February 8, 2007
IN THE MATTER OF MARIANO DEL VALLE, TOWNSHIP OF LAKEWOOD
On appeal from a Final Administrative Action of the Merit System Board, CSV-2878-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued January 24, 2007
Before Judges Winkelstein and Fuentes.
Appellant Mariano DelValle appeals from a final decision of the Merit System Board (the Board) that affirmed Lakewood Township's removal of appellant from employment as a Township police officer. The Board relied substantially on the record established before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in proceedings conducted on April 14, 2005, and August 22, 2005. On appeal, appellant raises the following issues:
APPELLANT IS ENTITLED TO BE REINSTATED TO HIS POSITION AS A POLICE OFFICE[R]
A. THE BOARD'S DECISION MUST BE REVERSED DUE TO ERRORS IN FACTFINDING
B. THE BOARD'S DECISION MUST BE REVERSED DUE TO VIOLATIONS OF APPELLANT'S PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS RIGHTS
We have carefully reviewed the record, and in light of the applicable law, we conclude that the Board's decision to uphold the Township's removal of appellant was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable, and was supported by substantial credible evidence in the record. Consequently, we affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the Board in its March 9, 2006 decision. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D), (E). We add only the following.
Judicial review of administrative agency decisions is severely limited. Karins v. Atlantic City, 152 N.J. 532, 540 (1998); Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co. v. N.J. Dep't of Envtl. Prot., 101 N.J. 95, 103 (1985); Edison Twp. Bd. of Educ. v. Edison Twp. Principals & Supervisors Ass'n, 304 N.J. Super. 459, 463 (1997). An appellate court accords a Board decision a presumption of reasonableness. Town of Belleville v. Coppla, 187 N.J. Super. 147, 153 (App. Div. 1982). We will not disturb a Board's decision unless it was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable, or not supported by substantial, credible evidence in the record as a whole. In re Warren, 117 N.J. 295, 296 (1989); Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); In re Souder, 204 N.J. Super. 132, 144 (App. Div. 1984). In arriving at our determination, we give due regard to the factfinder's findings and its ability to judge credibility. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656-57 (1999); Henry, supra, 81 N.J. at 580. Notably, we may not vacate an agency determination because the record may support more than one result. In re N.J. Pinelands Comm'n Resolution PC4-00-89, 356 N.J. Super. 363, 372 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 176 N.J. 281 (2003).
Here, we have no reason to interfere with the agency's decision. Ample evidence existed in the record before the ALJ to support the Board's adoption of the ALJ's recommendation to uphold appellant's removal from his position as a Township police officer. The ALJ relied substantially on the testimony of Dr. Betty McLendon, a psychologist, that appellant suffers from depression, anxiety, alcohol dependence and delusional thinking; and that he was unable "to benefit from alcohol abuse therapy because of his declination to use medications." The ALJ accepted Dr. McLendon's opinion that appellant's "prognosis is poor for his return to police work." The record supports these findings.
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