Engineer overturns ban

Engineer filed falsified documents for two addresses. The Department of Buildings filed charges against engineer Leon St. Clair Nation after discovering that he submitted a false application to alter the second floor of a building that did not have a second floor, and that he also submitted plans with altered photographs for two separate properties. Buildings specifically charged St. Clair with violating the City rules by knowingly or negligently submitting false or misleading documents to Buildings. After a hearing at OATH, the Buildings Commissioner ordered that St. Clair’s self-certification privileges be revoked. The Commissioner also ordered that, for a period of two years, Buildings refuse to accept any application or document submitted by St. Clair. The Commissioner found authorization for this additional penalty in a section of the newly-enacted construction code, which authorized such steps to protect the public.

St. Clair filed an article 78 petition, claiming that the Commissioner lacked the authority to impose the additional penalty because the construction code provision that allowed Buildings to refuse his submissions for two years had been enacted after the acts with which he was charged.

The First Department granted St. Clair’s petition, ruling that the construction code did not take effect until after St. Clair had already committed the acts. Although there was substantial evidence that St. Clair negligently submitted doctored photographs and filed false applications, the Commissioner could not invoke the construction code provision to refuse St. Clair’s filings. The appellate court upheld the revocation of St. Clair’s self-certification privileges.

Nation v. New York City, 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 01719 (1st Dept. March 10, 2009) (Attorneys: Christopher M. Slowik, for St. Clair Nation; Michael A. Cardozo, Louise Moed, for NYC).

CITYLAND Comment: In Buildings v. Scarano, OATH Index No. 2571/08 (March 18, 2009), Buildings sought to bar a registered architect from filing any documents with the agency based on alleged conduct that occurred prior to the effective date of the applicable construction code section. Relying on Nation, OATH ALJ Joan R. Salzman dismissed claims relating to that conduct, finding that the relevant section of the code was penal and, as such, could not be applied retroactively. CITYADMIN

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