A federal judge has struck down a state financial oversight panel’s 2011 decision to impose wage freezes on Nassau County employees, holding the panel lacked authority at that time to order the freezes.

Soon after declaring a control period in January 2011 to supervise Nassau County’s finances, the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority adopted a March 2011 resolution suspending "all increases in salary and wages of employees of the County." The January 2011 declaration followed the authority’s "interim finance period" that ended in 2008.

Three county police officer and detective unions sued NIFA. On Feb. 14, Eastern District Judge Leonard Wexler (See Profile), sitting in Central Islip, granted the unions’ summary judgment motion. He held the wording of the state laws creating the authority "unambiguously limit[]" it from imposing wage freezes beyond the "interim finance period" that expired in 2008.

At issue was interpretation of New York Public Authorities Law §3669(3). The unions interpreted the statute to allow wage freezes only during the interim finance period. NIFA said the only wage freezes barred after the interim finance period were "date specified" freezes.

In Carver v. Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, 11-cv-1614, Wexler held the statute’s wording "limits the imposition of wage freezes of previously bargained for rights to the time when a control period and fiscal crisis are declared during the interim finance period. Such wage freezes are neither contemplated nor allowed thereafter."