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In re Joyce

December 4, 2008

IN THE MATTER OF JAMES JOYCE, CITY OF PASSAIC.


On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey Merit System Board, Docket No. 2006-4758.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 21, 2008

Before Judges Yannotti and LeWinn.

James Joyce, an officer employed by the City of Passaic's Police Department (PPD), was charged with conduct unbecoming a public employee, contrary to N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(6), and violating the PPD's rules and regulations, contrary to N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(11). The PPD found that the charges had been sustained and imposed a sixty-day suspension.

Joyce appealed that determination to the Merit System Board (Board), which referred the matter to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ found that the evidence supported the charges and recommended that the sixty-day suspension be upheld. The Board adopted the ALJ's findings of fact but modified the penalty and imposed a 120-day suspension. Joyce appeals from the Board's decision. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

We briefly summarize the facts based on the evidence presented at the hearing before the ALJ. On March 5, 2005, Joyce and others went to the Voo-Doo Lounge in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. The owner of the lounge, Trent Charilas, was at the door when Joyce arrived with his party. Charilas asked Joyce to pay the cover charge. According to Charilas, Joyce told him that he did not have to pay the cover charge. Charilas insisted that Joyce pay the charge and Joyce threatened Charilas by stating that he should not be caught driving through the City of Passaic.

Shaina Lewis was the bartender on duty at the lounge and served drinks to Joyce's party. Lewis alerted Charilas about the degree of intoxication of some members of the party. Charilas directed Lewis to "flag" the party, meaning that they should not be served any additional alcoholic beverages.

Joyce's party decided to leave. Lewis presented the party with a bill and Joyce's wife handed Lewis a credit card. Lewis processed the payment and returned to the table to have Joyce's wife sign the receipt. Lewis testified that Joyce came over and instructed his wife not to pay. Joyce grabbed the pen from his wife's hand and threw it aside, but Joyce's wife picked up the pen and tried to sign the receipt. Joyce told her, "You are not fucking paying for it." He took the pen and the receipt and threw them.

Lewis informed Charilas that Joyce's party was about to leave the lounge without paying. She handed Charilas the credit card receipt. A member of the party offered to pay the bill but Joyce stepped in. Charilas presented the bill to Joyce, but he refused to pay it and said that he could do as he pleased because he was a police officer.

Charilas stopped Joyce's wife at the door. He handed her the receipt and a pen. Charilas said that he did not touch Joyce's wife. Joyce grabbed the receipt and the pen and told his wife not to "pay the fucking bill." Joyce also told Charilas to "get the fuck out of his way" and to mind his own business.

Joyce pushed Charilas in the chest and shoulder, causing Charilas to fall into a bench. Joyce invited Charilas to step outside. Charilas told him to leave the lounge. As he left, Joyce slammed the door with such force that a piece of the door fell off.

Outside, Joyce continued to challenge Charilas and a bouncer to a fight. Charilas warned Joyce to leave or he would call the police. Joyce refused to go and Charilas called the police. Officers Richard Holicki and Francis O'Rourke of the Lyndhurst Police Department responded to the scene. Holicki asked appellant for his identification. Holicki then instructed Joyce and his party to leave the premises.

About twenty minutes later, Joyce returned and confronted Holicki and O'Rourke. Joyce said that the officers had not returned his documents. Joyce told the officers, "I'm a Passaic cop and I'll do whatever the fuck I want ...


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