A state judge has rejected a request by 15 career prosecutors in the Westchester District Attorney’s Office to stop a sick-pay cash-out cap while their lawsuit against Westchester County officials moves forward.
The prosecutors sued the county in last year after officials capped the amount of sick time they can cash in when leaving their jobs. The attorneys claimed the county violated their constitutional rights and “breached the parties’ employment relationship” by changing the policy retroactively, after they had already earned the time.
State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Colabella turned down their request for a preliminary injunction, which sought to keep the former status quo.
”(P)laintiffs have failed to demonstrate irreparable injury in the absence of injunctive relief or that the balancing of the equities favor such relief,” he wrote in his decision last week.
Mamaroneck lawyer Leonard Violi, who is representing the 15 prosecutors, said today that his clients do not know if they want to appeal Colabella’s decision. Whether they do or don’t, he said, the lawsuit against the county will proceed.
“The next step is full-blown litigation,” he said. “It will probably be fast tracked. The facts are crystal clear.”
The prosecutors filed suit June 23 in state Supreme Court. The plaintiffs include the top three prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office: First Deputy District Attorneys James McCarty Jr., Maryanne Luciano and John George, who had threatened to quit over the changes, but did not.
Other prosecutors in the suit, all of whom have more than 20 years in the office, are Steven Bender, Mark Garretto, Fredric Green, Edward Livingston, Patrick Moore, Patricia Murphy, John O’Rourke, Perry Perrone, Robert Prisco, Robert Sauer, Steven Vandervelden and Timothy Ward.
This lawsuit was the latest salvo in a battle between lawmakers and workers in the District Attorney’s Office, after County Executive Rob Astorino pushed for changes to benefits and accumulated time.
Earlier this year, the county executive proposed — and the Board of Legislators in May approved — a cap on sick and vacation payouts and a voluntary buyout incentive worth $1,000 a year up to $30,000. The cap in payouts translates into tens of thousands of dollars for a seasoned prosecutor.
The cap was coupled with another law that required nonunion managers to pay between 10 percent and 20 percent of their health insurance premiums, based on salary. The actions were to address a large budget deficit and control spiraling costs.
Soon after, several top prosecutors threatened to leave after the county required nonunion managers, including prosecutors, to help pay for their health benefits. Four prosecutors and seven support staff members took the buyout in July.
Read more of this story tomorrow in The Journal News and on LoHud.com.