As you may know, to receive the settlement authority in a special education case, the Department must submit a “Comptroller Memo” to the NYC Office of the Comptroller detailing the legal reason for settlement. The Comptroller then reviews the Comptroller Memo and provides notice to the Department regarding approval of the settlement, known as “Comptroller Approval.” The Department in turn notifies our office that the settlement has been approved by the Comptroller. This process can take months, significantly delaying the settlement and causing undue harm to parents who are relying on tuition reimbursement. Parents’ Counsel is often told by the Department that the delay in Comptroller Approval is caused by a backlog at the Comptroller’s Office. Ratcliff Law has always been skeptical of the common refrain from the Department that “we are awaiting Comptroller Approval” months after settling a case.
Alaina Gilligo, the First Deputy Commissioner of the Comptroller, in a letter dated April 29th to DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza, confirmed our suspicion that the delay in Comptroller Approval is in fact attributable to Department, not the Comptroller. Ms. Gilligo wrote that “despite the Department’s assurances that it would stop blaming the Comptroller's Office for such delays … we continue to receive reports from special education attorneys, advocates, and parents that the DOE is blaming late payments on ‘delays at the Comptroller's Office …’” Regarding the Department’s common response that “we are awaiting comptroller approval,” when we inquire about delays in settlement approval, Ms. Gilligo wrote that in most cases, the Comptroller “have either not received a request for settlement authority from DOE or have already approved a proposed settlement, sometimes months earlier.” To put a stop to this “blame game” and to expedite settlements, the Comptroller has ordered the Department to obtain settlement authority from the Comptroller before negotiating the terms of settlement. Thus, Ms. Gilligo wrote that the Department “would be able to immediately execute and then implement a settlement once agreement was reached between the parties.”
We received an email on May 8th from Emily Minarcik, the Director of the Special Education Unit, in the Office of the DOE General Counsel, regarding the new procedure for obtaining Comptroller Approval. This new procedure is in effect immediately for all settlements in which negotiations have not commenced prior to May 8th.
It remains to be seen if this will speed up the settlement approval process. We are hopeful that it will.
For additional questions about the impact of the new procedure on your specific case, or other inquiries, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-741-3030.