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Spicuzzo v. Barcheski

February 24, 2009


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-5821-06.

Per curiam.


Submitted January 7, 2009

Before Judges Parrillo and Lihotz.

Defendant Matthew Barcheski appeals from a final judgment entered in favor plaintiff the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department,*fn1 his former employer, requiring him to reimburse $8,469.48, pursuant to a "Payment Reimbursement Agreement" (the Agreement). In light of our review of the record, the arguments of the parties presented in their briefs, and the applicable legal standards, we affirm.

Defendant applied for employment as a Sheriff's Officer. On February 7, 2003, as part of the application process, defendant executed the Agreement as prepared and presented by plaintiff. We set forth the Agreement's relevant substantive provisions because it is integral to the determination of this matter. The Agreement executed by defendant provided:

I understand that in order to be eligible for employment in the Sheriff's Department of the County of Middlesex as a Sheriff's Office[r], . . . , I must pass a physical and psychological exam and I must attend and successfully complete training . . . . This includes training at the Sheriff's Department followed by training at a Police Training Academy arranged for by the Sheriff's Department. The entire time period for this training, commencing with my start date at the Sheriff's Department, consumes some 26 weeks time. During that period I will receive a training salary of $31,297.00 and am given uniforms to wear.

I understand that at this time I can pay the Department and County for the Police Academy training and uniforms myself, or alternatively[,] I can agree to have the Department and County advance the payment of same for me, subject to my reimbursement of these expenses as is described below.

I also understand and agree that in the event I pass my physical and psychological exams and then turn down the job offer, I will be liable to reimburse the County of Middlesex/Sheriff for the cost of these exams and related reports. I understand that the expense of my physical and psychological exams and related reports will be sent to me by the Sheriff's Department and that I will make reimbursement of these expenses within 30 days from service of them upon me. I understand that the approximate expense for the exams and related reports are as follows:

Physical exam and report $405 Psychological exam and report $190 In the event that I agree to have the Department and County advance the expenses for my training and uniforms, I agree to reimburse the Department and County the full amount in one lump sum [] no later than 48 months from my employment start date. In the event that I remain actively employed by the Department and in good standing for 48 months from my start date, I understand that the foregoing debt shall be excused, discharged and extinguished and I will have no further obligation to pay it. If I leave the Department for any reason whatsoever prior to completion of 48 months of active service, I understand and agree that I am liable to pay for my Police Academy training and uniforms, the expenses for which are [$]17,642 (PA) and [$]297 (uniforms), totaling [$]17,939, plus simple interest at the rate of 3[] per cent per annum from my incursion of these expenses until their payment by me.

Payment of said sum, plus interest at the above rate from inception of the debt shall be accelerated if I leave employment with the Sheriff's Department prior to 48 months from inception of the debt, and shall be due and payable no later than my last day of active employment with the Department, without any further demand for payment.

Plaintiff explained the purpose of the Agreement was to decrease the turnover previously experienced because Sheriff's recruits terminated employment shortly after training in favor of positions with municipal police departments. In effect, plaintiff paid for the necessary training of the recruits and received a limited benefit of that expenditure when a recruit left the Sheriff's Office employ shortly after training. Plaintiff suffered an increased financial burden from the expenses and an overtime work-load assigned to the remaining officers. The Agreement intended to mitigate these issues with an incentive provided to newly employed recruits to maintain employment for a minimum of forty-eight months.

After passing his physical and psychological exams, defendant was hired by plaintiff on March 17, 2003. Plaintiff registered defendant to attend the Passaic County Police Academy (PCPA) for a twenty-six week training period. While defendant attended PCPA, he received compensation from the plaintiff of more than $600 per week. Once he completed his period of training, defendant remained employed with plaintiff until March 3, 2005, when he voluntarily resigned to assume a position with the South Amboy Police Department.

As a result of defendant's early departure from the Sheriff's Department employ, plaintiff sought to enforce the terms of the Agreement. Plaintiff sent defendant a demand for reimbursement of $9,238.61. This sum represented the training expenses pro rated for the period of defendant's employment, plus the ...

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