On May 7, 2009, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Steven Howe and Joseph Mufalli, Docket No. A-3512-07T1. In the case, Steven Howe appealed from the final administrative determination of the Merit System Board (“Board”), issued December 21, 2007, and its determination of March 13, 2008, denying his motion for reconsideration of the determination that Howe did not meet the experience requirements necessary to sit for the promotional examination for Chief Operating Engineer 2 of the Juvenile Justice Commission.

On appeal, Howe argued that “the administrative agency acted either arbitrarily or capriciously by finding appellant’s prior supervisory experience to be out of title,” whereas only one of the three applicants, Barry Schneider, who did the same work as appellant, was found to qualify for the exam. Howe further argued that the agency acted “arbitrarily and capriciously in its attempt to correct the ambiguous language in the job specification of operating engineer 1 and should have either negated the examination results or should have allowed all three applicants to sit for the exam.” 

After reviewing the entire record, the Appellate Division concluded that it could not disturb the findings of the Board because the Court must defer to the agency’s expertise in implementing civil service law. Although the Court noted the job description for operating engineer 1 is ambiguous regarding supervisory responsibilities and the Board directed that it be amended, the Court determined Howe did not provide evidence that he had supervised while in that position and, therefore, was not qualified to sit for the exam. As such, the Court found the Board did not act arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably in not permitting him to take the examination.