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Mullin v. Ringle

Decided: June 2, 1958.


On certification from the Superior Court, Law Division.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Heher, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs, Francis and Proctor. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.


The 47 defendants involved in this appeal are employees of the City of Jersey City. Forty-six of them bear the designation of "Park Patrolman" and one is classified as "Park Police Chief." All of them are assigned to and work within the Department of Parks and Public Property. Plaintiff, a taxpayer, challenges the validity of their appointment, claiming that no statutory authority exists for the establishment by a municipality of a Park Police unit. The trial court held that the city lacked power to create a Department of Park Police but that employment of the individual defendants as park patrolmen and park police chief was within its legislatively delegated competence. Some incidental questions involved in the controversy were also disposed of by the judgment, but review is not sought with respect to them. The appeal was certified to this court on our own motion.

Jersey City has adopted the commission form of government and now functions under the Walsh Act through a board of commissioners. N.J.S.A. 40:70-1 et seq. This board has all of the municipal powers formerly exercised by the mayor and council, including those previously conferred on the city by any special or general law, which is not in conflict with the Walsh Act. N.J.S.A. 40:71-8; 40:72-2, 3.

By virtue of this inheritance, the board became invested with control over the playgrounds and recreation places of the city. N.J.S.A. 40:184-1 et seq. And it was empowered to appoint such a number of "custodians and assistants" as are deemed necessary and who, "while on duty and for the purpose of preserving order and the observance of" rules and regulations, shall " have all of the powers and

authority of police officers of the respective cities in and for which they are severally appointed." N.J.S.A. 40:184-3. Jurisdiction over playgrounds and recreation places has been assigned to the Department of Parks and Public Property, and at the time of institution of this action the defendant Joshua Ringle was the director of such department. N.J.S.A. 40:72-4, 5 and 6.

As far back as 1946 the city had employed a number of persons to work in playgrounds and recreation places. They were denominated laborers on the records of the Department of Parks and they were sworn in as special policemen. Their duties were to patrol and police such places and to maintain order.

In January 1950 the board of commissioners requested the Department of Civil Service to make a reclassification survey of its personnel. The basic idea was to set up proper classifications and designations of municipal employees according to their specific functions, to eliminate inconsistencies in job titles and inequities, if any, in salaries. The task was undertaken by the Department and was completed in December 1950.

According to the testimony of the civil service representatives, the modus operandi of their work was first to ascertain from each employee the specific nature of his duties and then to verify the description with his immediate superior and with the director of his department. From this base, the particular classification was fashioned. Approximately 400 class titles were included in the survey. The final report submitted to the city contained 201 printed pages and established job designations for 4,425 employees.

In the course of the study the civil service functionaries obtained information as to the employees of the playgrounds and recreation places, whose activities have been referred to above and who had been appointed special policemen and were classed as laborers on the records of the city. Their investigation disclosed that these men were actually performing the work of park patrolmen. Their duties, in the opinion of the classification technicians, were best described

by the title "Park Patrolman" -- a title, according to the executive assistant to the president of the Civil Service Commission, "used in several other places throughout the State." This designation was recommended in the final report. And it was advised also that the principal superior of such workers should be called "Park ...

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