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In re King

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 1, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF CHARLES KING.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 9, 2013.

On appeal from the Civil Service Commission, Docket No. 2009-3147.

Charles King, appellant pro se.

Apruzzese, McDermott, Mastro & Murphy, P.C., attorneys for respondent City of Long Branch (James L. Plosia, Jr., of counsel and on the brief).

Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent Civil Service Commission (Pamela N. Ullman, Deputy Attorney General, on the statement in lieu of brief).

Before Judges Ostrer and Mantineo.

OPINION

OSTRER, J.A.D.

Charles King appeals from the May 4, 2011, final administrative action of the Civil Service Commission (Commission) ordering King's removal from office as a police corporal in the Long Branch City Police Department (LBPD). The sanction followed the Commission's substantiation of various charges arising out of King's preparation of a false accident report that intentionally favored an acquaintance. Following our review of the arguments advanced on appeal, in light of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

I.

King appealed to the Commission from the decision of the City of Long Branch (City) terminating him from his position as a police officer. The Commission then referred the case to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) conducted an eight-day hearing and rendered extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law. The ALJ found that the City had substantiated charges of conduct unbecoming a public employee, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(6); and other sufficient cause, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.3(a)(11). The ALJ also found that King violated LBPD rules and regulations governing: duty and performance, section 3:1.34; leniency, section 3:1.62; and responsibility of police officers, section 3:1.84 (the Final Charges). The ALJ also dismissed as unsubstantiated various other charges against King (Dismissed Charges). The ALJ found that removal was warranted.

After King and the City filed exceptions and cross-exceptions, the Commission adopted the ALJ's findings of fact after a de novo review of the record. The Commission also imposed the sanction of removal from office.

The charges arose out of King's response and report of a motor vehicle accident that occurred around 9:00 a.m. on July 21, 2008, at the intersection of Marvin Drive and Cedar Avenue in the City. The collision involved two motorists, Robert Voorhees, twenty-nine years old, and Robert Yale, seventy-two years old. The accident was witnessed by another motorist, Barbara Stewart.

Marvin Drive is a north-south residential street that terminates at an upside-down "T" on the westbound side of Cedar Avenue, which is, in parts, a multi-lane east-west road. A stop sign controls entry of Marvin Drive traffic onto Cedar Avenue, which does not have a stop sign or traffic light at the Marvin Avenue corner. Pedestrian cross-walks traverse Cedar Avenue at the northeast and northwest corners with Marvin Drive.

Although westbound Cedar Avenue in the area generally consists of two marked lanes of traffic, the two lanes merge into one westbound lane seventeen feet wide, several houses before the Marvin Drive intersection. Cross-hatching and angled double-yellow lines channel the two lanes of traffic into the single lane. Thus, based on its apparent design, a Marvin Drive motorist seeking to turn left or east, would need pass in front of only one lane of westbound traffic. Likewise, a pedestrian seeking to cross Cedar Avenue would need to pass in front of only one lane of westbound traffic. However, motorists often ignore the channelization and form two westbound lanes. Immediately west of the Marvin Drive intersection, Cedar Avenue consists of two marked lanes of westbound traffic.

On the morning of July 21, 2008, Cedar Avenue traffic was congested and moving slowly both before and after Marvin Avenue. Yale approached the stop sign at Marvin and Cedar, seeking to turn left. The motorist to Yale's left, at the Cedar and Marvin corner, was stopped and, according to Yale, waved to him to proceed across Cedar Avenue's westbound lane. Barbara Stewart was in the second car from the intersection. Voorhees, travelling west on Cedar Avenue, passed to the left of Stewart and the other stopped cars, at a speed of between thirty and thirty-five m.p.h. According to King's report, the Cedar Avenue speed limit was thirty m.p.h. There was conflicting evidence whether Voorhees encroached ...


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