ALBANY – The state’s highest court, in deciding a three-year legal fight in Erie County, said local elections boards have unique powers over certain employment matters compared with other government entities.
The Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld lower court rulings that said the bargaining rights of certain workers at the Erie County Board of Elections were not violated when the agency changed their work hours to avoid having to pay overtime expenses.
In a 5-2 decision, the court said the Board of Elections was within its rights when it changed the hours of employees for a May 2009 school district election to reduce overtime costs.
The majority ruled against the Civil Service Employees Union bid to bring the matter to arbitration.
The court cited state election law that gives every county elections board in the state “exclusive power’’ to hire and fire workers and prescribe duties and salaries.
The court cited an earlier decision in a legal dispute in Chautauqua County that ruled that election boards have “complete and exclusive control of their personnel.”
In writing the dissenting opinion, Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick called her colleagues’ interpretation of the law in the Erie County case “overly broad.”
“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the ruling, but it is a very narrow decision specifically dealing with overtime not being subject to collective bargaining for these specific employees,” said Stephen Madarasz, a CSEA spokesman in Albany.
“There’s a very limited impact.”