On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County.
Before Judges Petrella, Baime, and Conley.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
New Jersey Highway Authority (NJHA) appeals from a Law Division order, which confirmed an arbitration award in favor of defendants-respondents International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 193 (Local 193), and Gerard Adamczyk (collectively referred to as "defendants").
This matter stems from a November 23, 1992 arbitration award that required NJHA to reimburse Adamczyk for accrued sick and vacation days, totaling about $17,000, even though he had been terminated for stealing toll receipts. The facts are essentially undisputed. NJHA operates and maintains the Garden State Parkway. Local 193 represents toll supervisors (those empowered to supervise toll plazas). The parties entered into a public sector collective negotiation agreement.
Adamczyk, a Local 193 union member, was a supervisor at the Cape May Toll Plaza. His duties included the securing of monies collected from automatic toll machines and placing those funds in a vault located at the toll plaza. In March 1992, the Internal Audit Division for NJHA informed security at the plaza of shortages totaling approximately $541. An investigation ensued.
On April 3, 1992, security agents witnessed Adamczyk take a bag of coins and tokens from the vault building and place it in his automobile.*fn1 Security then notified the New Jersey State Police, which sent two police officers to the scene of the crime.
Upon arrival, an officer approached Adamczyk and identified himself, whereupon Adamczyk said that "he had made a mistake and . . . [the police officer] could go in his vehicle to obtain the coins he had taken," according to the officer's police report. After reading Adamczyk his Miranda rights and preparing a consent to search form that he signed, the police recovered the plastic bag, which contained about $111 in coins and tokens, from the vehicle.*fn2 The police then arrested him, took him to the police station, and charged him with theft.
In response to an officer asking him to explain what he knew regarding the theft, Adamczyk stated: "Plain English, I took the money." He specifically said:
When I was changing the vaults [containers used to transfer tokens and coins] I found a vault from lane four have an un-secure lid. When I was placing the same vault on the pallet in the vault building some money fell out. I opened the lid, took a few handfuls out and put the coins in a plastic bag. I proceeded to put the seals on the rest of the vaults, started to take the damaged vault into the building to count it as per proper procedure. Changed my mind threw it back in the stack on the pallet put the safety lid or security lid on it then put the seal on it. Went to the car took off the glove I wear on my left hand and put the bag of money under the front seat of the car.
Adamczyk hastened to add: "But I never pried this or any other vault open."
Adamczyk also admitted to incidents of thievery when he provided the following responses to questions asked by the State police:
Q. Have you ever taken any money before, money that you should have turned in?
Q. Would you tell me when and how you did that?
A. I can't tell you when an how, occasionally out of a vault that wasn't locked. Occasionally I found a vault that wasn't locked, I reached in and took a handful of change out. I put it in my pocket.
Q. About how many times did you do this?
A. I can't give you an exact number, maybe a dozen over a ...