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School worker ordered reinstated

A $46,000-a-year employee of the city School Board who was fired in 2009 for moving to Ransomville on weekends to live with his new wife has been ordered reinstated with full back pay.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, sitting in Rochester, unanimously upheld a lower court ruling reinstating Vincent F. Gigliotti to his job as a general repairer. He and a handful of other employees were fired for allegedly violating the school district's strict policy that all of its employees live in Niagara Falls.

Supreme Court Justice Tracey A. Banniser ruled in March 2010 that Gigliotti should be reinstated. The district appealed that ruling to the Appellate Division, which affirmed Bannister's order Friday in a two-page written decision.

The Appellate Division decision said, in part, that Gigliotti "was a lifelong resident of Niagara Falls. Beginning in 1992 or 1993, [he] resided with his elderly mother at a residence in Niagara Falls after his divorce from his first wife.

"In April 2007, while he was temporarily laid off from his employment with the [school] district, [he] married his longtime girlfriend, in part because he was at risk of losing his health benefits.

"[He] and his wife agreed that [he] would continue to live in Niagara Falls with his mother, while his wife would continue to live at her residence in Ransomville, N.Y., which she purchased before the marriage. [His] personal effects remained at his residence in Niagara Falls, although he keeps a set of golf clubs and some clothing at his wife's residence in Ransomville.

"[He] resides with his wife in Ransomville on weekends. [He] listed the Niagara Falls address on his federal income tax forms, his New York State driver's license, his Social Security card, his marriage certificate and bank and credit statements.

"Moreover, [his] vehicle is registered at the Niagara Falls address, and he is registered to vote in Niagara Falls. We thus conclude that the determination that [he] changed his domicile from Niagara Falls to Ransomville was arbitrary and capricious."

Gigliotti's attorney, Terry M. Sugrue of the Buffalo law firm of Reden & O'Donnell, said his client was "happy with the outcome. We hope the School Board will reinstate him. He wants his job back."

Michael F. Perley of the Buffalo law firm of Hurwitz & Fine represents the School Board; its president, Russell J. Petrozzi; and School Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco. He would not comment on whether his clients would appeal the decision one more step to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. In general, however, unanimous decisions of the Appellate Division rarely are pursued to the Court of Appeals.

Petrozzi, the School Board president, pointed out that the ruling was "on an individual case. It did not attack our residency policy, nor was the policy even commented on."

"In light of the decline in population of Niagara Falls, a local residency requirement becomes even more important," Petrozzi said.


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