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City of Camden v. Civil Service Commission

Decided: July 24, 1937.


On rule to show cause why a writ of certiorari should not issue.

For the prosecutor, Firmin Michel and Edward V. Martino.

For the defendant, Meyer L. Sakin.

Before Justices Bodine, Heher and Perskie.


The opinion of the court was delivered by

HEHER, J. The definitive inquiry is whether the position of "Supervisor of Traffic" in the "Bureau of Transportation" of the city of Camden, to which defendant Beideman was appointed on January 3d, 1928, has in fact been abolished by the governing body of the municipality. The civil service commission resolved it in the negative; and the municipality seeks a review of its overruling action by certiorari.

These are the essential facts: On October 25th, 1923, the municipal governing body adopted an ordinance placing the "Transportation Department * * * under the direction and authority of the Director of Public Safety," and creating the "offices" of "Transportation Inspector" and "Clerk to Transportation Inspector," and annexing to each the fixed tenure of one year, with annual salaries respectively of $3,000 and $1,600. On May 17th, 1927, Beideman was "temporarily employed" by the municipality as "Transportation Inspector." Pursuant to the authority conferred by the Civil Service act of 1908 (3 Comp. Stat. 1910, p. 3795), as amended, whose provisions had been adopted by the municipality, the civil service commission subsequently placed in the competitive class of the classified service the position of "Supervisor of Traffic." Having qualified in a competitive examination conducted by the commission, Beideman was duly appointed to that position; and he exercised the functions thereof until April 20th, 1936, when, in virtue of an ordinance adopted by the city's governing body on April 9th, 1936, purporting to abolish "the office of Transportation Inspector in the Transportation Department," his services were terminated. The municipality concedes that "the duties pertaining to the office of Transportation Inspector and those pertaining to the

office of Supervisor of Traffic were the same" and the insistence is that the ordinance referred to and the subsequent action complained of were dictated by considerations of sound economy, and were not mere pretenses to cloak the deprivation of rights conferred upon Beideman by the Civil Service act, supra. The validity of the civil service status asserted by Beideman is not questioned. It is also conceded that the ordinance of April 9th, 1936, was designed to abolish the "position" classified by the civil service commission under the head of "Supervisor of Traffic."

The challenged municipal action is plainly lacking in validity. The need for this supervisory service continued; and the functions and duties of the position were assigned to a patrolman of the uniformed police department, notwithstanding the admitted lack of an adequate personnel to police the municipality. The director of public safety freely conceded that the police department, then and thereafter, was undermanned. It was not of sufficient numerical strength to meet what, in the opinion of the police authorities, was a reasonable standard of safety; and it is to be noted in this connection that, since the appointment of Biedeman to the position in question, thirty-eight patrolmen have been appointed and assigned to the uniformed department.

The activities of the transportation department have in nowise been curtailed. There has been no decrease in the volume of duties and service, nor in the revenue derived therefrom; and the clerk continued to perform the same function as theretofore. This department is one of importance to the well-being of the municipality. While the primary design of this supervisory service was to minimize traffic hazards, and thus to promote the public safety in a major particular, it is also productive of a substantial annual financial yield. Beideman testified (without contradiction) that "the inspection of buses * * * took around ninety per cent." of his time. He also collected the service fees and turned them over to the city's financial officer. His monthly inspections of buses averaged between eight hundred and fifty and eight hundred and sixty; and he had other incidental duties to perform.

The total annual inspection fees so collected ranged between $41,479.90 in 1930 to $31,104.63 in 1935, with managerial expenses varying ...

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