This opinion is an expansion of remarks in an oral opinion rendered May 2, 1979.
The issue raised here involves the interaction between the Optional Municipal Charter Act (N.J.S.A. 40:41A-1 et
seq.) (hereinafter "Charter Act"), and a statute under which a county officer is appointed by the county for a fixed term (N.J.S.A. 40A:9-27).
In this case Samuel Angelo was designated under the cited statute Treasurer of the County of Essex by its freeholders, to complete a three-year term upon the death of the Treasurer. Subsequently, pursuant to petition and referendum (see Citizens for Charter Change in Essex Cty. v. Caputo , 136 N.J. Super. 424 (App. Div. 1975); certif. den. 74 N.J. 268, 269 (1975) appeal after remand, 151 N.J. Super. 286 (1977) certif. den. 75 N.J. 527 (1977) the County of Essex opted for the County Executive Plan described in N.J.S.A. 40:41A-31. The new form of government came into effect in 1978. N.J.S.A. 40:41A-37 makes provision for an Administrative Code (hereinafter "Code"), which the Freeholders adopted by ordinance, effective May 1, 1979. The Code comprehensively reorganizes the entire county government, including the freeholders themselves and all county employees. Article 14.3 of the Code, as amended, provides:
Offices Continued, etc. All offices, positions, and employments, which are continued or reestablished by this code are transferred to the respective departments, offices, and agencies to which their functions are allocated and assigned by this code. The terms of all incumbents heretofore appointed for a fixed term to such offices, positions, and employments and the terms of all members of existing boards, agencies, commissions or authorities shall terminate as of the effective date of this code, except that such officers or members of the boards, commissions, and authorities that are continued may continue to serve until appointments and qualification of their successors, or may be reappointed to serve out the unexpired portion of their terms.
Plaintiff was advised by the County Executive that his employment thus terminated by the Code would not be renewed. The result was this prerogative writ action.
The pertinent provisions of the Charter Act, N.J.S.A. 40:41A-26, 27, read:
26. General law. For the purposes of this act, a 'general law' shall be deemed to be such law or part thereof, heretofore or hereafter enacted, that:
a. Is not inconsistent with this act; and
b. Is by its terms applicable to or available to ...