NJ Public Employment Labor Law

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 Division of State Police v. In the Matter of Detective Sergeant First Class Daniel Flaherty, Docket No. A-0257-07T20257-07T2, the Appellate Division addressed the validity and ultimate imposition of disciplinary charges lodged against a Detective Sergeant of the New Jersey State Police. The appeal arose out of disciplinary charges filed by the New Jersey Division of State Police (“Division”) against Detective Sergeant First Class Daniel Flaherty, charging him with: (1) disseminating Division documents without proper authorization; (2) behaving in an official capacity to the personal discredit of a member of the State Police or to the Division; and (3) willfully disobeying a lawful verbal or written order.

The underlying facts of this case were not substantially in dispute. In 2001, Flaherty filed an age discrimination complaint with the New Jersey State Police Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action (“EEO/AA”) intake unit. He alleged that since 1995, the State Police had denied him numerous specialist positions because of his age. The EEO/AA assigned Lieutenant Patrick Reilly to investigate his claim. After two years, in which the allegations still had not been resolved, the EEO/AA replaced Reilly with DSFC Kevin Rowe.

On May 5, 2003, Flaherty filed a New Jersey State Police Reportable Incident Form alleging “culpable inefficiency” against Reilly. Pursuant to a Division policy regarding non-disclosure of confidential internal investigations, the Office of Professional Standards (“OPS”) denied his request to access the file regarding his complaint against Reilly.

The following month, the State Police administratively closed Flaherty’s complaint file against Reilly and transferred the matter to the Attorney General’s EEO/AA section. In a letter dated September 24, 2003, a Senior Deputy Attorney General informed Flaherty that his claim against Reilly could not be substantiated. 

Thereafter, on May 31, 2003, the Division assigned Flaherty to the OPS, which was then called the State Police Internal Affairs Investigation Bureau. Pursuant to Division of Internal Affairs policies and procedures, “[t]he nature and source of internal allegations, the progress of internal affairs investigations, and the resulting materials are confidential information. The contents of internal investigation case files shall be retained in the internal affairs unit and clearly marked as confidential.” Notwithstanding these provisions, internal investigation files can be released in certain enumerated circumstances.  As such, Flaherty executed a confidentiality agreement which provided the dissemination of all confidential information and/or documents.

In a letter dated February 20, 2004, the Department of Law and Public Safety found that Flaherty’s age discrimination claims could not be substantiated. In his appeal to the Department of Personnel, Flaherty questioned the manner in which the State Police and the Attorney General’s office investigated hisContinue Reading Discipline Regading Dissemination of Internal Affairs Documents Upheld

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 entitled, In the Matter of Herrick, etc. 33-2-1258, The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division opined that a police officer serving in the elevated civil service title of captain in order to fill a vacancy created by a temporary leave of absence due to a military obligation has no claim to