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Pfitzinger v. Board of Trustees of Public Employees'' Retirement System of New Jersey

Decided: August 1, 1960.

RUSSELL J. PFITZINGER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF NEW JERSEY, AND DWIGHT R. G. PALMER, STATE HIGHWAY COMMISSIONER OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS



Halpern, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Halpern

This is a proceeding in lieu of prerogative writs by the plaintiff, Russell J. Pfitzinger, to compel acceptance of his retirement and for payment of his pension as a veteran. The matter is before me now on a motion by defendant for summary judgment. A brief recital of the facts is necessary to present a picture of the situation as it existed on April 24, 1958, when plaintiff, at the age of 61, applied for retirement.

Plaintiff was first employed by the New Jersey State Highway Department on May 1, 1917. Since December 1, 1944 he held the position of senior division material inspector. He is a veteran of World War I, and is entitled to such statutory benefits as flow from that status. On January 28, 1958 Dwight R. G. Palmer, the New Jersey State Highway Commissioner, who was plaintiff's employing authority, suspended him without pay. Charges of misconduct in office were duly filed against the plaintiff resulting in the Commissioner's removing him from employment as of January 28, 1958. The Commissioner's decision was appealed by plaintiff

to the Civil Service Commission, which body after a de novo hearing lasting 13 days between November 24, 1958 and July 23, 1959, affirmed the Commissioner's action. The decision of the Civil Service Commission is now final in accordance with the waiver filed with this court.

The specification of the charges made by the Commissioner against the plaintiff were many and varied. Some of the charges were dismissed and on others he was found not guilty. It is essential that I briefly set forth the nature and type of charges on which he was found guilty.

(1) He was found guilty of violating the Department's regulations by remaining away from performance of his duty in taking lunch periods extending beyond the time specified in the regulations between January 17, 1953 and January 28, 1958.

(2) He was found guilty of falsifying his daily work reports in certifying to the time taken for lunch periods between January 17, 1953 and January 28, 1958, excepting the period from May 24, 1955 to October 1, 1955.

(3) He was found guilty of falsifying his daily work reports in certifying he took a one-hour lunch period, whereas he had gone to various named taverns and restaurants in different sections of the State, where he partook of lunch and liquor for periods in excess of the time reported.

(4) He was found guilty of falsifying his daily work reports in certifying he was working during regular morning hours, whereas on several occasions between November 1954 and January 1958 he was at various taverns drinking liquor. In addition, during the period from January 17, 1953 to January 28, 1958, exclusive of the period from May 24, 1955 to October 1, 1955, he falsified his daily work reports in certifying the hours worked during that period.

(5) He was found guilty of conduct unbecoming a public employee in frequently signing the name of one Lohman Palmateer as accepting responsibility for food and liquor plaintiff had consumed at the Roost Restaurant in Newark, New Jersey (the said Palmateer being the representative

of J. Rich Steers Company, a supplier of materials used by the State Highway Department).

(6) He was found guilty of violating Rule 59, subsection (f) of the Civil Service Commission, for being intoxicated while on duty, and for being intoxicated in a public place while off duty, in various taverns and restaurants.

(7) He was found guilty of violating Rule 19 of the Safety Manual of the New Jersey State Highway Department , effective November 1, 1945, which provides:

"19. The use of any and all kinds of intoxicants during department working hours is forbidden and WILL subject the offender to dismissal."

(8) He was found guilty of violating Rule 59, subsection (h) of the Civil Service Commission in using offensive language to certain named individuals, Joseph P. Steffer, James Ferrante, and Asa H. Farr.

(9) He was found guilty of engaging in an argument and altercation with one George C. Gilbert at the Ryland Inn, a tavern and inn near Whitehouse, New Jersey.

(10) He was found guilty of violating Rule 59, subsection (g) of the Civil Service Commission, in setting up an office for himself at the plant of the North Jersey Quarry Company (now the Houdaille Construction Company); in directing that telephone calls dealing with State Highway business be made to him at this office; in causing messages dealing with State Highway Department matters to be taken by the telephone operators and others handling telephone calls in said plant of the said North Jersey Quarry Company; in keeping at this office clipboards, work sheets and inspection reports, referring to and dealing with competitors, as well as other classified State Highway Department material, which the employees of the North Jersey Quarry Company had access to and could examine; and in permitting the keys for this office to be kept by the representatives of the North Jersey Quarry Company.

(11) He was found guilty of rejecting material and equipment of the Kingston Trap Rock Company during the year 1939 until he was given $1,000, in cash, by George C. Gilbert ...


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