Eastwood, Stein and Cleary, JJ. The opinion of the court was delivered by Eastwood, S.j.a.d.
John Scancarella appeals to this court from a denial of a hearing by the Department of Civil Service upon an application to review a summary reduction of salary by the employee's departmental superior.
The parties have stipulated the following facts: Scancarella is the chief clerk in the office of the Sheriff of Passaic County; prior to November 14, 1951, his salary was fixed at $6,600 per annum; that on November 14, 1951, the incoming sheriff notified Scancarella that thereafter his salary was reduced to $5,300 per annum; that he had been a member of the civil service system since September 24, 1928, and at the time the action complained of was taken, there had been no charges preferred against him and no cause was assigned for his reduction in salary.
Scancarella appealed to the Civil Service Department for a hearing to review the action of the new sheriff. The department
did not hear the employee's complaint, but advised him by letter that it had been "advised by the Attorney General's Office that there has been no violation of R.S. 11:22-38, or Rule 64, of the Civil Service Law and Rules" and that the sheriff had the authority to reduce his salary if he so desired.
Our review of the statutes regarding removal, reductions and the like, as regulated by the Civil Service Act, convinces us that one of the primary objects and prerequisites to validity of such action is the written notice to the employee of the reasons therefor and an opportunity to apply to the Civil Service Department for a hearing to review any alleged irregularity in that action.
R.S. 11:22-38 provides, inter alia:
"No officer, clerk or employee holding a position in the competitive class shall be removed, discharged, fined or reduced, except as provided in section 11:22-6 of this title as to probationers, until he has been furnished with a written statement of the reasons for such action by the appointing authority and been allowed a reasonable time to make answer thereto. A copy of the statement or reasons therefor and the answer thereto, with the action of the appointing authority, shall forthwith be furnished to the commission and entered upon its records, and shall also be entered on the records of the department or office in which the removed, discharged, fined or reduced person was or is employed. The officer, clerk or employee shall at once be notified, in writing, of the action taken on such charges and answer. The action of the appointing authority ordering or directing such removal, discharge, fine or reduction shall not take effect until approved by order of the commission. If, however, such person so ordered or directed to be removed, discharged, fined or reduced shall not, within ten days after notification, as aforesaid, apply to the commission for an investigation of the charges on which such order of removal, discharge, fine or reduction is based, under such rules as the commission shall prescribe, such order may be approved, as of course, without hearing or investigation."
The department, by its letter denying plaintiff's appeal for a hearing, recognized the existence of this enactment, but recited that it was advised by the office of the Attorney-General that there had been no violation thereof. We find nothing in the record to indicate that the appointing authority furnished plaintiff with written notice of the reasons for
the salary reduction imposed or that any action was taken by that authority as required by the statute. On the other hand, we find that within the statutory period provided therein, plaintiff appealed to ...