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In re Gaines

July 2, 2010

IN THE MATTER OF JOSEPH GAINES, TRENTON.


On appeal from a Final Administrative Decision of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, Agency Docket No. 2005-3468-I.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued January 12, 2010

Before Judges Gilroy and Simonelli.

Appellant Joseph Gaines appeals from the January 15, 2009 final decision of the Civil Service Commission (Commission) upholding the City of Trenton's (City) Final Notice of Disciplinary Action (FNDA) removing him from his employment.

Appellant also appeals from the Commission's July 13, 2009 final decision denying his motion for reconsideration. We affirm.

On August 22, 1994, appellant began his employment with the City in the provisional title of sanitation inspector, a title later made permanent. On May 4, 1998, appellant was promoted to the provisional title of assistant supervisor of motor pool in the Division of Purchasing.

According to the City's purchasing agent and appellant's immediate supervisor, Karen Marut, appellant's responsibilities as assistant supervisor of motor pool included overseeing the sale and disposal of City vehicles that are no longer needed or useful, soliciting quotations and bids for vehicles, and maintaining vehicles used by the City's department directors. Marut explained to appellant all of his job duties and instructed him in the proper procedures for maintaining and disposing of City vehicles. The disposal procedures require that the appropriate division head send a memorandum to the appropriate department director identifying any vehicles being considered for disposal and the reasons therefore. If the department director agrees with the vehicle's disposal, he or she forwards a disposal request to the Business Administrator for final approval. Final approval is then sent to the appropriate employee, in this instance appellant, for the vehicle's disposal.

The disposal procedures further provide that depending on whether or not the vehicle is operable, it is either taken to a recycling yard or sold at auction. The vehicle's title must be obtained from the clerk's office and signed before being delivered to the buyer. Payment must be received simultaneously with the delivery of the signed title and sent to the Division of Purchasing. The vehicle's license plate, radio and other accessories must be removed prior to its disposal or sale. Appellant never expressed confusion or a lack of understanding of the disposal procedures, never approached Marut for clarification, and never suggested any changes.

In December 2004, Michael Muccie, manager of Trenton Auto Recycling (TAR), approached appellant and offered to dispose of the City's scrapped vehicles using methods appellant believed would be less labor intensive than those used by Mercer Wrecking, the City's vehicle recycler at the time. Appellant conferred with Wahab Onitiri, an assistant streets supervisor in the Division of Streets, and the two compiled a list of eight vehicles for disposal by TAR. TAR gave appellant payment for the vehicles, which appellant gave to Onitiri instead of sending it to the Division of Purchasing. Appellant gave TAR unsigned titles to the vehicles.

TAR took six more vehicles from the Water Department for disposal. Without confirming whether or not TAR had paid for those vehicles, appellant gave TAR their unsigned titles. All of appellant's dealings with TAR violated the disposal procedures.

In January 2005, Frank Potocki, one of the City's safety inspectors, saw several City vehicles with City seals, identification numbers and license plates parked on the street outside TAR's lot. Potocki obtained from TAR a list of the fourteen vehicles that it took for disposal. He also discovered that TAR had unsigned titles to the vehicles. Potocki informed Marut of the situation.

Marut investigated appellant's files and determined that he had violated the disposal procedures by delivering the vehicles to TAR without authorization from the appropriate supervisors and without signed titles; by failing to obtain simultaneous payment for the vehicles; and by failing to remove the license plates, city emblems, and radios from the vehicles.

On February 9, 2005, the City served a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action (PNDA), seeking appellant's removal from his provisional title of assistant supervisor of motor pool for incompetency, inefficiency, failure to perform duties, neglect of duty and ...


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