On appeal from the Essex County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Crane, Milmed and King. The opinion of the court was delivered by Milmed, J.A.D.
Plaintiff appeals from a denial by the Essex County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of her motion to compel defendant Director of the Newark Division of Welfare (Division) to provide her with a general assistance allowance for the months of July and August 1978.
The essential facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff has been employed by the Newark Board of Education (Board) as a school aide since 1972. She works for the Board during the school year, i.e. , from September to June, and is unemployed during the summer months. Her annual salary is approximately $2,681. During 1976 and 1977 she applied for and received general assistance from the City of Newark during the summer months. Although she returned to work in September 1977, she continued to receive monthly assistance through January 1978. During each of these months she reported to the Division's office and signed its form of "Statement of Income," stating, in essence, that she had no income at the time. She claims that she signed the form indicating "no income" under protest and only after she was instructed to do so by her caseworker. It appears
that the Division filed a criminal complaint against plaintiff alleging fraudulent receipt of welfare payments. Plaintiff pleaded not guilty and was thereafter referred to the County Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program.
On June 26, 1978 plaintiff received her last pay check from the Board for the school year September 1977 -- June 1978. She applied, but was found ineligible, for unemployment compensation benefits. In the middle of July 1978 she sought to reapply to the Division of Welfare for general assistance but was not permitted to do so "until the matter of the alleged fraud was cleared up and because she had not paid back any of the overpayment" of $578. Plaintiff claims she is willing to pay back any overpayment but is "financially unable to do so" at present.
In view of the Division's refusal to accept her application, plaintiff determined that she had "no administrative remedy,"*fn1 and sought review of the Division's action in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court pursuant to N.J.S.A. 44:1-86 and an order therein requiring defendant to grant her general assistance for the months of July and August 1978. After hearing counsel for the parties, the judge denied her "motion" after finding that "she is not entitled to be paid [general assistance] for those two months" since "she was working for the Board of Education in Newark at the time she was receiving this welfare, and did not make known her employment to the Newark Welfare Board." This appeal followed.
Plaintiff contends that (1) "[p]ast fraud is not a bar to present assistance"; (2) she "is not ineligible for welfare because of her
employment during the school year"; (3) section 251 of the General Assistance Manual, relating to fraudulent receipt of assistance, N.J.A.C. 10:85-2.6, "as interpreted by defendant-respondent, is unconstitutional," and (4) the judge of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court "did not fully develop the record" and, accordingly, "there was no basis for his factual findings."
Our canvass of the record discloses no sound basis whatever for the finding by the judge who heard plaintiff's motion that she "did not make known her employment [with the Newark Board of Education] to the Newark Welfare Board." There appears to have been no plenary hearing in the matter and no proofs taken from which a finding on the subject of disclosure could be made. Beyond this, it is clear to us that defendant wrongfully refused to allow plaintiff to apply for financial assistance for the summer months in 1978.
Defendant was obligated, pursuant to the pertinent public assistance laws of the State and administrative standards prescribed for their enforcement by the General Assistance Manual of the Department of Human Services, to accept plaintiff's July 1978 application and process and act upon it in light of plaintiff's needs at the time. See Pier v. Speer , 73 N.J.L. 633, 638 (E. & A.1906). And see the General Public Assistance Law, L. 1947, c. 156; N.J.S.A. ...