On December 21, 2009, the Appellate Division decidedIn the Matter of Edwin Garcia, Department of Corrections Hudson County, Docket No.: A-1404-08T3. In the case, Edwin Garcia appeals from the final administrative action of the Civil Service Commission, terminating his employment as a corrections officer with the Hudson County Department of Corrections.
At issue were two disciplinary matters. In the first, the County maintained that Garcia failed to include in a report the fact that another officer had lunged at a handcuffed inmate and grabbed the inmate’s shirt. As a result, the County charged Garcia with insubordination, conduct unbecoming a public employee, neglect of duty, and other sufficient cause. In the second disciplinary matter, the County asserted that, while involved in an incident with an inmate, Garcia used excessive force despite being ordered numerous times to cease. For this incident, Garcia was charged with conduct unbecoming a public employee, neglect of duty, and other sufficient cause. The County sought to terminate Garcia’s employment.
The County held a hearing on the disciplinary charges on March 2, and April 4, 2007, wherein the hearing officer sustained the charges. A final notice of disciplinary action terminating Garcia’s employment was issued on June 7, 2007. Garcia appealed the decision to the Civil Service Commission and a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge.
The ALJ sustained both charges, finding, with respect to the first incident, that “Garcia submitted a report omitting the use of excessive force on an inmate” and, with respect to the second incident, that “Garcia used excessive force to subdue inmate E.B. by striking him, although ordered to desist by superior officers.” In the Initial Decision, the ALJ concluded that Garcia had committed conduct unbecoming a public employee, neglect of duty, and insubordination. In light of Garcia’s prior record and the nature of these offenses, the ALJ imposed the sanction of removal. The Commission, in its independent evaluation of the record, concluded that the removal was justified. This appeal ensued.
On appeal, Garcia argued the findings of the Commission were not justified and the sanction of removal was arbitrary and capricious. The Appellate Division affirmed Garcia’s termination. Specifically, the Court found that there was substantial credible evidence supporting the findings of the ALJ and the conclusions reached by the Commission. The Court also determined the sanction of termination for the infractions is not unreasonable or disproportionate in light of the offenses, particularly when viewed in conjunction with Garcia’s prior disciplinary record.