December 11, 2007
GILBERT PEREZ, APPELLANT,
TERRANCE MOORE, ADMINISTRATOR, ED KOCSERHA, SUPERVISOR OF MAINTENANCE DEPARTMENT, RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from a Final Decision of the Department of Corrections.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 26, 2007
Before Judges Weissbard and S.L. Reisner.
Gilbert Perez, a state prison inmate, appeals from a final agency decision adjudicating his claim for damages resulting from property lost in a fire at East Jersey State Prison on February 25, 2004. We affirm.
In a prior decision, filed June 6, 2006, we addressed Perez's appeal from an initial decision of the East Jersey Claims Committee, affirmed by the prison administrator, that placed a total value of $280 on Perez's list of lost or damaged property. Perez claimed the property had a value of $2,629.80. In making its determination, the Claims Committee assigned what it deemed "consistent values" for certain larger items, such as radios, televisions and word processors, that were the subject of claims by Perez and many other similarly affected inmates. We reversed, concluding that the use of such values was arbitrary. We further concluded that the damage valuation did not take into account replacement value for many items. As a result, we remanded for the purpose of a re-evaluation of Perez's claim based on an individualized assessment of the actual value of the items he claimed to have lost. Perez v. Moore, No. A-5119-4T3 (App. Div. June 6, 2006).
On remand the Claims Committee undertook to comply with our directive. The Committee requested from Perez, and he supplied, a list of items lost and documentation indicating the date and purchase price. The Committee carefully evaluated each item and fixed a value for many, taking depreciation into account where appropriate. The Committee denied compensation for items that were either consumable or which Perez could not supply proof that he possessed the item at the time of the fire. In the end, the Committee offered Perez $613.49 in compensation for his loss. Perez declined the offer and once again appeals, contending that the new evaluation and offer was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.
Our scope of review of administrative decisions is quite limited. We will reverse such a decision "only if it is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable or is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole." Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980). We are not to substitute our judgment for that of the agency, Brady v. Dept of Pers., 149 N.J. 244, 264 (1997), nor substitute our fact-finding for that of the agency. Tlumac v. High Bridge Stone, 187 N.J. 567, 573 (2006). We "must defer to the agency decision if the findings of fact are supported by substantial credible evidence in the record and are not so wide of the mark as to be manifestly mistaken."
Judged by these standards we can find no fault in the approach of the Claims Committee or its resolution of Perez's claim. See N.J.A.C. 10A:2-6.2(4), (5). The Committee followed our directive by giving Perez's claim an individualized assessment. While Perez is not happy with the result, that is not the test, as we noted earlier. Perez has failed to persuade us that the evaluation process was flawed.
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