IN THE MATTER OF RICHARD C. WILLIAMS, JR.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued May 21, 2013
On appeal from the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, Docket No. 2011-1335.
Joseph A. Levin argued the cause for appellant Richard C. Williams, Jr. (Law Offices of Joseph A. Levin, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Levin, on the brief).
Steven S. Glickman argued the cause for respondent Atlantic City Fire Department (Ruderman & Glickman P.C., attorneys; Mr. Glickman, of counsel; Vincent M. Avery, on the brief).
Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent New Jersey Civil Service Commission (Todd A. Widger, Deputy Attorney General, on the statement in lieu of brief).
Before Judges Alvarez and St. John.
Richard C. Williams, Jr. appeals the September 7, 2011 Civil Service Commission (Commission) decision which upheld his removal from employment with the Atlantic City Fire Department (Department). Following our review of the arguments advanced on appeal, in light of the record and applicable law, we reverse and remand to the Commission for further proceedings.
I. The record discloses the following facts and procedural history leading to the administrative determination under review.
On September 10, 2009, the Department issued a preliminary notice of disciplinary action against Williams, charging him with conduct unbecoming a public employee, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(6); misuse of public property, including motor vehicles, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(8); other sufficient cause, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(11); violation of the statutory standard of behavior required of firefighters as detailed in N.J.S.A. 40A:14-17 and Karins v. City of Atlantic City, 152 N.J. 532 (1998); and violation of departmental rules and regulations. Williams requested a departmental hearing and discovery, and waived the thirty-day rule for the hearing.
The departmental hearing was conducted on April 21, 2010. The record was held open until the recordings of the proceedings were received by the hearing officer on or about May 3. In a written opinion dated August 12, 2010, the hearing officer recommended that Williams be removed effective September 15, 2009.
The Department amended the preliminary notice of disciplinary action on August 24, 2010, changing Williams' suspension to suspension with pay, effective March 16, 2010. The Department then issued a final notice of disciplinary action, removing Williams as a firefighter effective August 12,
2010. Williams' appeal of that decision was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52:14B-1 to -15 and N.J.S.A. 52:14F-1 to -13, for determination as a contested case. He then filed a motion to dismiss on January 7, 2011, which the administrative law judge (ALJ) denied on February 3, 2011. Following three days of hearings, the ALJ issued a decision sustaining the charges of unbecoming conduct and misuse of ...