No Requirement To Fill Vacant Captain’s Position

Written on 05/13/2022
Will Aitchison

Richard Levis is a lieutenant with the City of Hackensack Police Depart­ment (HPD) in New Jersey. Within a four-month timeframe in 2015, Levis was served with two Preliminary No­tices of Disciplinary Action (PNDA), alleging various charges. In lieu of a departmental hearing, the Department and Levis reached an agreement in which Levis acknowledged he violated HPD’s sick leave policy and was issued a 29-working-day suspension without pay.

The agreement also acknowledged that Levis ranked second on a promo­tional list for the position of captain, and stated that “at the earliest opportunity possible, Levis shall be promoted in accordance with his placement on the ‘Captain’s List’ and applicable Civil Service Commission regulations,” and that the Department could not “con­sider the suspension or in the PNDAs disposed of hereby, or the facts alleged therein, or the ultimate disposition of same against him, when he is considered for promotion to Captain.”

On November 1, 2017, an HPD captain retired, followed by a second captain on August 1, 2018. In March 2019, the Civil Service Commission certified a new Captain’s List. Levis remained ranked second on the list. The City made one promotion from the list, and in August 2019, the City advised for the time being, it would not make further promotions to the position of captain. Instead, the City intended to promote officers to the ranks of lieutenant and sergeant to strengthen HPD’s supervisory positions. The vacant captain position remained unfilled.

Levis sued, contending the City wrongly made the promotion from the Captain’s List and that it “failed to pro­mote Levis at the earliest opportunity possible.” A New Jersey appeals court dismissed the lawsuit.

The Court noted that “absent from the Agreement are any terms, which explicitly or implicitly promise or unconditionally guarantee the City would immediately fill a captain’s position when it became vacant or promote Levis, without consideration of other qualified candidates. Rather, the Agreement provided Levis would be promoted not only pursuant to his placement on the Captain’s List, but also in accordance with applicable Civil Service Commission regulations.

“Further, a person who successfully passes an examination and is placed on an eligible list does not thereby gain a vested right to appointment. The only benefit inuring to such a person is that so long as that list remains in force, no appointment can be made except from that list. The best that can be said of a candidate on an eligible list is that he has a right to be considered for appointment.”

Levis v. City of Hackensack, 2022 WL 333058 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2022).

The post No Requirement To Fill Vacant Captain’s Position appeared first on Labor Relations Information System.