On March 31, 2008, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, decided the case Detective Sergeant Dean Ackermann v. Borough of Glen Rock and Glen Rock Police Department, Docket Number A-2947-07T2. In the case, the parties appealed and cross-appealed from an order entered by the trial court.

Plaintiff has been a member of the Glen Rock Police Department for more than twenty years. He holds the rank of sergeant and the title of detective. Defendants are the Borough of Glen Rock and its police department. On October 3, 2006, Steven D. Cherry, Chief of the Department, served Plaintiff with a disciplinary notice, charging him with acting contrary to good order and discipline and violating Glen Rock’s “No Tolerance Policy” with respect to wrongdoing in the workplace. The notice contained no recommendation with respect to discipline.

Three days later, Chief Cherry served an amended notice of disciplinary action which set forth nine charges. In the amended notice, Chief Cherry recommended that Plaintiff be suspended for three days without pay and be required to attend an approved course in sensitivity training. The charges were based upon complaints by Anna Maria Mattina, the Borough’s first female police officer. She alleged certain conduct by Plaintiff toward her was unwanted and harassing.

Plaintiff denied any wrongdoing, would not accept the proposed discipline, and requested a hearing. The hearing officer sustained the charges, but rejected the recommendation as to discipline. He recommended Plaintiff be suspended without pay for ten days as well as attend an approved course in sensitivity training. The report was submitted to the mayor and council, which accepted his findings but rejected the recommendation for discipline. The council passed a resolution suspending Plaintiff without pay for sixty days, demoting him to police officer and requiring completion of a course in sensitivity training before returning to active duty. 

In response, Plaintiff filed a three-count complaint in lieu of prerogative writ, contending that the evidence presented did not support the findings that were made, the procedure utilized did not conform to the Attorney General’s Internal Affairs policies and procedures that the Borough adopted, and that the increase in penalty was retaliatory.

The trial court, hearing the matter as a trial de novo, concluded that only two of the violations had been proven and that the penalty imposed by the Borough was excessive. The Court directed Plaintiff be suspended for two concurrent periods of thirty days without pay and complete a course in sensitivity training. This appeal ensued.

On appeal, the Appellate Division held that, when hearing a police disciplinary matter de novo, a trial court has the authority to impose a sanction other than that imposed by the municipality. In this case, the Court found no error in directing that Plaintiff not be demoted and instead imposing a suspension and directing attendance at sensitivity training. Moreover, the Court found that although Defendants violated the Attorney General’s guidelines for conducting a disciplinary hearing, the trial court correctly found that the errors did not prejudice the Plaintiff.



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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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