On appeal from a Administrative Decision of the New Jersey Division of State Police.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Payne, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Skillman, Axelrad*fn1 and Payne.
In this appeal, we are again called upon to construe the time limitations of N.J.S.A. 53:1-33 applicable to determinations to remove, suspend or otherwise discipline members of the New Jersey State Police for violation of the Police's internal rules and regulations governing conduct. That statute provides in part:
A complaint charging a violation of the internal rules and regulations established for the conduct of the State Police shall be filed no later than the 45th day after the date on which the person filing the complaint obtained sufficient information to file the matter upon which the complaint is based . . . .
The statute also provides that "[a] failure to comply with the provisions of this section concerning . . . the time within which a complaint is to be filed shall require a dismissal of the complaint."
In two recent appeals in which filing of disciplinary complaints was alleged by petitioners to have been untimely, we held that because N.J.S.A. 53:1-10 authorizes the State Police Superintendent to "make all rules and regulations for the discipline and control of the state police" and those rules vest authority in the Superintendent to order investigations and bring disciplinary charges, the forty-five day period to which this portion of the statute refers does not commence to run until the Superintendent receives the investigatory report in a disciplinary matter. See Division of State Police v. Maguire, 368 N.J. Super. 564, 570-71 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 181 N.J. 545 (2004); see also DeBenedictis v. State, 381 N.J. Super. 233, 237-38 (App. Div. 2005) (similarly interpreting an expanded 120-day time frame applicable to certain charged offenses).
The issue in the present appeal concerns the construction of a further provision of the statute that states:
The applicable time limit shall not apply if an investigation of an officer or trooper for a violation of the internal rules or regulations of the law enforcement unit is included directly or indirectly within a concurrent investigation of that person for a violation of the criminal laws of this State. The applicable time limit shall begin on the day after the disposition of the criminal investigation.
Appellant, Trooper Ronald Roberts, Jr., contends that the language of this provision grants the Superintendent only forty-five days following the conclusion of a criminal investigation to file charges, regardless of when the Superintendent receives the results of the State Police's own investigative report. We reject that interpretation as inconsistent with the legislative history of the statute, find the charges filed against Roberts to have been timely, and remand the matter for completion of disciplinary proceedings.
These are the facts. On March 5, 2003, Roberts' girlfriend, Dina Colasurdo, filed domestic violence charges of assault and harassment against Roberts and was granted a temporary restraining order. She also disclosed that in addition to the verbal harassment giving rise to her complaint, Roberts had broken her arm in October of the previous year. State Police rules and regulations required Roberts to self-report the charges within four hours of the time that they were filed. However, Roberts did not do so, but instead delayed notification to his employer of the criminal complaint until March 11, 2003.
An investigation was commenced by the State Police on the day of Colasurdo's complaint. However, the investigation was suspended on March 25, 2003 after the matter was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice, Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor as the result of Colasurdo's statement that Roberts had attempted to defraud his homeowner's insurer by claiming that Colasurdo's ...