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City of Orange v. Destefano

Decided: January 16, 1958.

CITY OF ORANGE, PROSECUTOR-RESPONDENT,
v.
WILLIAM J. DESTEFANO AND LEONARD C. MINDO, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Goldmann, Freund and Conford. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.

Freund

Defendants appeal pursuant to R.R. 4:88-8 from an order of the Civil Service Commission affirming disciplinary action taken by the respondent, City of Orange, against the appellants, patrolmen employed by the respondent.

The following essential facts are disclosed by the testimony. Defendants were appointed patrolmen on the Orange police force on December 1, 1954. Shortly after midnight of June 25, 1956, they met at police headquarters where De Stefano had just completed his tour of duty for the preceding day. Mindo had been off duty on June 25, 1956, and had requested De Stefano "to help him pick up some used lumber." They proceeded in Mindo's car to the rear area of the Sun Electric Products, Inc., premises at 41 Lincoln Avenue in Orange, New Jersey, some 250 feet from

the sidewalk, where they gathered about eight pieces of 2" x 4" lumber in eight-foot lengths, which they placed on a metal bracket on top of the car and secured with rope. Mindo then drove the car, with the lumber, out of the driveway to Lincoln Avenue, where by coincidence they were seen by Mayor Russell L. Riley, who was also the director of public safety, and members of the Orange Housing Authority, who had just concluded a business meeting. Anthony G. Cataldo, a member of the authority, owns property and conducts his business at 39 Lincoln Avenue, adjoining the plant of the Sun Electric Products. He saw the Mindo car, with the lumber, coming out of the driveway and with the other officials in his car he followed the Mindo car down Lincoln Avenue.

The testimony does not disclose whether Mindo or De Stefano knew they were being followed by the Cataldo car. Mindo's car continued on Lincoln Avenue, turned into Mechanic Street, and then to Scotland Road, Gleeb Street, Valley Road, and into Whittingham Place, in West Orange, where Cataldo drove his car alongside Mindo's car and both cars stopped. The names of the various streets are of no particular significance but indicate the numerous turns made by Mindo within a short distance. Mindo testified his car was going only 25 miles per hour, although there was other testimony that he was traveling at an estimated speed of between 30 and 50 miles per hour. Cataldo testified that his car was going 40 miles per hour.

Cataldo told Mindo that the lumber was his property and ordered him to return it, which he did. When Cataldo returned to 39 Lincoln Avenue, he told Mindo that he should not have taken the lumber and Mindo said that he had permission to remove it. When Mayor Riley asked both Mindo and De Stefano if they had obtained permission to take the lumber, and they said they had not, he ordered both suspended from duty. The facts are further elucidated hereafter.

Formal charges were preferred against Mindo and De Stefano for the infraction of several departmental regulations,

all emanating from one specific act of misconduct, as follows:

"* * * you did violate the following Rules of Discipline as set forth in the 'Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Orange, N.J., Police Department.'

'4. Any act or omission contrary to good order and discipline.'

'7. Conduct contrary to good order and discipline.'

'25. Violation of any Criminal Law.'

'27. Conduct unbecoming a gentleman and ...


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