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
On February 3, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided the case of LaPosta v. Borough of Roseland. In the case, plaintiff, Joseph LaPosta, a police officer, alleges Defendants, the Borough of Roseland and its Police Chief, retaliated against him after he attempted to join a police organization of which…
On February 9, 2009, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey decided the case of Martin v. City of East Orange. In the case, plaintiffs, two police officers, alleged that in failing to promote them in 2003, when officers ranked below them were recommended for promotion, although not promoted, the defendants…
This blog entry will focus upon our review of certain statutory proposals currently pending in the New Jersey Legislature concerning the pay status of law enforcement officers when appeals of termination are not resolved within 180 days. These proposals are set forth in Assembly Bill Number 3481.
Assembly Bill 3481 concerns the suspensions of certain law enforcement officers and firefighters and supplements Title 40A of the New Jersey statutes and specifically amends N.J.S.A. 40A:14-150 and N.J.S.A. 40A:14-22. In essence, the bill allows certain law enforcement officers and firefighters to regain pay status when appeals of termination are not resolved within 180 days.
The first part of the bill provides:
When a law enforcement officer employed by a law enforcement agency…that is subject to the provisions of Title 11A of the New Jersey Statutes is suspended from performing his official duties without pay for a complaint or charges, other than (1) a complaint or charges relating to the subject matter of a pending criminal investigation…whether pre-indictment or post indictment, or (2) when the complaint or charges allege conduct that also would constitute a violation of the criminal laws of this State or any other jurisdiction, and the law enforcement agency employing the officer…seeks to terminate that officer’s…employment for the conduct that was the basis for the officer’s…suspension without pay, a final determination on the officer’s…suspension and termination shall be rendered within 180 calendar days from the date the officer…is suspended without pay.Continue Reading Legislative Proposal Seeks to Provide Law Enforcement Officers Pay Status When Appeals of Termination Are Not Resolved Within 180 Days
In In the Matter of Thomas F. Fricano, Borough of Freehold, Docket No.: A-2280-07T3, the Appellate Division addressed Appellant Thomas Fricano’s appeal from final decisions of the Merit System Board (“Board”), dated September 27, 2007 and December 7, 2007, upholding his resignation in good standing from the Borough of Freehold Police Department.
By way of background, Fricano received a regular appointment as a police officer in Freehold on April 3, 2006. The appointment was subject to the successful completion of a one-year probationary working test period, commencing after completion of a police training course. On February 2, 2007, Fricano, in a written letter, resigned to pursue other opportunities in law enforcement. The appointing authority accepted the resignation, which was made effective February 22, 2007.
The circumstances surrounding Fricano’s resignation are in dispute and at the core of the appeal. According to Fricano, on February 2, 2007, after having served ten months of his one-year probationary working term, he was summoned to the office of the Police Chief. Allegedly, the Chief ordered Fricano “to resign or be terminated immediately.” Denied his request for legal representation or to have a PBA representative present, Fricano drafted and submitted a letter of resignation under duress and coercion. Thereafter, on February 16, 2007, Fricano’s counsel wrote to the Chief requesting that he be able to rescind the resignation. The Borough attorney advised Fricano that he would not be reinstated, instead stating that “they could have fired him instead.” Subsequently, on March 13, 2007, Fricano was issued a preliminary notice of disciplinary action, charging him with numerous violations. On March 22, 2007, the appointing authority withdrew the charges and, thereafter, on March 28, 2007, issued Fricano a letter indicating that he did not satisfactorily complete his working test period and that he was being terminated effective April 3, 2007.
The Borough offers a different version. When called to his office, the Chief advised Fricano that his performance during the working test period had not been satisfactory, and, therefore, offered him the option to resign effective February 22 or face termination for failure to satisfactorily complete his working test period. This offer was made so that Fricano could avoid any stigma which might attach to an involuntary termination. Fricano decided to resign and submitted a resignation letter the same day. In the letter, Fricano explain that he resigned to pursue “a different choice in the Law Enforcement Career.” Although he did not work after February 2, he was paid through February 22, and his resignation was recorded effective February 22, 2007. After being subsequently informed of Fricano’s intention to challenge his resignation, the police department issued the preliminary notice of disciplinary action on March 13, 2007. On March 22, 2007, the police department withdrew the charges and, instead, as a cautionary measure, issued a letter to Continue Reading Officer’s Resignation Not Attributed to Duress, Upheld
Recently, it has come to our attention that many individuals aside from Public Safety Officers utilize this website as a reference guide for the various pension systems available to individuals employed by municipalities, counties, and the New Jersey state government. As such, this entry will focus upon a few of these pension systems and help our readers understand their background, membrship, and administration.
Overview of the Various Pension Systems
The State of New Jersey established the Public Employees Retirement System (“PERS”) in 1955 after repeal of the laws that created the former State Employees Retirement System. Like the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (“PFRS”), the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits is assigned all administrative functions of the retirement system except for investment of the assets.
The PERS Board of Trustees has the responsibility for the proper operation of the retirement system. The Board consists of six (6) employee representatives, the State Treasurer, and two (2) individuals appointed by the Governor with advice and consent of the Senate. The Board meets monthly to conduct its business.
Membership in the retirement system is generally required as a condition of employment for most employees of the State or any county, municipality, school district, or public agency. Generally, an employee is required to enroll in PERS if:
· They are employed on a regular basis in a position covered by Social Security;
· Their annual salary is $1,500.00 or more; and
· They are not required to be a member of any other State or local government retirement system on the basis of the same position which gives them membership in PERS.
The Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund (“TPAF”) was established in 1919 and completely reorganized in 1955. The New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits is assigned all administrative function of the retirement system except for investment of the assets.Continue Reading Overview of PERS, TPAF, SPRS & JRS
On November 17, 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the case of Borough v. Glassboro v. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 108, A-75-07. In this case, the Court addressed the validity of an arbitrator’s award addressing the legality of a police officer promotion made by the Borough of Glassboro, a non-civil service municipality.
In 2004, the Borough of Glassboro Police Department (“Borough”) announced an opening for the position of lieutenant. Three candidates applied, including Sergeants Peter Amico and William Highley. As a non-civil service municipality, the Borough is not subject to the statutory requirements of a comprehensive promotional procedure. Rather, state law only requires that due consideration is given to the officer proposed for promotion and to the length and merit of the officer’s service, with preference being given to seniority in service.
The Borough implemented a three stage promotional procedure. The scores from Phase I and II were aggregated for a total possible score of 100%. Phase I consisted of an interview with the Borough Chief of Police and was worth 20%. Phase II involved an oral and written exam and was worth 80%. Phase IIA, the written portion, was a multiple-choice test designed by the International Association of Police Chiefs. Phase IIB, the oral component, consisted of interviews with a panel of four independent police chiefs. Following Phase I and II, the cumulative final scores were as follows: Sergeant Amico, 93.8, and Sergeant Highley, 92.4.
In Phase III, each applicant was interviewed by the Borough Public Safety Committee, which included Borough Council members, the Borough Administrator, and the Chief of Police. Candidates were advised that they would be asked questions “concerning their department’s SOPs Rules and Regulations, in addition to questions concerning the Boro Personnel Policy & Procedures and Boro Ordinances.” The purpose of Phase III was to test leadership intangibles that are necessary for the position and evade formal testing. After the completion of Phase III, Highley, ranked second in the Phase I and II testing, was awarded the promotion.
Amico learned in subsequent conversations with the Chief of Police and the Borough Administrator that his move out of the Borough had a possible negative effect on the promotional decision. The Fraternal Order of Police, Local 108 (“FOP”) filed a grievance on Amico’s behalf, thereby claiming: (1) that the use of Phase III as more than a “confirmatory interview” altered the terms and conditions of employment in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the Borough and FOP; and (2) the Borough violated N.J.S.A. 40A:14-122.6 by making residency a factor in its promotional decision.Continue Reading Non-Civil Service Municipality’s Promotion Decision Overturned
In State v. Thompson, A-2279-07T4, the Appellate Division held that a violation of the Conflicts of Interest Law and a code of conduct adopted pursuant thereto is not a sufficient basis for criminal prosecution for official misconduct.
In the case, the State appealed from an order dismissing 36 counts of a 42 count indictment. …
In the case Reilly v. City of Atlantic City, 06-2591, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a police officer’s testimony in a police corruption case is protected speech and his superiors are not entitled to qualified immunity regarding his retaliation claim.
Appellee, Robert Reilly, a former Atlantic …
In the Matter of Martinez, A-0090-07T2, the Appellate Division held a civil service appointing authority violates the Rule of Three, N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8, in guaranteeing a promotional candidate that he or she will receive the appointment if he or she attains the highest score on the examination.
After taking the civil service examination …