Westchester Medical Center’s bold attempt to set up its own civil service system was invalidated Tuesday by acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary, who ruled that the public benefit corporation lacked the authority to wrest this power from Westchester County.
The ruling was a victory for the Civil Service Employees Association and the New York State Nurses Association, which challenged what they saw as an illegal action by the hospital board. The civil service powers will now return to Westchester County, which has performed the personnel actions since the hospital was split off as a public benefit corporation in 1997.
Medical Center CEO Michael Israel and Medical Center Board Chairman Mark Tulis had chafed at the Westchester commission’s inability to act quickly to address changes in the health-care landscape.
“The court finds that the Respondent Board acting in excess of its authority in establishing its own civil service system,” Neary wrote in his Jan. 21 ruling. “The enabling legislation cited by respondents does not specifically grant the authority to establish a civil service system.”
Union officials lauded the court ruling.
“This decision is hugely significant for a work force that has been subject to relentless attempts at eradicating a system of merit and fairness at Westchester Medical Center,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “After years of ignoring civil service rules and failing to work cooperatively with the County, someone in management at the hospital figured they could do one better by creating a suspect system despite it being clear that they lacked the authority to do so. The public is always better served when there are standards and accountability in place.”
Sam Caquias, president of the nurses’ union local at the medical center, wondered how the ruling would impact the status of nurses hired by the medical center’s civil service commission since September.
“No one seems to have any answers,” he said.
Calls to Westchester Medical Center spokesman David Billig were not returned Tuesday afternoon. Westchester County spokeswoman Britta Vander Linden declined comment.
Photo: Medical Center President Michael Israel. (David McKay Wilson/The Journal News)