In the case of In the Matter of Mark Moncho, Mark Moncho, a Sergeant First Class, appealed a final decision of the Division of State Police finding him in violation of Article VI, Section 2a of the Division’s regulations (performance of duties) and imposing a ten day suspension.
Moncho was assigned to the State Police Construction Inspection Unit. The Construction Unit is a component of the Traffic Bureau and operates as a partnership between the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Department of Transportation. In this capacity, Moncho was responsible for overseeing five sergeants who, in turn, supervised subordinate troopers. His responsibilities included: (1) reviewing the patrol charts and weekly reports of the sergeants and the subordinates; (2) time-keeping; and (3) day-to-day supervision of the Construction Unit.
Ultimately, the Division of State Police charged Moncho with violating a series of rules and regulations involving billing and overtime. Moncho pled not guilty to the charges and, on June 28, 2004, the Division transmitted the matter to the Office of Administrative Law. After conducting numerous hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) concluded: (1) Moncho violated none of the specifications underlying disciplinary charges; and (2) nevertheless, Moncho was guilty of the performance of duties disciplinary charge based solely upon the amount of overtime he had earned. On August 2, 2007, the Division of State Police issued a final decision upholding the ALJ’s decision in its entirety. This appeal ensued.
On appeal, Moncho argued that when the ALJ found that the Division had not met its burden of proof as to the specifications in the charges, the ALJ dismissed all bases of liability of which Moncho had notice. Moreover, Moncho argued the Division’s decision to discipline him absent a showing that he engaged in fraud, misleading conduct, or the violation of a policy is arbitrary and capricious.
In its decision, the Appellate Division agreed with Moncho’s contentions. The Court concluded that the record did not support the Division’s decision and this was further compelled by the ALJ’s incongruous findings. In effect, the ALJ created a new basis on which to justify disciplinary action after hearing and rejecting the official charges and specifications lodged against Moncho. The Court further noted that at no time was Moncho ever notified that the accrual of overtime, in and of itself, could subject him to disciplinary action. Accordingly, the Court determined the final decision of the Division to be arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable and thereby vacated the penalty imposed.