Prosecutors Say County Went Too Far

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) – Fifteen career prosecutors have sued Westchester County. The assistant district attorneys say they accepted a pay freeze 3 years ago. But they will not accept the county’s demand that if they want to collect the sick leave they have accrued for 20 years, they had to quit by July 1.

     “Having imposed a pay freeze 3 years ago on a prospective basis without any objection from plaintiffs, the county now has gone too far by altering through legislative fiat the terms of the parties’ employment relationship, retroactively, to wit, by adopting legislation that requires plaintiffs to quit their employ by July 1, 2010, if they wish to receive the sick leave compensation that they have earned and accrued over the past 20-plus years,” according to the complaint, filed June 24 in Westchester County Court.
     Westchester passed the law in May, which calls for a “reduction in sick leave buyout for non-represented/managerial class of employees.”
     The prosecutors, who are not part of any union, say they are classified as exempt under state law, and Westchester has no right to abridge their “vested contract rights.”
     Under the buyout, the prosecutors can receive 50 percent of up to 120 days of their accumulated sick leave when they leave their jobs for any reason but misconduct or incompetence, according to the complaint.
     The prosecutors say that if they are entitled to 125 days of sick pay, they were supposed to lose the right to that compensation by July 1, when the law was to take effect.
     A judge issued a temporary restraining order to bar the county from retroactively taking away the prosecutors’ unused sick pay, and an appeals court upheld the ruling last month.
     Four of the county’s 116 prosecutors accepted the county’s buyout offer earlier this month, according to media reports. None of the four are named in the lawsuit against Westchester County and its Finance Commissioner Ann Marie Berg.
     The 15 plaintiffs include the top three prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office, according to local media: First Deputy District Attorneys James McCarty Jr., Maryanne Luciano and John George. The other plaintiff prosecutors are Steven Bender, Robert Sauer, Patrick Moore, Edward Livingston, Steven Vandervelden, John O’Rourke, Perry Perrone, Robert Prisco, Timothy Ward, Patricia Murphy, Frederic Green and Mark Garretto.
     The prosecutors seek declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging civil rights violations and breach of employment contract. They are represented by Leonard Violi of Mamaroneck, N.Y.

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