On July 20, 2010, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of Latief Dickerson, Hudson County, Docket No.: A-1323-08T2. In the case, Latief Dickerson appealed from a final decision of the Civil Service Commission (“Commission”) terminating his employment as a corrections officer with the Hudson County Department of Corrections (“Department”).
On May 5, 2006, the Department served a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action on Dickerson charging him with: (1) incompetency, inefficiency or failure to perform duties; (2) insubordination; (3) conduct unbecoming an employee; and (4) neglect of duty. These charges stemmed from Dickerson’s failure to satisfy mandatory training requirements and to obtain permission for his outside employment, as well as his arrest in Tuxedo, New York for various motor vehicle violations and criminal possession of a firearm.
Following a departmental hearing, Dickerson received a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action on July 19, 2006, finding him guilty of the charges and ordering his removal from office effective immediately. Dickerson contested the decision and requested a hearing before the Office of Administrative Law. That hearing was held on January 2 and March 12, 2008, before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
After the hearings, the ALJ determined that the Department failed to sustain its burden in sustaining the charges against Dickerson with the exception of conduct unbecoming a public employee by driving a motor vehicle while unlicensed. However, given Dickerson’s extensive prior disciplinary history, the ALJ ordered that Dickerson be fined 90 working days’ pay.
On appeal, Dickerson argued that the Commission erred in failing to affirm the decision of the ALJ. Specifically, Dickerson contended that the Commission imposed an improper standard of review when it stated that it did not “agree” with the ALJ’s determination. Rather, Dickerson argued the Commission has the authority to modify or reverse the decision of the ALJ if the decision was not supported by credible evidence in the record or was otherwise arbitrary.
After considering Dickerson’s arguments, the Appellate Division affirmed the Commission’s determination and sustained the removal. The Court found the Commission’s decision comported with the applicable law regarding the review of ALJ decisions and was supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record. Specifically, the Court found, in rejecting and modifying the ALJ’s findings and conclusions, the Commission stated with particularity the reasons for doing so and made new findings supported by competent and credible evidence in the record.