patrick lynch

DENIED: A State Supreme Court Justice has dismissed a lawsuit by the Police Benevolent Association and its president, Patrick J. Lynch, above, that sought to invalidate City Charter revisions granting the Civilian Complaint Review Board additional staff to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by police officers. The measures were overwhelmingly approved by voters last November.

The Police Benevolent Association has lost its bid to overturn a successful ballot measure boosting the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s budget.

A Supreme Court Justice Sept. 23 dismissed “for lack of standing” the union's lawsuit alleging, among other things, that tying the CCRB’s budget to that of the NYPD, had usurped the City Council’s and the Mayor’s budget-making authority and thus violated state law.

Rules No Harm to Union 

The PBA sued the city and the CCRB, the independent city agency charged with overseeing the Police Department, in January, alleging that the ballot measure extended “the power of the purse” to voters. 

In her decision, Justice Carol R. Edmead noted that while the union was correct in contending that the budget-funding mechanism “clearly impinges upon and restricts” the authority of the Mayor and City Council, it had not shown that the provision would harm the PBA since the Review Board’s budget, while pegged to the NYPD’s, was not funded by the department. 

“The fact that the former is calculated by reference to the latter is of no moment,” the Justice wrote. “It is apparent that, without demonstrating any direct financial interference with the NYPD’s budget, the PBA cannot show that it or its members have suffered a ‘sufficiently concrete, particularized, cognizable harm’ caused by the fact that the CCRB’s budget-setting formula relies on the NYPD’s headcount in its calculation formula.”

Justice Edmead also dismissed the union's contention that it would be harmed because its members “have resident, voter and taxpayer standing” since, as the city and CCRB argued, the PBA “failed to seek relief as voters prior to” the Nov. 5, 2019 general election, when city residents went to the polls. 

Overwhelmingly Approved

The measure would have provided additional funding to the CCRB to be able to afford one agency staffer for every 150 uniformed NYPD officers. The increase, scheduled for the start of Fiscal Year 2021, would have boosted staffing by 20, to about 230, but city budget cutbacks attributable to the pandemic are believed to have delayed additions to the CCRB's headcount. 

The CCRB did not respond to an inquiry.  

The PBA, which led a robust effort to defeat the ballot measure, has also not responded to a request for comment on the decision or about its avenues for potential appeal.

At the time of filing, the union’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, called the ballot measure “an illegal power-grab that anti-cop activists sneaked onto the ballot through a tainted process in an off-year election.” 

A city Law Department spokesman said it was pleased with the Justice’s decision. “We counseled the Charter Revision Commission as it drew up all the proposals, including the CCRB initiative. These measures and the process by which they were adopted are legally sound,” he said in a statement. 

Other Powers Gained

The budget provision was one of five that, in amending the city charter, expanded the CCRB’s authority, with others giving the board authority to investigate suspected false statements made by an officer during the course of an investigation or during prosecution; obliges the Police Commissioner to give the board an explanation when he or she intends to institute discipline different from that recommended by the CCRB or the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Trials; increases the board’s size from 13 to 15 members; and grants the CCRB’s Executive Director subpoena power subject to board approval. 

Because the proposals were clustered as one package, the PBA argued in its 25-page petition, the entire measure, which voters approved by a margin of three to one, should be invalidated.

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