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Department of Law and Public Safety v. Miller

Decided: June 17, 1971.

DEPARTMENT OF LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY, DIVISION OF MOTOR VEHICLES, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
GUSTAVOUS MILLER, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Leonard and Fritz. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, P.J.A.D.

Goldmann

[115 NJSuper Page 123] Gustavous Miller, Jr., appeals from a determination of the Civil Service Commission affirming his removal as a motor vehicle officer by the Division

of Motor Vehicles, Department of Law and Public Safety.

On January 3, 1968 Miller was served with a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action notifying him that he was suspended pending a hearing and determination for violating Civil Service Rules 59a ("Neglect of duty") and 59g ("Conduct unbecoming an employee in the Public Service"). Two specifications accompanied this notice, respectively charging that (1) between August 7 and October 3, 1967 Miller had accepted a sum of money from a representative of Robert Mazzacco in return for an agreement that he would not take enforcement action should he observe vehicles owned by Mazzacco to be in violation of motor vehicle statutes, and (2) on or about October 11 Miller accepted a sum of money from a representative of L.P. Excavating Corporation in return for a similar agreement with regard to that company's vehicles observed by him to be in violation of the motor vehicle statutes.

Following a hearing the then Motor Vehicle Director found that the charges of violating Civil Service Rules 59a and 59g had been sustained and notified Miller that he was removed, effective at the close of business January 3, 1968. Miller appealed to the Civil Service Commission which, after a hearing, denied the appeal and affirmed his removal.

As to the first specification, the Commission found that Miller's fellow officer, Bradway, had "propositioned" the truck owner for a bribe to avoid any report of motor vehicle violations, and that an employee had delivered $30, the agreed amount, to Miller on October 12, 1967 to give to Bradway for the purpose of effecting the agreement. (Miller happened to be passing by in an official car and was stopped by the employee because he thought it was officer Bradway.) The Commission found that Miller's knowledge of the purpose of the payment to him on behalf of Bradway was evidenced by the conversation he had with the employee: he is alleged to have said that "if he was Joe [Bradway], he would just give us tickets for not having flaps, horns

or lights or something like that." All that the employee said to Miller on the occasion in question was, "Just give this to Joe and thank him a lot." The Commission said it was "incredible to believe he [Miller] would receive cash from a stranger without understanding the purpose of the payment or questioning it before agreeing to act as a conduit."

With regard to the second specification, the Commission found that on October 9, 1967 Miller and Bradway were seated in a Division car when one Steffer, an L.P. company foreman, threw a $100 bribe on the front seat between the officers. (This was the second such payment on a $200 bribe Bradway alone had solicited sometime before. There was no proof Miller knew of it.) The Commission described this incident as follows: "Again, Mr. Bradway was more of the activist in negotiating the bribe but Mr. Miller was a knowing and cooperative conspirator."

Predicated upon these findings of fact, described as totally involving Miller in the two bribery situations, the Commission concluded that he was guilty of the violations charged, and therefore affirmed his removal.

As noted, the Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary action informed Miller he was being charged with neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming an employee in the public service, in violation of the Civil Service rules. The specifications served to particularize the charges by detailing two occasions when Miller accepted a sum of money in return for an agreement not to take enforcement action against certain trucks found to be in violation of our Motor Vehicle Act. These were the only specific charges made, and the ones that had to be proved to the satisfaction of the Civil Service Commission.

There was no evidence whatever that Miller, either alone or in concert with another, had accepted or indicated he would accept money in consideration for his promise not to take enforcement action. Instead of finding defendant ...


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