Conford, Kilkenny and Lewis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kilkenny, J.A.D.
Appellants are probation officers in the Essex County probation department. They appeal under R.R. 4:88-8 from final decisions of the Civil Service Commission, which made and declared them ineligible to take either the promotional or open competitive examination for the position of Chief Probation Officer of Essex County. They contend that the Commission acted arbitrarily and unreasonably in setting up the eligibility requirements for each of these examinations, in calling for an open competitive examination, and in failing to give them a formal hearing.
We dispose of the last claim of error first. The Commission denied a formal hearing because it felt that the controlling facts were a matter of record and not in dispute. On their appeal to this court, appellants have indicated in affidavits and in their argument the proofs which they would have laid before the Commission, if a formal hearing had been allowed. We are treating the matter before us as though the evidentiary facts set forth in these affidavits had been testified to before the Commission and the Commission's rulings had remained unchanged. In fact, the Commission has filed with us a written stipulation in which it admits the facts stated by appellants, except where they are contradicted by the record, but without conceding their relevancy or materiality as to the legal issues involved. With that understanding, the lack of a formal hearing before the Commission is not deemed to be prejudicial.
These, then, are the basic facts. A vacancy occurred in the position of Chief Probation Officer of Essex County. The Civil Service Commission decided to hold a promotional examination
to fill the vacancy. It limited the persons eligible to take this examination to those in the next lower class, namely, Assistant Chief Probation Officers of Essex County who had served in that position for at least 12 months. There were only two persons so eligible. One of them was not interested because he was on the verge of retirement. Hence, only one filed an application to take the promotional examination. These facts were reported by the Commission to the judges of the Essex County Court, the appointing authority. The judges expressed a desire to have a list of at least three candidates for the appointment.
Instead of opening up the list of eligibles for the promotional examination to Essex County probation officers in a class or classes lower than that of Assistant Chief Probation Officer, the Commission, at the request of the judges of the Essex County Court, decided to hold an open competitive examination for the position, in addition to the promotional examination in which latter there was only the one interested, eligible applicant. Eligibility requirements to take the open competitive examination were formulated by the Commission, in collaboration with Judge Crane of the Essex County Court, representing the judges of that court as the appointing authority, and Dr. Lovell Bixby, consultant on probation in the Administrative Office of the Courts.
These eligibility requirements were as follows:
"(1) a Master's degree in Sociology with a major in Criminology and/or Penology;
(2) eight years of progressively responsible experience in probation or parole work, four years of which shall have been in a capacity involving the broad administrative responsibility for planning and directing the activities of a large probation or parole agency;
(3) for those applicants who possessed a Bachelor's degree, but not a Master's degree, two additional years of administrative experience of the type outlined above might be accepted in lieu thereof."
The open competitive examination could be taken by any citizen of the United States possessing ...