursuant to a new written contract.

 On October 12, 1978, the SVURA board appointed Hyman Cohen Executive Director of SVURA at an annual salary of $ 18,000. Approximately one year later, on October 23, 1979, Cohen was reappointed to the same position pursuant to a written contract for a two year term.

 The Village of Spring Valley is, and has been during all dates relevant to this proceeding, governed by members of the Democratic Party. Thus, as a practical matter, the Democratic primary is the relevant and most important political contest in the village. In September, 1979, defendant Rosenthal and his slate of candidates triumphed in the Democratic ...


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