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In re Miller

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

September 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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION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. 2011-3089.

Luretha M. Stribling argued the cause for appellant.

Peter H. Jenkins, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent (Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney; Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Mr. Jenkins, on the brief).

Before Judges Graves and Ashrafi.

PER CURIAM

Monica Miller is employed by the Department of Corrections (DOC) as a Correction Sergeant at Northern State Prison (NSP). She appeals from a final decision of the Civil Service Commission (the Commission) dated December 7, 2011, which upheld her thirty-day suspension without pay. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

Miller has been employed at NSP since May 4, 1991, and has been a sergeant since December 2004. In a preliminary notice of disciplinary action dated November 26, 2010, Miller was charged with "incompetency, inefficiency, or failure to perform duties, " N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(1); "conduct unbecoming a public employee, " N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(6); "neglect of duty, " N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(7); and "other sufficient cause, " N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(12). The preliminary notice also charged Miller with "falsification" and stated:

On October 14, 2010, you admitted that you failed to tour the UMDNJ [University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey] hospital as required by the post orders. Two officers were assigned to the hospital that day to supervise an inmate. When questioned you gave a false statement that there were no cars available to enable you to tour UMDNJ. Upon investigation, it was learned that there were in fact vehicles available that you could have utilized.
As a Sergeant, it is your responsibility to know when staff are assigned to the hospital, to comply with all post orders, and to not provide false statements regarding the performance of your duties.

Following a departmental hearing on December 22, 2010, the charges were sustained. The final notice of disciplinary action suspended Miller for thirty days.

Miller appealed the disciplinary decision, and the matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested case. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held hearings on June 3, 2011, July 14, 2011, and August 18, 2011. The ALJ heard testimony from four witnesses: Captain Marvin Blevins, who conducted an investigation of the events that occurred on October 14, 2010; Sergeant Frank Ianco; Communications Operator Gwendolyn Baxley; and Miller.

Blevins testified that on October 14, 2010, Miller was assigned "to her regular position" as a "minimum unit sergeant" during the second shift, from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Blevins also testified a NSP inmate was "housed" at UMDNJ during Miller's shift, and one of her responsibilities was "to make a physical tour of the hospital" to ensure the officers guarding the inmate were "in full compliance with all post orders and internal management procedures." According to Blevins, he was instructed to determine whether Miller failed to tour the hospital.

During his investigation, Blevins reviewed all of the "reports relating to the incident, " and he spoke to the shift commander, Lieutenant Abdul-Sabur. In addition, Blevins obtained written statements from Ianco, Baxley, and Miller. When Blevins interviewed Miller, he ...


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