Hotaling withdraws court challenge to Westerlo, ending Civil Service legal saga 

The Enterprise — Noah Zweifel

Peter Hotaling delivers his assessor’s report to the Rensselaerville Town Board at its Feb. 13, 2020 regular meeting.

WESTERLO — Peter Hotaling has withdrawn his court challenge against Westerlo, having sought to be reinstated as the town’s assessor after the town opened his position to other candidates last year. 

Hotaling’s lawyer, James B. Tuttle, of the Tuttle Law Firm in Clifton Park, declined to comment on the reason for the withdrawal, but said it was withdrawn “a couple of weeks ago,” before a decision was handed down by a judge. 

Hotaling did not return calls from The Enterprise this week. 

“They must have reviewed the case and, despite the opinions of the press, realized there was no case,” Westerlo Supervisor William Bichteman told The Enterprise after breaking the news. 

Bichteman was Westerlo’s acting supervisor last year when he first raised the issue of advertising for Hotaling’s position, while modifying the position to no longer include health insurance and require 80-percent participation. 

Hotaling had come to rely on the health insurance and his ability to work remotely after he became infected following a surgery and confined to a hospital and rehab center for many weeks. 

As the town board discussed the issue last year, some in the audience were wary of the impact the change would have on the ailing Hotaling, but the bipartisan board voted unanimously — 4 to 0, with Bichteman unable to vote as an acting supervisor — to consider other candidates. 

In December, Westerlo hired Garth Slocum, a lawyer and assessor for three other towns outside of Albany County to replace Hotaling. The town’s first choice, Justin Maxwell, who is Knox’s assessor, declined the position after failing to reach an agreement with the town over office hours. Hotaling was hired to be Rensselaerville’s first sole assessor in November.

In the meantime, The Enterprise editorialized on Hotaling’s case, pointing to a section of Civil Service Law that offers job security for certain workers who have remained in the same position for at least five years, as Hotaling had. 

“In the Town of Westerlo, the position of Assessor I is a non-competitive title,” Deputy Personnel Officer David Walker told The Enterprise at the time. “If the person has been in the position for 5 or more consecutive years they would have Civil Service Section 75 rights. This means that they cannot be removed from the position except for incompetency or misconduct shown after a hearing upon stated charges pursuant to Section 75 of Civil Service Law.” 

Hotaling had been unaware of his Civil Service protection prior to the editorial and subsequently sought an opinion from the Albany County Department of Civil Service. Before an opinion was delivered, Walker told The Enterprise that the case was complicated because it relied on interpretations of both Civil Service Law and Real Property Tax Law. The latter law sets appointed assessor terms at six years.

At the time, Hotaling was ambivalent about pursuing legal action against the town and told The Enterprise that he was “just curious” about the legality of the action. He ultimately filed an Article 78 last December.

Article 78 is the article of New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules that allows individuals to challenge decisions made by administrative agencies, public bodies, or officers.

Bichteman, all the while, resisted claims that he fired Hotaling, noting that Hotaling was allowed to apply for the position — which he did — but would be measured against other candidates. Hotaling was ultimately one of three candidates and was the only one the town did not publicly express interest in. 

“It’s not saying [Hotaling] can’t have a job,” Bichteman said at the September meeting. “It’s saying he can’t have a job with health insurance.”


Joined: 05/11/2019 - 09:16

Westerlo is a changed place since Dick Rapp left.

I wonder how Westerlo is finding their relationship with

Sure would be nice to have FDIC backing on Town money right about now.

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