Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 1, 2017

RI Supreme Court Holds Reappointment of Assistant Zoning Inspector did not Constitute a Contract of Employment

In 2002, plaintiff Terry Andoscia was appointed to serve a two-year term as an assistant zoning inspector for the Town of North Smithfield. Plaintiff was subsequently appointed to two consecutive two-year terms by the town administrator, in 2004 and 2006. On December 16, 2008, he received a letter from the town clerk informing him of another appointment for a two-year term end on December 1, 2010. Less than two months later, the town advised plaintiff to not report to work, and it ceased paying him. The plaintiff’s employment was terminated for budgetary reasons and not for cause. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a complaint with the Superior Court, alleging breach of employment contract and a violation of his constitutional rights. In this case, the plaintiff appealed from a Superior Court judgment in favor of the town, by its finance director, Cheryl Ficarra, and the town administrator, Paulette Hamilton.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial justice erred in holding that there was no contract between the parties. Specifically, he contended that the letter that the town clerk sent him conveyed a promise that his position as assistant zoning inspector was for a term of two years, expiring “on December 1, 2010. However, under the applicable town ordinance, a part-time zoning officer “serves at the pleasure of the town administrator”, and there was no evidence of a bargained-for exchange or that the plaintiff provided any consideration in exchange for a guaranteed two-year term of employment. Furthermore, there was no indication that the town bargained away its right to terminate the plaintiff at the pleasure of the town administrator. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court in favor of the town.

Andoscia v Town of North Smithfield, 2017 WL 1946258 (RI 5/10/2017)

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