On March 16, 2009, the Appellate Division decided Siaw v. Valenzuala. In the case, Defendant Diomedes Valenzuala, a police officer, appealed from the judgment of the trial court denying his claims against his former employer, the Township of Irvington, for indemnification pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:14-155 in connection with his defense of a lawsuit against him arising out of his exercise of police powers in arresting Plaintiff.

TheCourt indicated that the central question in the case was whether, at the time Valenzuala lawfully arrested Plaintiff, Valenzuala was acting “in the furtherance of his official duties.” If he stopped to investigate a suspicious incident on his way to the police station in response to a call for him to report there on police business, as Valenzuala maintained, then Valenzuala would be entitled to reimbursement under N.J.S.A. 40A:14-155. If he was engaged in a side-business of “keeping the peace” for a towing company, as the trial judge found, then he was not acting “in the furtherance of his official duties” within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 40A:14-155, even if he acted lawfully in arresting Plaintiff.

The Appellate Division affirmed, finding that the trial court appropriately determined that Valenzuala was engaged in a side-business of “keeping the peace” for a towing company at the time of the arrest and not “acting in the furtherance of his official duties.” As a result, the Court dismissed Valenzuala’s action seeking reimbursement for costs associated with his defense of a civil action filed by Plaintiff. 

This case illustrates the principle that officers who work a side-job may not be reimbursed for defending a legal proceeding brought against them for actions which arose out of their performance of the side-job. Many public safety employees, especially during these economic times, work side-jobs in order to obtain additional compensation. All of these officers, however, should be aware of this case. In the event a lawsuit is brought against you, on account of your exercise of police powers while engaged in the side-job, the potential is great that you will not be reimbursed for defending such a lawsuit.

 

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Photo of Frank M. Crivelli Frank M. Crivelli

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state…

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state, county and local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers.

Mr. Crivelli specializes his individual practice in collective negotiations.  Over the past twenty (20) years, Mr. Crivelli has negotiated well over one hundred (100) collective bargaining agreements for various state, county, municipal and private organizations and has resolved over thirty-five (35) labor agreements that have reached impasse through compulsory interest arbitration.  Mr. Crivelli routinely litigates matters in front of the New Jersey State Public Employment Relations Commission, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, third party neutrals for mediation, grievance and interest arbitration, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Crivelli founded and created the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog (www.njpublicsafetyofficers.com) approximately fifteen (15) years ago where he and members of his firm routinely publish blog posts regarding legal issues related to the employment of New Jersey Public Safety Officers.  The blog now contains over six hundred (600) articles and is reviewed and relied upon by thousands of public employees.  Mr. Crivelli has also published books and manuals pertaining to New Jersey Public Employee Disability Pension Appeals and the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation System. Currently, he is drafting a publication on how to Prepare and Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  He lectures annually at the New Jersey State PBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, the National Association of Police Organization’s Legal Seminar, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Seminar on Public Employment Labor Law, the United States Marine Corps’ Commander’s Media Training Symposium and to Union Executive Boards and General Membership bodies on various labor related topics.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Crivelli joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate with the Legal Services Support Section of the First Force Services Support Group in Camp Pendleton, California.  While serving in the Marine Corps, Mr. Crivelli defended and prosecuted hundreds of Special and General Court Martial cases and administrative separation matters.  In addition to his trial duties, Mr. Crivelli was also charged with the responsibility of training various Marine and Naval combat command elements on the interpretation and implementation of the rules of engagement for various military conflicts that were ongoing throughout the world at that time. After leaving active duty, Mr. Crivelli remained in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service.

For the past fifteen (15) years, Mr. Crivelli has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey, a certification which less than two percent (2%) of the attorneys in New Jersey have achieved.  He is a graduate of Washington College (B.A.), the City University of New York School of Law (J.D.), the United States Naval Justice School, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.