On April 28, 2009, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Joan Ivan, Docket No.: A-1070-07T2. Following a hearing conducted on April 15, 2003, appellant, Joan Ivan (“Ivan”), a Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer, was suspended for thirty days as the result of disciplinary charges stemming from her alleged failure to truthfully report smoking by a fellow officer while in an official vehicle. In contrast, the officer committing the prohibited offense, after pleading guilty, was given a four-day suspension that could be served use of vacation days. Ivan appealed to the Merit System Board on May 16, 2003.
Thereafter, on August 22, 2003, Ivan was terminated when, in nine attempts over three days, she was unable to requalify for use of her service weapon. She appealed on September 12, 2003 and she filed an order to show cause on September 19, 2003, in which she contended that the Sheriff’s Department had violated her right to due process of law as the result of its failure to conduct a hearing prior to termination. The Department reinstated Ivan and served her with a preliminary notice of disciplinary action on September 29, 2003. Following a hearing on September 30, 2003, Ivan was served, on October 14, 2003, with a final notice of disciplinary action removing her from her position.
The two matters were referred to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing, where they were consolidated for that purpose without objection. Following the hearing, at which testimony was given by numerous witnesses, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) recommended dismissal of the charge leading to Ivan’s suspension, but affirmance of the termination decision. No attorney’s fees were awarded. The Merit System Board adopted the ALJ’s decision, and this appeal followed. On appeal, Ivan challenged the Board’s failure to award counsel fees in connection with her appeal from the thirty day suspension, and she challenges the Board’s adoption of the ALJ’s findings with respect to her termination and the ALJ’s legal ruling with respect to the admissibility of expert testimony in connection with her termination.
The Appellate Division affirmed the Merit System Board’s determination in its entirety. Specifically, the Court rejected Ivan’s arguments that: (1) she was given insufficient opportunity to qualify with her weapon; (2) the ALJ should have admitted the testimony of her firearms qualification expert; and (3) she was entitled to counsel fees on her successful appeal from her suspension. After reviewing the decision of the ALJ and the Board in detail, the Court determined the Board’s action was supported by sufficient, credible evidence in the record as well as well-established statutory law and, therefore, was not arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.