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Burke v. Township of Franklin

Decided: January 26, 1993.

JAMES M. BURKE, JR., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE TOWNSHIP OF FRANKLIN, JOHN C. LOVELL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE TOWNSHIP MANAGER AND POLICE DIRECTOR, AND JOHN BLAZAKIS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



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

Michels and Wallace. The Opinion of the Court was delivered by Wallace, J.s.c. (Temporarily Assigned).

Wallace

[261 NJSuper Page 594] Plaintiff, James M. Burke, appeals from the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, Township of Franklin, John C. Lovell and John Blazakis. We must decide whether defendants' police promotional examination procedure was arbitrary

and capricious, and whether defendants discriminated against plaintiff based on age.

In September 1990, the Township announced that it will be accepting applications from the Police Department for four vacant Sergeant positions. Plaintiff, a patrolman, was one of thirteen candidates for the position.

Under § 47-21A of the Township Code, the selection process for promotion of a candidate for the Sergeant position consisted of the following components: seniority; education; promotional evaluation (oral examination); written examination; medical evaluation; and psychological screening.

The selection process provided for the ranking of each candidate based on the sum of all points earned in four categories: seniority; education; oral examination; and written examination. The medical and psychological evaluations were not components in the ranking process but each candidate had to pass the medical and psychological evaluations in order to qualify.

Each of the components was weighted. Seniority carried the least weight, with one point out of four. The oral examination, as a part of the promotional evaluation, carried the most weight with four points out of four. The written examination carried three points out of four and the education component carried two points out of four. Each candidate was then ranked in order of his or her total score and would be selected for promotion in that order.

The Township administered the police promotional examination during November and December 1990. At the time plaintiff took the examination, plaintiff was thirty-nine years old, had been a patrolman since 1977, and had a high school diploma.

The oral interviews were conducted by the Evaluation Board

which was comprised of four persons:*fn1 1) John Lovell, Township Manager; 2) Chief John Blazakis; 3) Captain Nick Nicoletti; and 4) Ernestine Callier, Director of Social Services. For evaluation purposes, the Board asked twenty-seven questions to each candidate. Each member of the Board would rank the candidate's performance by considering:

[a] Comprehensive and presentation skills in oral communications.

[b] Maturity in Judgement

[c] Interest in law enforcement

[d] Evidence of supervisory and administrative ability

[e] Demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the township, including the physical and demographics thereof, as well as an understanding of the operations of township government including the interaction of the various departments thereof.

[f] Knowledge and understanding of Management practices, departmental rules, regulations, policies and procedure.

On December 20, 1990, Lovell notified plaintiff in writing of the final result from his examination. Plaintiff ranked eighth out of thirteen ...


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