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Halle v. Township of Woodbridge

Decided: November 1, 1990.

WILLIAM W. HALLE, IV, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF WOODBRIDGE, A BODY POLITIC OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY; PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR AND FORMER WOODBRIDGE TOWNSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER ROBERT F. MOLNAR SR. AS AN INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANT, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County.

Brody and Gruccio. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gruccio, J.A.D.

Gruccio

This case arises from an effort by plaintiff William W. Halle, IV, to remove defendant Robert F. Molnar, Sr. (Molnar, Sr.), from his position of Public Works Director of defendant Township of Woodbridge (Woodbridge). Plaintiff appeals from a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants.

On January 25, 1989, plaintiff filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs against both Woodbridge and Molnar, Sr., dealing with alleged wrongdoing in a township leaf removal contract. Molnar, Sr., a member of the Woodbridge Township Council (Council), was appointed Public Works Director by the mayor of Woodbridge on March 1, 1988. At that time, he was a partner in Giordano & Molnar Trucking Co. (G & M). When appointed Public Works Director, Molnar, Sr., agreed to disassociate himself from G & M. In April 1988, one-and-one-half months later, he signed a divestiture agreement with his son, Robert F. Molnar, Jr. (Molnar, Jr.), transferring all of his shares of G & M stock to his son, allowing him to repurchase the stock once his term of office ceased and prohibiting his son from transferring any of the received stock.

Plaintiff subsequently attempted to amend his complaint to include conflict of interest allegations against Molnar, Sr., and seek an investigation into Woodbridge's bidding practices. Judge Lintner dismissed both the complaint and amended complaint and remanded the conflict of interest issue to the Council for an investigation, allowing plaintiff to present witnesses and/or documentation in support of his allegations. Plaintiff apparently did not contest the judge's dismissals. The Council appointed an attorney, John L. Schantz, to investigate plaintiff's complaints.

Thereafter, a hearing was held. On advice of counsel, Molnar, Sr., did not testify. The Council found no conflict of interest. Plaintiff then filed another complaint in lieu of prerogative writs alleging that the Council failed to remove Molnar, Sr., from office in the face of a "clear conflict of interest",

that Molnar, Sr.'s refusal to testify at the Council hearing warranted his removal from office, and that the Council's failure to do so was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.

Judge Longhi dismissed the part of plaintiff's complaint asking the court to remove Molnar, Sr., from office because of his refusal to testify at the hearing. He remanded the remaining conflict of interest allegations to the Council for findings of fact and conclusions of law. After receiving the findings and conclusions, Judge Longhi granted both defendants summary judgment for the remaining counts of plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff now appeals the granting of summary judgment.

On appeal, plaintiff raises a series of issues which, in the main, center around his right to compel the municipality to bring charges and oust Molnar, Sr., from his position as Public Works Director, to independently file suit in the Superior Court to force Molnar, Sr.'s ouster from his position and to compel the discovery of materials involved in the prosecutor's ongoing investigation. Since plaintiff is pro se, we set forth his points on appeal as contained in his brief.

1. The plaintiff has the statutory right to a trial denovo [ sic ], with the right to expand the record below.

2. The plaintiff has the right to discovery, and the right to ammend [ sic ] a complaint ...


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