NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued May 22, 2013
On appeal from the New Jersey Division of State Police.
Michael C. Mormando argued the cause for appellant (Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, attorneys; Mr. Mormando, on the brief).
V. Nicole Langfitt, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent (Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney; Ms. Langfitt, on the brief).
Before Judges Grall and Accurso.
Luis Freites is a law enforcement officer employed by the New Jersey Division of State Police and holds the rank of Detective II. He appeals a final agency decision of the Superintendent imposing a thirty-day suspension for "behaving in an unofficial capacity" to the "discredit" of himself and the New Jersey State Police, in violation of Article VI, Section 2.b. of the Division's rules and regulations. Detective Freites does not challenge the Superintendent's determination that he violated the regulation; his objections are to the penalty imposed. We affirm substantially for the reasons stated by the Superintendent in his written decision of September 25, 2012.
The Division set forth two specifications in support of the charge of conduct bringing discredit to the detective and the State Police. Following a hearing in the Office of Administrative Law, the administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the allegations in the first specification were unfounded and recommended their dismissal. But the ALJ determined that the allegations in the second specification were proven and recommended a ten-day suspension, five to be served and five held in abeyance.
The Division filed exceptions objecting to the sanction the ALJ recommended. In rejecting the ALJ's recommendation and imposing a thirty-day suspension, the Superintendent focused on the detective's conduct and its capacity to discredit him and the State Police.
The second specification alleges that the detective entered the home of his former girlfriend when she was not there and removed furnishings. Although the detective and his former girlfriend jointly owned the residence, there was a court order in effect providing that the detective's "appearance at the jointly owned residence shall only be for parenting time with the children." The detective's conduct was in clear violation of that court order. The order was a consent order, and the detective signed it.
On appeal, the detective argues that the Superintendent arbitrarily rejected the ALJ's recommendation on the appropriate sanction. In concluding that a sanction more significant than the one proposed by the ALJ was appropriate, the Superintendent stressed the inconsistency between the detective's obligation to uphold the law, including court orders, and his conduct in clear violation of a court order.
Consideration of the record in light of Detective Freites's contentions leads us to conclude that the arguments lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Moreover, the Superintendent's factual findings are well-supported by the record and his assessment of the appropriate sanction is not an abuse of discretion or an improper exercise of his responsibility for maintaining discipline to ensure the proper conduct of the members of the New Jersey ...