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Marshall v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Hudson County

Decided: April 11, 1960.

GERALDINE MARSHALL, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS OF HUDSON COUNTY, DEFENDANT, AND DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL SERVICE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT



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

Conford

Plaintiff Geraldine Marshall seeks review of a denial by the State Civil Service Department of her claim to permanent status in the employ of Hudson County as a principal clerk stenographer, and of a hearing of her grievance in respect thereof.

Plaintiff was employed by the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1942 as a senior clerk stenographer, permanently assigned to the department of engineering. In 1955, at the request of the board of freeholders, she was temporarily assigned to perform duties in various other county offices, although still carried on the records of the engineering department. While she was engaged on one

of these temporary assignments the board of freeholders, on May 18, 1956, adopted a county-wide reclassification plan.

By letter dated August 15, 1957 plaintiff was informed by the Department of Civil Service that as a result of that reclassification her title, that of senior clerk stenographer, would remain unchanged. It does not clearly appear whether the reclassification of her position was based on the duties she was then temporarily performing in the Hudson County Rent Control Agency or on those she had previously performed in the engineering department. It would seem, however, that it was the former, since her duties in the county engineering department were the same as those of one Elizabeth Grogan, a co-worker in that department, at the time of the reclassification. As a result of the reclassification, Miss Grogan's duties were deemed to warrant the next higher title of principal clerk stenographer.

The letter of August 15, 1957 also advised plaintiff to notify the Department of Civil Service within 60 days of any dissatisfaction she might have with the action taken. She apparently did not make any protest until April 17, 1958, at which time she wrote to the Civil Service Department complaining about her salary and status and requesting an interview. Prior to that protest letter, in January 1958, she had been permanently transferred, still as a senior clerk stenographer, to the department of power plants of the county.

In response to the protest letter the Civil Service Department held an informal interview with plaintiff on May 28, 1958, at which time, after discussion of the work she was actually performing, the department officials agreed that her duties were those of a principal clerk stenographer, and accordingly suggested to the county that it process promotion forms for her. The county did nothing, and on July 16, 1958 the Department made a desk audit of plaintiff's duties, confirmed its earlier determination, and again requested the county either to initiate a promotion for her or to return her to a position whose duties were in accord with her

permanent title of senior clerk stenographer. Several months later the county informed the Department that it did not intend to request a promotion for plaintiff but that her duties would be made commensurate with her permanent title. After some months more of correspondence between plaintiff, her attorney, Civil Service and the county, and various oral communications which are referred to in the record, the Department again audited plaintiff's duties in May 1959 and found that various functions which she had performed at the time of the first audit were, on county directive, no longer assigned to her. It consequently concluded that her permanent title of senior clerk stenographer was the proper one for the work then being done.

Pursuant to notification by the Department of this finding and its conclusion that plaintiff had no right to promotion to the position of principal clerk stenographer, plaintiff's attorney on June 2, 1959 requested a formal departmental hearing. After concluding that plaintiff was wholly without rights to promotion, the Civil Service Commission denied the request. Plaintiff then brought an action in lieu of prerogative writs in the Superior Court, Law Division, against both the county and the Department. By consent, the complaint against the county was dismissed, and that against the Department, praying for an order compelling the Department to grant a hearing, was transferred to the Appellate Division.

Plaintiff was entitled to a hearing before the Civil Service Commission only if her complaint came within the statutory jurisdictional competence of that body. City of Bayonne v. Dougherty , 59 N.J. Super. 288, 297-298 (App. Div. 1960). The only statutory provisions in any way relevant to plaintiff's claim of right to hearing are N.J.S.A. 11:5-1, (d) and (e) and R.S. 11:25-1 et seq. The Commission is authorized to hear appeals of "persons in the classified service sought to be removed, demoted in pay or ...


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