Officer Bound By Lawyer’s Recommendations For Process To Be Used At Hearing

Troy Oglesby was a police officer for the Township of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Oglesby arrested a 20-year-old woman for shoplifting. Following her release, he appeared at her residence and invited her to accompany him as he conducted a further unauthorized investigation of the shoplifting incident. During the course of their meeting, Oglesby made sexual advances to the woman, which she rejected.

The Department charged Oglesby with “disreputable conduct” by vouching for a shoplifting suspect; furthering an investigation without permission or knowledge of his supervisor; failing to conform to work standards by disregarding officer safety while furthering an investigation; failing to conform to work standards by leaving a recently-released suspect in his car where his weapon was accessible to the suspect; disreputable conduct by picking up a recently-released suspect, taking her to his place of business and making sexual advances to the suspect; and failing to answer investigative questions truthfully.

A hearing on these charges was conducted by a hearing officer who was a municipal court judge. He sustained all charges but the charge of leaving the suspect alone in the police car and the charge of not answering investigative questions truthfully. The municipal court judge recommended that Oglesby be terminated.

The Chief of Police accepted the findings of fact and adopted the recommended sanction. Oglesby then challenged the decision in court, arguing that the use of a municipal court judge as the hearing officer was improper. The trial court agreed, and remanded the case for submission to another hearing officer.

The newly-appointed hearing officer reviewed the transcripts of the prior hearing and sustained four of the charges. He found that Oglesby did not vouch for the arrested shoplifter nor did he leave the woman alone in the police car. He found, however, that Oglesby did seek out the woman following her arrest, that he took her for a ride in his personal auto, that he attempted to have sexual contact with her, that he conducted an unauthorized investigation with a suspect and her boyfriend, and that he failed to answer investigative questions truthfully. Thus, the hearing officer sustained the charges of failing to answer investigative questions truthfully, failing to conform to work standards, performing an unauthorized investigation, and engaging in disreputable conduct. He concluded that the conduct was “entirely unacceptable for a police officer” and recommended that Oglesvy be terminated.

Oglesby again challenged the decision in court, contending that the proceedings were fatally flawed because he had been acquitted of the charge of failing to answer investigative questions truthfully by the initial hearing officer. He also contended that the submission of the matter to the second hearing officer on the record created at the initial hearing denied him due process of law. An appeals court disagreed with both arguments, and upheld Oglesby’s discharge.

The Court commented that “we cannot ignore that Oglesby, through his attorney, was involved in fashioning the remedy on remand. He agreed that it would be unnecessary to try the matter anew. Oglesby was also allowed to supplement the record in any manner he deemed desirable before the newly-appointed hearing officer.

“At this stage, Oglesby cannot complain that he did not take advantage of the opportunity to supplement the record. Oglesby confronted the witnesses and testified on his own behalf. Oglesby was afforded a second opportunity to present additional evidence before the second hearing officer. Assuming we considered prior counsel’s suggestion concerning the course of the remand proceedings as misguided, which we do not, it is of no consequence. Oglesby does not contest the central facts of the evening following the arrest and release of the shoplifting suspect. The central issue was whether his conduct warranted the ultimate sanction of termination.”

The Court also rejected Oglesby’s argument that the second hearing officer was barred from considering the charges that the initial hearing officer specifically found that the employer had not sustained its burden of proof. In the Court’s view, since the initial hearing was tainted by the appointment of an ineligible hearing officer, “the entire matter was before the newly-appointed hearing officer.”

Oglesby v. Township of Cherry Hill, 2006 WL 1410736 (N.J.Super.A.D. 2006).

This article appears in the July 2006 issue