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Court upholds firing of Nassau tax appeals panel

An appeals court has upheld the decision of Republican Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to fire members of a property tax appeals panel when he took office in January.

The nine members of the Assessment Review Commission were holdovers from the administration of Democrat Thomas Suozzi, and some appealed their firing on grounds that they had been appointed to fixed terms of up to five years and could not be fired without cause.

However, the Appellate Division in Brooklyn said the county charter required only that the county give notice and an opportunity to comment before it fires members of the Assessment Review Commission. The decision was handed down last week and became public knowledge Tuesday.

"The language of the Nassau County Charter is clear and unambiguous . . ." the appeals court wrote in a 4-0 ruling. "If the Nassau County Legislature intended for ARC commissioners to be removable only 'for cause' during their statutory terms, then it could have included the appropriate language in the Nassau County Charter."

Mangano had contended that revamping the Assessment Review Commission, which rules on commercial property tax appeals, was the first step in fixing the troubled property tax assessment system.

Attorney Kenneth Gartner, representing four of the dismissed commissioners, had argued they could not be removed without cause, and that a general reason would not be legally sufficient. "They can be fired, but the reasons cannot be pretextual," Gartner had argued in the lower court.

Gartner said Tuesday that he had not talked with his clients about the appellate decision and would have no immediate comment.

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