June 9, 2008
RAYMOND L. GILMORE, APPELLANT,
NEW JERSEY CITY UNIVERSITY, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Trustees of New Jersey City University.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 5, 2008
Before Judges Lintner and Graves.
Raymond Gilmore appeals from a final decision of the Board of Trustees of New Jersey City University (the University) removing him from his tenured position at A. Harry Moore School (AHM), for conduct unbecoming an employee of the University pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-18. The University adopted the decision of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who found that the University had met its burden of proving that Gilmore "inappropriately touched a student in a sexual manner." On appeal, Gilmore presents the following arguments:
POINT I THE RECORD DOES NOT SUPPORT THE INITIAL FINDINGS OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE ULTIMATELY ADOPTED BY THE UNIVERSITY.
POINT II THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE HEARING THE CASE ERRED IN ALLOWING MELISSA PEARCE TO ACT AS A TRANSLATOR FOR J.R.
POINT III THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE REACHED CONCLUSIONS OF LAW REGARDING J.R.'S FEELINGS TOWARD MR. GILMORE WITHOUT EXPERT TESTIMONY.
After reviewing the record and applicable law, we are satisfied that these contentions do not warrant extended discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D) and (E). We therefore affirm, with only the following comments.
Five witnesses testified during the administrative hearing, which took place on August 29, September 13, and October 16, 2006, before Judge Carol Cohen. J.R. testified Gilmore was her social worker while she was attending AHM. According to J.R., Gilmore touched her or attempted to touch her "in the wrong way" on more than five occasions, and on one occasion, he touched her in her vaginal area. On the other hand, Gilmore absolutely denied he ever touched, or attempted to touch, J.R. inappropriately. Thus, the outcome of the hearing depended, to a large extent, on the ALJ's credibility assessments, and Judge Cohen explained why she accepted the testimony of J.R. as the more credible version:
When assessing J.R. on the stand, she appeared to be very credible. This sincerity and credibility was echoed in the testimony and reports of Ms. Pearce, Ms. Ortman and Ms. Okoro. None of whom seemed to have a particular axe to grind with Mr. Gilmore or who [had] anything to gain by coloring their testimony. Mr. Gilmore on his side did not present himself as a particularly credible witness. The fact that he did not mention any of the alleged psychological problems, which J.R. allegedly had, when he had the opportunity to clear his name, during his interviews with Ms. Okoro, was particularly telling. In addition, it appears that Mr. Gilmore was not anxious to give a full report to Ms. Okoro about other charges that had been lodged against him. Mr. Gilmore attempted to paint J.R. as a girl who made false allegations against other men. However, with regard to the two boys, who she said touched her inappropriately, the charges against the male student in the WIN program [were] substantiated and Mr. Gilmore was asked to speak to the male student at A. Harry Moore about dealing with girls. It does not appear that these boys were touching J.R. in the same manner as the petitioner. However, it is clear that J.R. was not just going around making false charges, as the petitioner appeared to allege.
The University accepted the decision of the ALJ, without modification or review, and Gilmore was "permanently dismissed" on March 9, 2007.
Our role in reviewing administrative determinations is limited. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999). "[A]n appellate court will reverse the decision of the administrative agency only if it is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable or it 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). Measured by this standard, we discern no basis to disturb the University's determination. The ALJ's findings and conclusions, which were adopted by the University, were supported by substantial credible evidence, and the ALJ's decision was neither arbitrary nor unreasonable.
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