On March 20, 2009, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Larry Martin, Docket No.: A-3271-07T3. In the case, Larry Martin, a police officer with the City of Jersey City, appealed from a disciplinary penalty imposed upon him by the Merit System Board.

Martin, who had been a member of the Jersey City Police Department for 22 years, failed to attend mandatory weapons qualification training for a new service weapon, a Glock .45 caliber handgun, on May 10, 2005. As a result, he was charged with “disobedience to a lawful order” and “absence without leave” in violation of the Police Department’s rules. After holding a hearing, Jersey City sustained the charges and imposed an eight-day loss of vacation days. Martin appealed to the Board.

The matter was referred to an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) who conducted a hearing. The ALJ, in his decision, found that Martin had been given a direct order by his superior officer to attend the training session and failed to do so. The ALJ sustained the charges and the disciplinary penalty. Neither party filed exceptions and the matter went to the Merit System Board for a final decision.

After conducting its independent review of the record, the Merit System Board agreed the charges had been proven. However, the Board increased the penalty to a 120 day suspension based on Martin’s previous major disciplinary history. In reaching this conclusion, the Board considered the seriousness of the underlying incident, the concept of progressive discipline, and Martin’s prior record. This appeal ensued. 

On appeal, Martin contended that the Board’s decision to increase the penalty was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable and unsupported by the record. The Appellate Division disagreed and affirmed the Board’s determination. The Court found no basis to overturn the decision and noted that Martin had defied a direct order of his superior officer, on a very important issue, namely firearms training. The Court further noted that Martin had a prior history of four substantial disciplinary sanctions. Based on the nature of the underlying infraction, Martin’s past history of disciplinary sanctions, and the Board’s policy of progressive discipline, the Court did not find the increase in the penalty to be arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. 

The case illustrates the principle that an agency can increase the penalty imposed upon a public safety officer in appealing a disciplinary determination. Many times, the increase will be upheld if the agency, such as the Civil Service Commission, adequately considered an officer’s disciplinary history, the nature of the underlying matter, and the policy of progressive discipline.

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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.

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