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In re Angelini

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

December 23, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF CHRISTOPHER ANGELINI, CITY OF TRENTON, POLICE DEPARTMENT.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 17, 2013

On appeal from the Civil Service Commission, CSC Docket No. 2011-4971.

Mark W. Catanzaro argued the cause for appellant Christopher Angelini.

David J. Sprong argued the cause for respondent City of Trenton Police Department (Becker Meisel L.L.C., attorneys; Wesley Bridges, of counsel; Mr. Sprong and Michael A. Oxman, of counsel and on the brief).

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

Before Judges Messano and Hayden.

PER CURIAM

The City of Trenton (the City) charged one of its police officers, Christopher Angelini, with two counts of conduct unbecoming a public employee, N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2(a)(6), and a single count of official misconduct, N.J.S.A. 40A:14-147. The specifications supporting the charges alleged that, as part of a random drug test, Angelini supplied a urine sample that tested positive for methadone, and he failed to list all prescription and non-prescription medications on the department's testing information form. After a Loudermill[1] hearing, Angelini was suspended without pay. Following a formal disciplinary hearing, Angelini was found guilty of all charges and was removed from his position. He appealed to the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and the matter was referred to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested case.

A hearing took place before an administrative law judge (ALJ), who issued an initial decision sustaining the charges and affirming Angelini's removal. In a final decision issued September 5, 2012, after accepting the findings of fact and conclusions of law in the ALJ's initial decision, the CSC determined that the City's action "in removing [Angelini] was justified[, ]" and it dismissed his appeal. This appeal ensued.

Before us, Angelini argues the CSC's decision was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. The contention is premised upon the City's alleged failure to present any competent evidence establishing that the urine sample was actually provided by Angelini. In this last respect, Angelini argues that the ALJ, and the CSC in turn, erred in considering "the law as to the . . . chain of custody" of the sample. Lastly, Angelini contends that if we reverse the agency's decision, he is entitled to back pay pursuant to N.J.A.C. 4A:2-2.10.

We have considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We affirm.

I.

We briefly recite some of the evidence adduced at the hearing, much of which was specifically referenced in the ALJ's initial decision.

Detective Manuel Montez of the Trenton Police Department Internal Affairs Division (IAD) testified that in July 2010, Angelini was randomly selected through a computerized process for drug testing. Montez was present for the selection process, as was a representative of the PBA, in accordance with the Attorney General's Law Enforcement Drug Testing Policy (the AG's policy).

However, Montez was not present when Angelini actually submitted his sample. He testified that in the usual course and pursuant to the AG's policy, the individual officer would seal the sample and give it to the "monitor." On July 15, 2010, the monitor was Detective Luis Medina, who had since passed away. Montez testified that if a monitor received any sample that appeared to have been tampered with, he was to "disregard the sample." Samples were stored in a freezer in the IAD under lock and key, and only five IAD ...


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