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In re Coursey

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 21, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF ERNEST COURSEY, JR., ATLANTIC CITY.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 1, 2013

On appeal from the Civil Service Commission, CSC Docket Nos. 2010-2752 and 2011-3561.

George L. Farmer argued the cause for appellant Ernest Coursey, Jr.

Steven S. Glickman argued the cause for respondent City of Atlantic City (Ruderman & Glickman, P.C., attorneys; Mr. Glickman, of counsel; Vincent M. Avery, on the brief).

John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent Civil Service Commission (Pamela N. Ullman, Deputy Attorney General, on the statement in lieu of brief).

Before Judges Messano, Sabatino, and Rothstadt.

PER CURIAM

Ernest Coursey, a former employee of respondent City of Atlantic City (the "City"), appeals a February 3, 2011 final agency decision of the Civil Service Commission ("Commission") denying most of his civil service claims against the City arising out of his discharge in January 2006. Coursey also appeals the Commission's subsequent January 12, 2012 decision rejecting his petition for reconsideration. Applying the customary deferential standard of review that governs appeals from administrative agency decisions, we affirm the Commission's rulings in all respects.

I.

The facts and procedural history relevant to Coursey's civil service claims are largely contained within our companion opinion issued today addressing the appeal in Coursey's related Law Division case, Coursey v. City of Atl. City, No. A-4961-10 (App. Div. 2013). Briefly repeating portions of that background here, we note the following.

The City hired Coursey in the capacity of a clerk typist, a classified position, in 1986. His position as a clerk typist became permanent five years later in 1991.

In 1991, Coursey was named to the Atlantic City Council (the "City Council"). As a result, Coursey took a leave of absence from his clerk typist job to serve in that Council position. Coursey submitted annual leave of absence forms to maintain his clerk typist position through at least 1993.

Coursey served on the City Council until 2002, when the newly-elected mayor, Lorenzo Langford, appointed him as his confidential aide. His title was changed in July 2004 to confidential secretary.

In August 2005, Coursey was provisionally appointed to serve as a demolition coordinator in the City's neighborhood services department. In September 2005, Coursey changed positions again, assuming the role of an unclassified City liaison for neighborhood services.

Another new mayor, Robert Levy, was elected in November 2005. Meanwhile, in December 2005, Coursey resumed his previous position as a provisional demolition coordinator. The City's personnel director sent Coursey a letter that month informing him that he would be returned to his permanent job title as clerk typist starting on January 3, 2006. Mayor Levy was sworn into office on January 1, 2006, and the City's new business administrator was sworn into office that same day.

On January 3, 2006, the new business administrator directed Coursey to report to the personnel office to complete a typing test as a predicate to resuming his clerk typist position. Coursey declined to take the test because he admittedly could not type proficiently. At a meeting later that day, the City Solicitor discovered that Coursey had not apparently completed a leave of absence form since 1993. This failure indicated to the Solicitor that Coursey's permanent civil service status as a clerk typist had lapsed. The new business administrator consequently told Coursey that his employment with the City was terminated, effective January 5, 2006.

After unsuccessfully attempting to grieve his discharge with his labor union, Coursey filed a civil action in the Law Division in November 2007. His complaint alleged claims against the City, the union, and various individual City defendants. In his complaint, Coursey alleged that he had been the subject of improper political retaliation in violation of the federal and New Jersey constitutions. Coursey also pleaded numerous common-law claims challenging his termination from his civil service position. Notably, Coursey did not file, at ...


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