IN THE MATTER OF CITIZEN REVIEW BOARD OF THE CITY OF SYRACUSE, PETITIONER-PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
SYRACUSE POLICE DEPARTMENT, FRANK L. FOWLER, AS CHIEF OF POLICE AND CITY OF SYRACUSE, RESPONDENTS-DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
P. STAMEY, CORPORATION COUNSEL, SYRACUSE (JOHN A. SICKINGER
OF COUNSEL), FOR RESPONDENTS-DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
BOUSQUET HOLSTEIN PLLC, SYRACUSE (HARRISON V. WILLIAMS, JR.,
OF COUNSEL), FOR PETITIONER-PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT.
PRESENT: WHALEN, P.J., SMITH, PERADOTTO, AND CURRAN, JJ.
from an order of the Supreme Court, Onondaga County (Spencer
J. Ludington, A.J.), entered April 29, 2016 in a CPLR article
78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action. The order
denied the motion of respondents-defendants to dismiss the
hereby ORDERED that the order so appealed from is unanimously
affirmed without costs.
(respondents) appeal from an order denying their motion to
dismiss this hybrid CPLR article 78 proceeding and
declaratory judgment action on the grounds of lack of
capacity and standing. We conclude that the order should be
2011, the Common Council of the City of Syracuse (Common
Council) amended Local Law 11 of 1993 (ordinance), which had
previously established petitioner-plaintiff, Citizen Review
Board of the City of Syracuse (CRB). The purpose of the
ordinance was "[t]o establish an open citizen-controlled
process for reviewing grievances involving members of the
Syracuse Police Department and provide a non-exclusive
alternative to civil litigation." The ordinance further
states that, "[i]n order to insure public accountability
over the powers exercised by members of the Syracuse Police
Department while preserving the integrity of the agency that
employs them, citizen complaints regarding members of the
Syracuse Police Department shall be heard and reviewed fairly
and impartially by the review board."
consists of 11 members, who "shall be residents of the
City of Syracuse and should aspire to reflect the City's
diverse community with respect to age, disability, ethnicity,
gender, geography, language, race, religion and sexual
orientation, " and is independent of the Syracuse Police
Department. The ordinance provides that the CRB "shall
hear, investigate and review complaints and recommend action
regarding police misconduct, " and also may make
recommendations with respect to changes in police policies
to the ordinance, "[w]ithin 60 days of the receipt of a
complaint, the CRB shall complete its investigation,
determine whether there is reasonable cause to proceed to a
hearing, conduct a hearing, and issue its findings and
recommendations to the Chief [of Police] and the Corporation
Counsel." The ordinance further provides that,
"[w]ithin thirty (30) days of the receipt of a
recommendation from a hearing panel, the Chief of Police
shall advise the [CRB] in writing as to what type of actions
or sanctions were imposed, and the reasons if none were
imposed." The CRB administrator also must regularly
publish reports that document, among other things, the total
number and type of complaints, the number of cases involving
recommendation for sanctions, the number of cases where
sanctions were imposed, the number of cases reviewed by the
full CRB, the length of time each case was pending before the
CRB, and the number of complainants who filed a notice of
claim against the City of Syracuse while their complaints
were being considered by the CRB.
furtherance of the CRB's duties, the ordinance provides
that the CRB, "by majority vote of its members, may
authorize the issuance of a subpoena" and that
"[CRB] subpoenas are enforceable pursuant to relevant
provisions of Article 23 of the [CPLR]." The CRB also is
authorized, in the event of a conflict with the Corporation
Counsel, to seek and retain independent legal counsel.
October 28, 2015, in response to four CRB findings sent to
the Chief of Police, the Chief of Police notified the CRB
administrator via a letter that, because he "did not
receive findings from the [CRB] within the sixty (60) days
allotted by Local Law 11, Section 7, Sub 3a, " the
Syracuse Police Department "was forced to proceed
without recommendations from the [CRB]" in those four
matters. The Chief of Police also refused to "advise the
board in writing as to what type of actions or sanctions were
imposed, and the reasons if none were imposed, " as
required by the ordinance.
February 5, 2016, the CRB commenced this hybrid CPLR article
78 proceeding/declaratory judgment action seeking, inter
alia, a judgment directing the Chief of Police to comply with
the ordinance by advising the CRB in writing as to what type
of sanctions or ...