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Drop v. Town of Belleville

Decided: November 15, 1983.

JOHN DROP, ET AL., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWN OF BELLEVILLE, MUNIC. CORP. OF STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.

Antell, Joelson and McElroy. The opinion of the court was delivered by McElroy, J.A.D.

Mcelroy

This is an appeal from a decision of the Law Division denying to plaintiffs-appellants, upon retirement from defendant-respondent's police force, the right to a lump sum payment for accumulated and unused sick pay provided to "uniformed and nonuniform" town employees under Ordinance Number 1954, adopted July 27, 1976, and Ordinance Number 1964, enacted October 26, 1976. We affirm that decision.

The trial judge viewed these ordinances as facially ambiguous and in aid of interpretation utilized the minutes of meetings of the respondent's board of commissioners at which the ordinances were considered and adopted as well as transcripts made from the taped recordation of the public discussion had prior to their enactment. He also considered a collective bargaining agreement between the town and the Policemen's Benevolent Association of Belleville (PBA) which granted unlimited annual sick leave benefits to plaintiffs as members of the PBA. In addition, the court held a plenary hearing in which the testimony of the town commissioners was taken.

On April 26, 1982 the judge rendered an oral decision. He reasoned that the record presented, particularly the minutes and transcripts of the public hearings and the collective bargaining agreement demonstrated that the ordinances were not intended to apply to plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs appeal contending: (1) the ordinances are unambiguous, clearly give them the benefits sought, and thus require no extrinsic evidence in aid of interpretation; (2) even if the ordinances are viewed as ambiguous the court erred in considering present day testimony from the commissioners as to their intent in passing this legislation; (3) that if resort to legislative history was necessary, such material evinces legislative intent to provide police officers with the benefits conferred; (4) the grant of unlimited paid sick benefits by the collective bargaining agreements and the lump sum benefits of Ordinance Number 1964 are not inconsistent, and (5) that the exclusion of plaintiffs from the benefits of these ordinances constitutes a denial of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Ordinance 1954, effective July 27, 1976 in pertinent part provides:

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF THE TOWN OF BELLEVILLE, NEW JERSEY:

THAT, the following regulations are hereby established for Service Credit for Sick Leave for both Uniform and Non-Uniform employees of the Town of Belleville, N.J. that are permanent employees, full-time temporary employees or full-time provisional employees, or full-time unclassified employees as provided for by Title 11 Civil Service and New Jersey Administrative Code, Department of Civil Service:

SECTION. -- I. SERVICE CREDIT FOR SICK LEAVE:

All permanent employees, uniform and non-uniform, full-time temporary or full-time provisional employees, or full-time unclassified employees shall be entitled to sick leave with pay based on their aggregate years of service:

SECTION. -- II. AMOUNT OF SICK LEAVE:

The minimum sick leave with pay shall accrue to any full-time employee on the basis of one working day per month during the remainder of the first calendar year of employment after initial appointment and fifteen (15) working days of every calendar year thereafter. Part-time permanent employees shall be entitled to sick leave as established by a ratio to the number of hours worked:

a. Any amount of sick leave allowance, not used in any calendar year shall accumulate to the employee's credit from year to year to be used if ...


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