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In re Application of Harold J. Ruvoldt

Decided: October 27, 1982.

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF HAROLD J. RUVOLDT, JR., PROSECUTOR OF HUDSON COUNTY, FOR AUTHORIZATION OF EXPENDITURES


On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Hudson County.

Matthews, Antell and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Matthews, P.J.A.D.

Matthews

Plaintiff appeals from an order entered by the acting assignment judge, dated August 5, 1981, denying him additional funds, and from the order of the assignment judge, entered June 30, 1981, which determined that the prosecutor's power to appoint personnel is subject to the approval of the county executive, whose decision may only be overturned pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:158-7.

On June 11, 1981 the Prosecutor of Hudson County ("prosecutor") filed a petition pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:158-7 requesting,

first, increased appropriations for his office for new equipment, more personnel and salary raises; and second, seeking immediate and emergent relief in the form of a court order directing the county to immediately process the requested salary raises. The assignment judge of the county entered an order requiring the Hudson County Board of Freeholders ("Board") to show cause on June 29, 1981 why the relief should not be granted.

On June 17, 1981 the prosecutor moved for temporary relief pending the determination of his application. He sought by means of this motion to have the CS-6 forms setting the salaries for employees of his office processed. The assignment judge ordered on the same day that the motion be heard on short notice.

A hearing was held on the request for interim relief on June 29, 1981. The judge found that the increases must be approved by the county executive, and that if the county were to reject the increases, the prosecutor was entitled to have the judge decide if the increases are necessary. On June 30, 1981 he entered an order holding that the prosecutor has the power to fix salaries subject to approval or rejection by the county executive, whose decision can only be overturned pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:158-7. The prosecutor appeals from that portion of the judge's order. The assignment judge also ordered that the parties should appear on July 1, 1981, in order to take testimony concerning the necessity of salary increases prior to the full hearing on the prosecutor's application. The hearing was adjourned to July 7, 1981.

In the present application, filed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:158-7, the prosecutor sought additional appropriations that would give him a budget of $4,245,981.25, an increase of $1,386,687.52 over his 1980 budget. At the time of the filing of the petition, the Board of Chosen Freeholders had only appropriated $485,300 for an increase in budget.

Prior to taking office the prosecutor had a management survey of the office prepared by the Prosecutor's Supervisory

Section of the Division of Criminal Justice. The survey noted that in 1980 the Hudson County Prosecutor's office ranged 21st among the 21 counties in mean and median salaries for assistant prosecutors, and 20th and 21st in mean and median salaries for investigative personnel, with a resultant high turnover of employees. There was also no regular or annual merit increment structure, nor any formal system of promotions. The survey recommended the institution of a salary and increment structure in order to encourage employees to view their jobs as a career. The Division reviewed the prosecutor's needs and his budget to come up with a figure that they both could support, and as the prosecutor's original request was higher than the Division's estimate, the prosecutor amended his figure to comport with that of the Division.

An auditor working for the Evaluation and Management Services Section of the Division of Criminal Justice expressed the opinion, which he testified was concurred in by the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, that the figure proposed represented the minimum amount necessary for the prosecutor to perform his function.

The Division also found that, while the present number of assistant prosecutors was adequate, the investigative staff should be increased from 66 to 90 in order to create a proper ratio of support staff for the prosecutors. The Division also recommended the addition of nine more clerical personnel, increasing the total number to 74.

The Division also estimated that the prosecutor needed ten replacement and five new cars with radios and sirens, at a cost of about $125,000; word processing equipment, at a cost of about $40,000; about $15,000 worth of dictation equipment; rearrangement of and equipment to automate the record room; a radio system, at a cost of $75,000; PROMIS/GAVEL, a computerized program of the prosecutor's office and courts regarding management, at a cost of about $12,000 for a match of federal funds that would enable Hudson County to receive

$125,000 worth of equipment; $11,000 for office equipment for the new personnel requested, and electronic surveillance equipment at a cost of $5,900. These recommendations totalled $307,900.

In order to determine what fiscal problems would be caused should the prosecutor's request be implemented, Edward F. Clark, the Hudson County Executive, also testified. Clark said that Hudson County has an ever-increasing problem staying within the limits of CAP, and that the county arrived at the figure by which it increased the prosecutor's budget for primarily economic reasons.

The acting assignment judge noted in his opinion that it was his intent to resolve the dispute within the prosecutor's existing appropriations, if possible, or at least to maintain a "sensitivity to the Freeholders' overall CAP problem while insuring that the ...


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