On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Personnel, Merit System Board.
Pressler, Baime and Arnold M. Stein. The opinion of the court was delivered by Arnold M. Stein, J.A.D.
Daniel Cahill appeals the order of the Merit System Board dismissing him as a member of the Newark Fire Department because he is a substance abuser. We affirm.
The essential facts were stipulated before the Administrative Law Judge. On August 12, 1974, Cahill began his employment with the city as a firefighter. Approximately ten years later, at the recommendation of his union and unknown to the city, Cahill voluntarily entered an eight-day detoxification program.
The city first learned that Cahill had a drug and alcohol problem on August 14, 1986. While off duty, he was found to be under the influence of drugs. He was immediately suspended by the city until November 8, 1986. During the suspension he entered and completed a drug rehabilitation program.
Cahill was then reinstated to the fire department. The city required that as a condition of continued employment he submit to random drug testing by urinalysis. On August 25, 1988 Cahill was ordered to submit to a urine test. The test produced a morphine-positive drug profile and Cahill was suspended. He was charged with violation of Article 28, a fire department regulation which prohibits the use of or addiction to narcotics or controlled dangerous substances.
Cahill pleaded guilty at his department hearing. His attorney submitted testimony from two supervisors indicating complete satisfaction with Cahill's performance on the job. The city nevertheless concluded that the positive test results warranted dismissal.
On appeal, the ALJ concluded that the petitioner should be given "one final opportunity to straighten himself out and get
sober." He ordered Cahill suspended for six months followed by a probationary period.
The Merit System Board accepted the ALJ's findings of fact but rejected his conclusions and recommendations. The board found that dismissal was the appropriate action.
We accept the ALJ's conclusion that Cahill is a handicapped person whose condition falls within the protection of the Law Against Discrimination. N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. The ALJ found that Cahill is an alcoholic and a drug addict, "a chemically dependent substance abuser who was cross-addicted. As such, he is ...