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Ziegler v. City Council

Decided: August 2, 1934.

WILLIAM ZIEGLER, PROSECUTOR,
v.
CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HACKENSACK, RESPONDENT



On certiorari. Prosecutor seeks to review a resolution adopted by respondent abolishing the office of chief of the fire department and resulting in his dismissal from that office, without charges or a hearing. Affirmed.

For the prosecutor, Charles E. McCraith, Jr.

For the respondent, Donald M. Waesche.

Before Justices Trenchard, Heher and Perskie.

Perskie

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PERSKIE, J. The prosecutor, an exempt fireman (Pamph. L. 1911, ch. 212, p. 444), and an honorably discharged war veteran (Pamph. L. 1907, ch. 14, p. 37), held the office of the chief of the fire department of the city of Hackensack, from December 29th, 1914 (date of appointment, December 7th, 1914), until October 18th, 1933, by virtue of an ordinance of that city, approved November 17th, 1914. On October 16th, 1933, his office was abolished. This resulted in his dismissal. No charges had been preferred against him, and he had no hearing. Pamph. L. 1928, ch. 240, pp. 418, 420.

On May 23d, 1933, the city of Hackensack adopted the municipal manager form of government. Pamph. L. 1923, ch. 113, p. 217, and the several supplements thereto and amendments thereof. (Comp. St. Supp. 1924, 1930, § ***136-101 et. seq., N. J. St. Annual 1931 § ***136-1401 et. seq. N. J. St. Annual 1932, § ***136-1412). The council, elected under the act, and the manager, Wilder M. Rich, appointed thereunder, took office on July 18th, 1933.

The ex parte affidavit of Rich, which by stipulation of counsel for the respective parties, might be used on the argument of this case, discloses that upon assumption of his duties that the financial condition of the city was in extremely bad condition. Checks had been issued in excess of $50,000 by the outgoing officials and there was only approximately $500 in the bank to meet the payments. The city had defaulted in the payments of its county and state taxes, approximately $450,000. The school teachers were paid up to July 1st, 1933, but in order to do this $95,522.16 of 1933 taxes were used to pay 1932 school obligations. There was due on maturing bonds of the city, on December 1st, 1933, $297,000, for the payment of which no provision had been made in the budget of 1933 and it was therefore apparent that the city would default on the due date. Other bonded obligations of the city were coming due in 1934, and, it was manifest to deponent that the city would be unable to meet them. That the police department was under the charge of a chief of police and the fire department was under the charge of a chief engineer. These departments had been

created by ordinance under the Hackensack Improvement Commission and they were not adaptable to the municipal manager form of government. Deponent observed that in both departments there was a lack of discipline and efficiency and that factionalism existed. The quarters in the police department were dirty and unkept and in need of repairs. The men of the fire department were not well trained and there was an apparent lack of respect for authority. The central fire station lacked order and tidiness. The Gamewell fire alarm system was out of repair and it was necessary to detail two men from the fire department to overhaul the system. The emergency fire whistle at the police station was out of service due to lack of pressure in the air tanks, which condition was probably brought about by the fact that they were not regularly inspected.

That in order to bring about the most possible economies and to raise the standard of efficiency in both the police and fire departments deponent decided upon a complete reorganization of the city departments. This plan of reorganization contemplated the creation of a department of public safety with a director of public safety in charge of both the police and fire departments. The duties and responsibilities of the chief of police and the chief of the fire department were to be assumed by Rich in accordance with the Municipal Manager act and through the assistance of the director of public safety Rich intended to direct the affairs of these two departments of the government. By this method the position of chief of police and chief of the fire department were to be eliminated; and one line of authority from the city manager to the departments established in order to better co-ordinate and make possible a higher degree of efficiency in the performance of the work assigned to each division. Thus, co-operation was assured for any emergency if either the police or fire department, or both, were called upon to act.

Accordingly, on October 16th, 1933, the ordinance of November 17th, 1914, was repealed and on the same day the city adopted an ordinance ...


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