Goldmann, Collester and Mintz. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, P.J.A.D.
[116 NJSuper Page 189] Plaintiff appeals from a Law Division judgment in defendant's favor holding that the office of Tax Assessor of Jackson Township was abolished in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:145-19
and that plaintiff therefore did not have the right to be restored to his former position of tax assessor.
Plaintiff was the successful candidate for an unexpired term of one year as township tax assessor, the term to begin July 1, 1964 and end June 30, 1965. He actually entered upon his office in November 1963 when he was appointed to fill the vacancy resulting from the resignation of the assessor then holding office. At the November 1964 general election plaintiff was again the successful candidate for the office, the term to begin July 1, 1965 and end June 30, 1969. It was stipulated that plaintiff received a tax assessor's certificate from the Division of Taxation, Department of the Treasury, on October 4, 1967 under L. 1967, c. 44, § 1 et seq. (N.J.S.A. 54:1-35.25 et seq.)
The ballot for the November 1969 general election carried as a referendum a proposed ordinance to abolish the position of tax assessor and to create in its place a three-man board of assessors. This was done pursuant to and in full conformity with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 40:145-19. The ordinance was approved by a vote of 2925 to 1120. Thereafter, on June 30, 1970 the office of tax assessor was abolished and a three-man board of assessors appointed. Plaintiff was not one of the appointees. The board members will receive salaries totalling $7,000, as compared with the $9,800 received by plaintiff. It is indicated that members of the board will, if they have not already done so, apply for certification by the Division of Taxation.
On July 2, 1970 plaintiff obtained a temporary restraining order enjoining the defendant appointees from assuming their duties as members of the board of tax assessors. That order was dissolved on October 9, 1970, and defendants thereafter undertook the performance of their duties. The judgment here on appeal was entered December 3, 1970.
Plaintiff maintains that he acquired tenure as township tax assessor under N.J.S.A. 54:1-35.31, and that tenure could not be defeated by the action taken under N.J.S.A. 40:145-19 abolishing his office and creating the three-man
board of assessors. N.J.S.A. 54:1-35.31 provides in pertinent part:
Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, every person
(1) who, upon reappointment or re-election subsequent to having received a tax assessor certificate and having served as tax assessor or performed the duties of assessor for not less than 4 consecutive years immediately prior to such reappointment or re-election, or
(2) who, on or before June 30, 1969, shall have received a tax assessor certificate while actually in office as assessor or performing the duties of an assessor, and who, on or before June 30, 1969, shall have served as assessor or performed the duties of assessor for not less than 4 consecutive years.
shall hold his position during good behavior and efficiency notwithstanding that such reappointment or re-election was for a fixed term of years, and he shall not be removed therefrom for political reasons but only for good cause shown and after a proper ...