On October 5, 2009, the Appellate Division decided In the Matter of John Fasanella, Docket No.: A-4455-07T1. In the case, John Fasanella, a sheriff’s officer in Mercer County, appealed a decision of the Merit System Board (“Board”) upholding adverse administrative determinations regarding a promotional examination for lieutenant.
The promotional examination for lieutenant was announced with a closing date of December 21, 2004. Fasanella was one of the nine individuals who applied for and were admitted to that examination. The examination was conducted in written form on June 9, 2005, however, Fasanella, who was on active military duty from May 12, 2004 to June 25, 2006, was unavailable to take the examination on the date it was given.
The June 9, 2005 examination resulted in a four-name eligibles list, promulgated on September 29, 2005, with an expiration date of September 28, 2008. The first-ranked person on that list, a non-veteran, was appointed effective December 1, 2005.
On July 24, 2006, shortly after Fasanella’s return from active military duty, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs granted his application for veteran’s status. He made several requests of the Department of Personnel (“DOP”) to schedule his make-up examination for the lieutenant position. His examination occurred in June 2007. A memorandum from DOP, dated September 10, 2007, noted an “employment list change” with Fasanella ranked first on the list with veteran’s status. An October 15, 2007 memorandum from the Sheriff’s Office to Fasanella advised that the ranking had been modified as “for future certifications only.” Fasanella promptly filed his internal appeal from the latter determination.
Subsequently, DOP notified Fasanella that his veteran’s status designation had been incorrect and that the eligibles list had been corrected to reflect his rank on the then-existing list as “A1 non-veteran.” Fasanella appealed that decision.
In considering the issues raised in the two appeals, the Board rejected Fasanella’s contention that he was entitled to the lieutenant appointment because he was, ultimately, first on the eligibles list and had veteran’s status. The Board determined that Fasanella did not qualify for veteran’s status at the time the list was certified. The Board also decided that the latitude conferred on the appointing authority by operation of the “rule of three” validated the appointment of the person who had been designated, notwithstanding that he was second on the list after Fasanella’s name had been added. This appeal ensued.