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Amodio v. Civil Service Commission

Decided: October 23, 1963.


Goldmann, Kilkenny and Collester. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.


[81 NJSuper Page 23] This is an appeal from a decision of the Civil Service Commission upholding respondent Woodbridge Township's abolition of the position of purchasing

agent, and dismissing the appeal of Amodio, whose services as purchasing agent had been terminated.

Amodio contends that (1) the facts do not support the findings and decision of the Commission; (2) the position of purchasing agent was not in fact abolished; (3) the township cannot use the claim of "economy" as a device for circumventing his tenure rights under the Civil Service Act and the Veterans' Tenure Act, and (4) the township violated N.J.S.A. 11:26D-1, which requires 45 days' notice of layoff or separation from service on the ground of economy.

The township contends, and the Commission so found, that the position of purchasing agent was abolished and the duties assigned to the township's business administrator for reasons of economy and efficiency, and that the governing body had acted in good faith. Amodio claims that this action was politically motivated and "economy" was used as an excuse to turn him out of office. The resolution of these conflicting positions turns on the facts which were fully exposed at the hearing and given detailed consideration by the Commission in its decision.

Woodbridge Township adopted the provisions of Revised Statutes, Title 11, Subtitle 3, Civil Service , in November 1947. On December 29, 1959 the outgoing Democratic administration adopted an ordinance establishing and organizing a purchasing board pursuant to R.S. 40:50-7, composed of the governing body and to be known as the purchasing department. Section 3 of the ordinance stated that the department was to be in charge of and administered by the township purchasing agent. The position was in the classified service; on June 10, 1960 Amodio took the civil service examination scheduled for the position and was thereafter certified. On October 18, 1960 the township governing body by resolution appointed Amodio purchasing agent as of October 1. He held that position until its abolition and his dismissal on the grounds of economy.

As a result of the November 1961 general election, the Democratic Party returned to power January 1, 1962. The

new township committee consisted of nine Democrats and two Republicans. Mayor Zirpolo and Committeeman Jacks, who testified before the Commission in support of the ordinance abolishing the position of purchasing agent, were members of the majority. Amodio is a Democrat.

On January 16, 1962 there was introduced an ordinance to amend the ordinance creating the purchasing board. Its preamble recited that the governing body "finds that the functions of the Purchasing Agent does [sic] not require a full time employee, especially in view of the fact that the initial organizational steps have been accomplished over the last two (2) years and this Governing Body deems it necessary for reasons of efficiency and economy to have the functions of the Purchasing Agent be performed by the Business Administrator of the Township of Woodbridge." The ordinance provided that the duties and functions of the purchasing agent were to be assumed by the business administrator in addition to the other duties and functions assigned to him under an ordinance creating his office. The business administrator was not to receive any additional compensation for this increased responsibility. The position of the incumbent purchasing agent was automatically terminated as of the date the amendatory ordinance took effect. The amendatory ordinance was adopted on February 6 and published, as prescribed by law, on February 8, 1962.

On January 17, 1962 the assistant township attorney wrote Amodio by certified mail that an ordinance abolishing his position as purchasing agent had been introduced and passed on first hearing at the township committee meeting held January 16. The letter stated that in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 11:26D-1, Amodio was notified that his position would be abolished and his services dispensed with "effective 45 days from today, to wit: March 3, 1962." A copy of the letter was sent to the Civil Service Commission, as required by the cited statute. The letter was delivered at the Amodio home on January 19, 1962.

Despite the notice date of March 3, it was decided to pay Amodio through March 5, and this is evidenced by the employee's earnings record introduced in evidence, as well as a check drawn to his order. Amodio does not contend that he was not paid up to and including March 5, but argues, as he did before the Commission, that he had received less than 45 days' notice, only 43 days elapsing between the receipt of the assistant township attorney's letter on January 19 and the March 3 date. ...

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