On appeal from the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, Docket No. 2010-1168.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 6, 2011
Before Judges Alvarez and Nugent.
L.Y.V. appeals from a final decision of the Civil Service Commission (the Commission) that upheld her removal from her position as a Mount Holly Township police officer. She contends the Commission's decision was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable because: (1) her removal was a sanction disproportionate to her infractions; (2) the Commission relied upon evidence wrongfully admitted during her administrative law hearing; and (3) the Commission misinterpreted a Mount Holly Township Police Department (MHPD) rule. For the reasons that follow, we reject her contentions and affirm.
L.Y.V. was hired by the MHPD in April 2005. During her years of service L.Y.V. was trained to respond to domestic violence situations, and learned the rules and regulations concerning domestic violence investigations and arrests. In February 2009, while assigned to the records department due to her pregnancy, L.Y.V. missed a day of work because she had been injured at her home during an altercation with her mother.
L.Y.V. lived with her son, mother, aunt, grandmother, and other relatives in a house that she and her aunt owned. On the morning of February 17, 2009, shortly before leaving for work,
L.Y.V. became embroiled in a verbal altercation with her mother. Although the accounts of the incident varied, L.Y.V. testified that the altercation ended after she threw a shoe at her mother and her mother struck her on the head with an object, causing her head to bleed.
Following the altercation L.Y.V. noticed a large lump on her head and a scratch on her face; she noted that it "looked like I was assaulted." Aware that the police were required to arrest anyone who caused an injury during a domestic dispute, and believing that if she went to work her mother would be arrested, L.Y.V. called the Chief of the MHPD and told him she had "slipped down a couple stairs" and was going to call her doctor. She did, in fact, call her doctor, who assured her that her pregnancy was not at risk and told her to come in if she continued to feel ill. After speaking with the doctor, she called a Detective Lieutenant with the MHPD and told him she had fallen down the stairs, had spoken with her doctor, and would not be coming to work.
Later that day L.Y.V. told her mother to find another place to live. This sparked another argument that escalated into the women shoving and striking each other, and "ended up [with them] tumbling around." During the altercation L.Y.V.'s mother bit L.Y.V.'s finger. After L.Y.V.'s grandmother and brother separated them, L.Y.V.'s mother left the house, went to the Florence Township Police Department, filed a domestic violence complaint, and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against L.Y.V. Thereafter, L.Y.V. filed a domestic violence complaint against her mother, but both parties subsequently dismissed the complaints.
On February 18, 2009, the appointing authority, MHPD, served L.Y.V. with a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action (PND), which charged her with multiple offenses and suspended her pending disposition of the charges. The charges included both failure and inability to perform her duties, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(1) and (3); neglect of duty, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(7) and MHPD Rule of Conduct (Rule) 4.6.1; conduct unbecoming a public employee, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(6), and conduct unbecoming a police officer under common law; misconduct, N.J.S.A. 40A:14-147; action off duty, MHPD Rule 4.1.3; and truthfulness, MHPD Rule 4.12.6. The PND specifications cited L.Y.V.'s involvement in the domestic violence incident, the complaint and TRO issued against her, and her two phone calls to her superiors in which she misrepresented the reason she could not come to work.
Following a hearing, the MHPD served L.Y.V. with a Final Notice of Disciplinary Action sustaining the charges and removing her from her position with the MHPD effective September 21, 2009. L.Y.V. filed an appeal with the Commission and the Office of Administrative Law, and her case was tried before an ...