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Hozer v. State

Decided: May 19, 1967.

MICHAEL G. HOZER, APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, CONSOLIDATED POLICE AND FIREMEN'S PENSION FUND COMMISSION, RESPONDENT



Conford, Foley and Leonard. The opinion of the court was delivered by Leonard, J.A.D.

Leonard

Appellant Michael G. Hozer appeals from an administrative determination by the Consolidated Police and Firemen's Pension Fund Commission, Department of Treasury (hereinafter Commission), dated June 8, 1966, which denied his application for age and service retirement pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:16-1 et seq.

Hozer was first employed by the Cliffside Park Police Department as a patrolman and served continuously in that capacity and as sergeant of detectives and lieutenant until March 15, 1954. His service was without untoward incident

until March 10, 1953, when he was indicted for nonfeasance in office by the Bergen County grand jury.

That indictment basically charged that appellant, between January 1, 1945 and May 1, 1950, unlawfully and intentionally neglected and omitted to perform his public duties as a police officer with regard to two specific premises in Cliffside Park where bookmaking was then being conducted, even though he had knowledge of this activity. It further charged that he neglected his duty for the purpose of allowing the persons responsible therefor to escape apprehension and punishment.

Following a jury trial on this indictment appellant was found guilty on November 1, 1954 and subsequently given a suspended jail sentence and fined $1,000. His conviction was affirmed upon appeal. See State v. Hozer, 19 N.J. 301 (1955). After the trial court verdict appellant was dropped from the police department payroll and he has never been reinstated.

On May 29, 1962 appellant first applied to the Commission for a pension pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:16-1 et seq. A hearing was held on this application on January 8, 1964, and on April 24, 1964 the Commission rendered a formal written "opinion" wherein it determined that appellant was not entitled to a pension because "the condition of honorable service was not satisfied."

On March 22, 1965, pursuant to appellant's application, the Governor granted him a "full and free" pardon for the aforesaid crime. Relying on this pardon, appellant on May 6, 1966 again made application for a pension. The Commission on June 8, 1966 "reaffirmed their previous decision" and rejected the application.

This appeal is solely directed to this last determination. Appellant argues that his pension rights have been restored by the granting of the pardon and that he is therefore as a matter of right entitled to his pension retroactively to the date of his pardon.

Before discussing the merits of appellant's argument we first consider the general characteristics of a pension such as here involved and the prerequisites thereof. N.J.S.A. 43:16-1 provides as follows:

"In all municipalities any active member of a police department * * * who shall have served honorably in the police * * * department for a period of 25 years and reached the age of 51 years, * * * shall be retired on a service * * * pension * * *." (Emphasis added)

A pension is a bounty springing from the appreciation and graciousness of the sovereign; it is an inducement to conscientious, efficient and honorable service. Ballurio v. Castellini, 29 N.J. Super. 383, 389 (App. Div. 1954). It is axiomatic that one of the fundamental purposes of the pensioning of civil servants is to secure good behavior and the maintenance of reasonable standards of discipline during service. Plunkett v. Board of Pension Comm'rs of City of Hoboken, 113 N.J.L. 230, 232-233 (Sup. Ct. 1934), affirmed 114 N.J.L. 273 (E. & A. 1935). These general pension characteristics and purposes are peculiarly applicable to a police officer, who "occupies a unique position in our society" in that he "stands in the public eye as an upholder of that which is morally and legally correct." Fromm v. Board Directors of Police, etc. Retirement System, 81 N.J. ...


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