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In re Jackson

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 1, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF DONNA JACKSON, HUDSON COUNTY.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 23, 2013.

On appeal from the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, Docket No. 2012-1851.

Jeffrey G. Garrigan argued the cause for appellant Donna Jackson (Cammarata, Nulty & Garrigan, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Garrigan, on the brief).

Robert E. Finn argued the cause for respondent County of Hudson (Chasan Leyner & Lamparello, attorneys; Cindy Nan Vogelman, of counsel and on the brief; Mr. Finn on the brief).

John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent New Jersey Civil Service Commission (Todd A. Wigder, Deputy Attorney General, on the statement in lieu of brief).

Before Judges Fuentes and Haas.

PER CURIAM.

Appellant Donna Jackson appeals from the final administrative decision of the Civil Service Commission (Commission) finding her guilty of violating a rule of employment and imposing a ten-day suspension. We reverse.

Since 2003, Jackson has been employed as a corrections officer by Hudson County (the County). On March 19, 2010, the County served Jackson with six Preliminary Notices of Disciplinary Action, only one of which is the subject of this appeal.[1] That notice sought to remove Jackson from employment on charges of "insubordination; conduct unbecoming a public employee; neglect of duty; incompetency, inefficiency and failure to perform duties; and other sufficient cause" relating to the suspension of her driver's license on February 19, 2010.[2] The specification for this charge stated:

ON MARCH 17, 2010, HUDSON COUNTY DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS (HCDOC) PERSONNEL UNIT WAS INFORMED THAT [JACKSON'S] DRIVER[']S LICENSE WAS SUSPENDED. PERSONNEL OFFICER, ANTHONY STALTARI, REQUESTED THAT [SIC] INTERNAL AFFAIRS UNIT OF THE ABOVE NOTED INFORMATION. ON MARCH 18, 2010, IAD INV. PARRISH OBTAINED JACKSON'S N.J. DRIVER'S ABSTRACT WHICH REVIEWED [SIC] THAT JACKSON'S DRIVER[']S LICENSE HAS BEEN SUSPENDED ON OR ABOUT FEBRUARY 19, 2010. JACKSON[] FAILED TO NOTIFY HCDOC IAD OR UNIT MANAGER THAT HER DRIVER[']S LICENSE WAS SUSPENDED.

Jackson disputed the charge and asserted she had not been aware that her license had been suspended on February 19, 2010. When the HCDOC's Internal Affairs Division (IAD) advised her of the suspension, she immediately rectified the matter by paying a parking ticket which she did not know had been issued to her. After a departmental hearing, however, the charge was upheld by a County hearing officer and Jackson appealed to the Commission, which transmitted the case to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL).

At the OAL hearing, County Personnel Officer Anthony Staltari testified Jackson came to the office on March 17, 2010 to pick up some paperwork. After she left, Staltari looked out his window and saw Jackson getting into a car driven by another officer. Because Jackson had previously been disciplined for driving without a valid license, seeing her accept a ride from a fellow officer caused Staltari to call IAD and ask that Jackson's driver's abstract be obtained.

The abstract revealed that Jackson's license had been suspended on February 19, 2010 due to an unpaid parking ticket. Staltari testified that a corrections officer is required to notify the County if his or her driver's license is suspended. Staltari checked with IAD and it had "no records of [Jackson] notifying Internal Affairs and neither did her Unit Manager." Therefore, Jackson was charged with "fail[ing] to notify HCDOC IAD or unit manager that her driver['s] license was suspended." Staltari admitted he had no record that indicated Jackson was aware of the license suspension prior to receiving the notice ...


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