[166 NJSuper Page 118] On January 1, 1968 plaintiff Philip Galfo was appointed to a one-year term as municipal finance officer for defendant Township of Rochelle Park. He received four successive annual reappointments and served in that capacity for five consecutive years. On January 1, 1973 he was replaced
by defendant William Montague and did not recapture that office until January 1, 1977 when the political pendulum once again swung in his favor. He was reappointed for the year 1978 and in June of that year he was granted tenure as municipal finance officer by the township committee.*fn1 At the reorganization meeting of January 1, 1979, despite Galfo's claim of tenure, the township committee once again installed Montague as municipal finance officer.
Plaintiff, by way of order to show cause, instituted this suit to void the appointment of Montague and compel the township committee to reinstate him. On the return day the matter was submitted on pleadings and affidavits for final judgment. R. 4:67-5.
Plaintiff's claim of tenure is based upon a statute that was enacted on March 14, 1977 and provides in pertinent part that
Plaintiff alleges that as a certified municipal finance officer with five consecutive years of service, he complies with all the statutory criteria and is entitled to tenure. Further, that the period in office from January 1, 1968 through December 31, 1972 must be counted towards his eligibility for tenure although it terminated long before promulgation of the statute; at most, the hiatus from 1973 to 1977 was an interruption and all his services should be cumulative. See Libby
Defendants contend that prior completed terms cannot be applied to fulfill the statutory requirement unless the municipal finance officer was certified at the time of service. Since Galfo did not obtain a municipal finance officer certificate until April 28, 1972, he is only entitled to credit for continuous service from that date. Consequently, he fails to comply with the statutory minimum.
Plaintiff's right to tenure depends upon judicial construction of the critical words "shall have served." Since neither the rules of grammar nor statutory interpretation have materially changed in the last 100 years, we begin with an analysis of State, Alden, pros. v. Newark , 40 N.J.L. 92 (Sup. Ct. 1878). That case turned upon the effectiveness of similar language:
"Shall have served" is the future perfect tense, which represents an event as completed in future time. If the Legislature had intended to give retroactive credit, it would have been easy to express it by use of the words "has served" or "had served," in the present or pluperfect tense, or other similar words. Additional evidence of legislative intent is found not only in the absence of such language but by its inclusion in related predecessor statutes: N.J.S.A. 40:145-14.1 (any treasurer or custodian of school records who " has held, or shall continue to hold, and when any person shall have held said offices, positions or employments for twenty years from the date of his original appointment"); N.J.S.A. 40A:9-152 ("whenever a person has or shall have held the office of municipal treasurer for 10 consecutive
years"). Elimination of all reference to present, past and pluperfect tenses can be construed only as an intentional act on the part of the Legislature. N.J.S.A. 40A:9-140.8 has isolated the future perfect tense by stating "every person who shall have served as the municipal finance officer * * * for a period of not less than 5 consecutive years" may be entitled to tenure. Completion of the five consecutive years of service must occur after March 14, ...