In the matter of Paul Weber v. Borough of Glen Rock, A-1079-07T3, Plaintiff, Paul Weber, appealed from two trial court orders: (1) an order dated May 3, 2006 dismissing some of his claims; and (2) an order dated September 5, 2007 granting summary judgment to defendants on the balance of the claims. After reviewing the contentions raised on appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s determinations.
Weber is a member of the Glen Rock Police Department. After joining the Department as a patrolman in 1978, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1985. Since 1985, there have been four occasions when there was an opening within the Department for a member to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Weber applied for this promotion on each occasion and was unsuccessful.
In 2004, the successful applicant was Garret Merselis, who was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant. In 2005, a vacancy developed for the position of captain. Thereafter, Merselis, the only lieutenant on the Glen Rock force at that time, was promoted to the rank of captain. The promotion of Merselis to captain created a vacancy for the position of lieutenant. Plaintiff applied, as did three other members of the Department. On this occasion, Frederick Stahman was selected for promotion to the rank of lieutenant.
Plaintiff, who had more seniority than did either Merselis or Stahman at the time of their respective promotions, filed suit contending that the promotional process was flawed. Specifically, he sought to reopen the process relating to the most recent promotional opening. In support, Weber contended: (1) the Borough was required to administer examinations to those applying for promotion and not rely exclusively on interviews; and (2) the Borough, in passing him over for promotion, did not comply with N.J.S.A. 40A:14-129.
The Court rejected both of Weber’s assertions. The Borough is not a civil service municipality and followed its own two-step promotional process, a written test followed by interviews, until 1992 when, under the new police chief, only interviews were used to select a candidate for promotion to lieutenant. The Court found that where all members of the committee participated in the interviews of all the candidates, the process employed by Glen Rock does not suffer from the same deficiencies criticized in Rox v. Dep’t of Civil Service, 141 N.J. Super. 463, 467 (App. Div. 1976). In Rox, different panels interviewed the various candidates and used different criteria in making promotional decisions. This was not the situation in this case.
Moreover, the Court held that seniority, in and of itself, is not determinative of promotion. The Court indicated seniority is merely an additional factor to be considered on the merits of the evaluation of individuals for promotion and not a mechanical rule which guarantees promotion to a senior employee. In this case, it was established Weber’s seniority was considered. That is all he was entitled to; he was not entitled to have it treated as controlling.