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Andoscia v. Town of North Smithfield

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 10, 2017

Terry Andoscia
v.
Town of North Smithfield et al.

         Providence County Superior Court PC 10-229, Patricia A. Hurst Associate Justice

          For Plaintiff: Thomas M. Dickinson, Esq.

          For Defendants: Marc DeSisto, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          Paul A. Suttell Chief Justice

         In December 2008, Terry Andoscia (plaintiff) was reappointed to his fourth consecutive two-year term as assistant zoning inspector in the Town of North Smithfield (the town). The issue in this appeal is whether that appointment constitutes a contract of employment. The plaintiff appeals from a Superior Court judgment in favor of the town, by and through its finance director, Cheryl Ficarra, and the town administrator, Paulette Hamilton (collectively, defendants). This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After considering the parties' written and oral submissions and reviewing the record, we are of the opinion that this case may be decided without further briefing or argument. We conclude, as did the trial justice, that, under the circumstances of this case, no contract exists; therefore, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         The material facts in this case are undisputed. In 2002, plaintiff was appointed to serve a two-year term as an assistant zoning inspector for the town. After successfully carrying out his duties, plaintiff was subsequently appointed to two consecutive two-year terms by the town administrator, in 2004 and 2006. Shortly after the end of the latter term, he received a letter from the town clerk dated December 16, 2008, informing him of another appointment for a two-year term "expir[ing] on December 1, 2010." Less than two months later, however, on February 6, 2009, 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.[1] The matter was reached and heard by a trial justice in a jury-waived trial on June 16, 2014.

         At trial, Robert E. Benoit, a building and zoning official for the town and plaintiff's supervisor, testified that, in February 2009, there was a reduction in aid to the town from the state. For that reason, several employees were "temporarily laid off, " and the remaining employees of the town "agreed to take a 20 percent cut in pay for a few months until the start of the new [fiscal] year on July 1st." He further testified that plaintiff was temporarily laid off and told that, because of the budget cut, he would not be compensated for any further work. As a result, plaintiff received no compensation after February 6, 2009. Benoit also stated that, in July 2009, after the beginning of a new fiscal year, he informed plaintiff "that he could come back to work any time that he wanted to."[2]

         At the conclusion of trial, the trial justice entered final judgment in favor of defendants, from which plaintiff timely appealed.

         II

         Standard ...


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