The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court
Plaintiff, Paul R. Hayden ("Plaintiff"), through counsel, brought an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants, while acting under color of law, deprived him of his property interest in disability retirement benefits without due process of law. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. (Docket No. 1.)
Defendants, sued both individually and in their official capacity, are the former Comptroller for the State of New York ("Hevesi"), the Sheriff for the County of Erie ("Gallivan"), and the Superintendent of the Erie County Holding Center and Jail Management Division of the Erie County Sheriff's Department ("Gibson").*fn1 Where appropriate, Gallivan and Gibson shall be collectively referred to as "the County Defendants".
On February 11, 2007, this Court (Elfvin, J.) dismissed the First, Second, and Third causes of action in the Complaint (Docket No. 17).*fn2
Presently before this Court are the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 34, 39).*fn3
For the reasons that follow, Hevesi's motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 34) is granted, as is the County Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 39).
The following facts are not in dispute.Plaintiff was employed at the Erie County Holding Center (a division of the Erie County Sheriff's Department) as a Civil Service Deputy Sheriff Officer from December, 1985. (Complaint, (Docket No. 1) ¶ 15.) On May 7, 1999, Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident, and was placed on unpaid medical leave shortly thereafter. (Id., ¶ 16-17.)
On or about July 27, 2000, Plaintiff received a letter from his employer advising him that his employment, pursuant to New York State Civil Service Law § 73*fn4 , would terminate on August 1, 2000. The letter indicated that he could be reinstated to his position within one year of his termination. It did not provide notice of Plaintiff's right to apply to the New York State and Local Retirement System ("NYSLRS") of the Office of the State Comptroller for disability retirement benefits. Specifically, the letter did not state that he had twelve (12) months from August 1, 2000, to make a timely application for a disability retirement allowance. (Id., ¶¶ 18-20.)
On September 3, 2000, Plaintiff received a check from the Sheriff's Department dated September 1, 2000, reflecting a pay period ending August 25, 2000. (Id., ¶ 23.)
On August 28, 2001, Plaintiff applied for disability retirement benefits pursuant to New York Retirement and Social Security Law, Article 15 § 605 ("Article 15 application"). (Id., ¶ 28.) Plaintiff's application was denied by the State Comptroller's Office on May 2, 2002, as untimely, and the merits of his application were not reached. (Id., ¶ 31; Record on Review (Docket No. 37-2) at 68.)
Plaintiff sought an administrative hearing for redetermination of his Article 15 application, which was held on October 15, 2003 before Hearing Officer John Rogowski. On September 18, 2004, Hearing Officer Herbert R. Johnson, Jr., upheld the determination of the State Comptroller that Plaintiff's application was untimely.*fn5
(Complaint, ¶ 34; Record on Review at 28-32, 45-63.)
On October 14, 2004, a final determination was issued by the State Deputy Comptroller accepting the Hearing Officer's findings and denying Plaintiff's application. (Complaint, ¶ 37; Record on Review at 26-27.)
Plaintiff then commenced a proceeding pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules on January 27, 2005 in Albany County Supreme Court, in which he named Alan G. Hevesi as the sole respondent, and asked the court to vacate the Comptroller's determination denying him disability retirement benefits. That matter was transferred to the Appellate Division, Third Department. (Record on Review at 3-7, 14-20.) The Third Department dismissed Plaintiff's Article 78 petition on September 28, 2006. Hayden v. Hevesi, 32 A.D.3d 1125 (3rd Dept. 2006).
While Plaintiff's Article 78 petition was pending in state court, he commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on the ground that the Defendants deprived Plaintiff of his property interest in his disability retirement allowance without due process of law. In his Complaint, Plaintiff set forth four causes of action: (1) that Defendants failed to provide him with notice of the time limitations within which he was to apply for disability retirement benefits; (2) Defendants failed to provide him with unambiguous and certain notice of the actual termination of his employment upon which he could reasonably calculate his time within which to apply for disability retirement benefits; (3) New York State Civil Service Law § 73 is unconstitutional on its face and as applied because it does not require that an employer give the aforementioned time limitation notice to an employee upon termination of their employ; and (4) the County Defendants failed to provide accurate and correct information to the State Comptroller's Office regarding Plaintiff's employment, causing undue delay to the processing of his application. Plaintiff also alleged that Defendant Hevesi failed to provide him with a prompt hearing by a fair and informed hearing officer, and did not provide him with a timely decision following his administrative hearing.
On February 11, 2007, this Court issued a decision dismissing the first, second, and third cause of action as time-barred, leaving in place only the Complaint's fourth cause of action.
For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motions for summary judgment are both granted.