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In re Monica Miller Northern State Prison Department of Corrections

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

July 19, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF MONICA MILLER NORTHERN STATE PRISON DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 20, 2013

On appeal from the Civil Service Commission, Docket No. 2011-3501.

Luretha M. Stribling argued the cause for appellant Monica Miller.

Peter H. Jenkins, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent Department of Corrections (Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney; Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Erin M. Greene, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Before Judges Graves and Espinosa.

PER CURIAM

Monica Miller, a Senior Corrections Officer at Northern State Prison (NSP), appeals from a final decision of the Civil Service Commission (CSC or the Commission) finding she had committed: conduct unbecoming a public employee; failure or excessive delay in carrying out an order; insubordination; intentional disobedience or refusal to accept an order; resisting authority; and disrespectful use of insulting or abusive language to a supervisor; and imposing a fifteen-day suspension without pay. We affirm.

The charges against Miller arise from incidents that occurred on October 26 and 27, 2010. After a preliminary notice of disciplinary action was served upon her, a hearing was conducted that resulted in a finding that Miller was guilty of conduct unbecoming a public employee, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(6), and excessive delay in carrying out an order, contrary to H.R.B. 84-17 (as amended) B-5 and imposing a fifteen-day suspension without pay. Miller was then served with a final notice of disciplinary action. She appealed to the CSC and the matter was referred to the Office of Administrative Law. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing on four non-consecutive days, hearing testimony from Lieutenant Daud Abdus-Sabur, Miller's supervisor; John Cunningham, Director of the Office of Training for the Department of Corrections (DOC); Major Anthony McRae, who had been a captain at NSP; and Miller.

Abdus-Sabur testified that, on October 26, 2010, he instructed Miller to escort an inmate to the minimum-security area at 2:30 p.m., but she failed to complete the task until approximately 7:00 p.m. While seeking an explanation of her delay, Abdus-Sabur spoke to Miller using a speaker phone. She insisted that she could not hear him and hung up.

On October 27, 2010, Miller was located at the Administrative Close Supervision Unit (ACSU) lobby, although she had not been instructed to be there. Abdus-Sabur contacted Miller at approximately 7:00 p.m. to give her a task. She turned to the security camera, "smiled and waved, " and waited approximately fifteen minutes before responding to Abdus-Sabur's instruction. Abdus-Sabur described this conduct as "disrespectful and insubordinate."

Cunningham testified that the DOC is a paramilitary organization requiring strict discipline of corrections officers. Sergeants like Miller must complete an eighty-hour training course, which emphasizes the importance of following orders and professionalism. Cunningham stated that all corrections officers must read, sign, and comply with the DOC's rules and regulations. He identified the section that requires officers to follow all orders and comply in a timely fashion.

Miller testified on her own behalf. She maintained she had not violated any policies and had not been insubordinate. She attributed the charges against her to Abdus-Sabur's "anger and dissatisfaction" and their generally poor working relationship.

Regarding the delay in transferring an inmate on October 26, 2010, Miller explained she received the order but was immediately caught up in a large-scale move operation. When she later attempted the transfer, Lieutenant Coughlin informed her that he had completed the transfer. After she spoke to him a few hours later, it became clear to Miller that he had transferred a different inmate and she then completed the transfer assigned to her. She testified that when she called Abdus-Sabur later that evening, she was unable to hear him because he was using a speakerphone. She asked him to take her off ...


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