Thursday, May 25, 2017

Galloway paid out $75,000 to resolve employee's retaliation claim.

On March 24, 2017, the Township of Galloway (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a former Township-employed truck driver who claimed that Township officials retaliated against him and ultimately fired him after he filed a worker's compensation claim for his second job-related injury. 

In his complaint, Frank Chamberlain, who began working for Galloway in 2004, said that he suffered two work-related injuries in 2010 and 2011, both of which caused him to file workers' compensation claims.  He alleged that after the second claim was filed, he received "several disciplinary notices" and that his evaluations became less favorable.  Chamberlain claimed that when he was meeting with Township Manager Arch Liston, he received a telephone call from his union representative which caused him to again be disciplined for unauthorized use of his cell phone.

He said that the Township's actions against him placed him under "economic duress" which caused him to settle the disciplinary matters by accepting a demotion from truck driver to maintenance employee.  He said that the new position required him to do "menial tasks such as cleaning the bathroom and mopping up the floors."

When Galloway decided to transfer all its Facilities Department workers to its Utilities Department, Chamberlain said that DPW Director Kevin McDowell indicated that he didn't want to transfer Chamberlain because he felt that he could not climb up ladders or crawl on the floor.  According to the lawsuit, Utilities Director Tim McKenna told Chamberlain that he didn't want to transfer him to his department "because he did not want old men with bad arms working for him."

Chamberlain said that he was terminated from Galloway on December 31, 2012.

The case is captioned Chamberlain v. Township of Galloway, et al, Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-6743-14 and Chamberlain's attorney was David R. Castellani of Northfield.  Case documents are on-line here

None of Chamberlain's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Galloway or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Chamberlain $75,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ACUA confidentially paid out $70,000 to resolve racial discrimination lawsuit that alleged break room segregation, nooses, a swastika tattoo and Confederate flags.

On June 23, 2016, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) agreed to pay $70,000 to a Puerto Rican male employee who said that he was subjected to pervasive discrimination because of his race.  This is the second recent discrimination case against the ACUA that resulted in a settlement--Scott Henry's lawsuit settled for $97,500 on May 20, 2016.

In his complaint, Angel Rodriguez said that he was told when he was hired that the ACUA is "a little bit racist."  While working there, he allegedly experienced white workers receiving preferential treatment, two incidents where nooses were found in his and another minority worker's vehicles and white employees openly displaying Confederate flags on their personal vehicles.  He also alleged that one employee "display[ed] a tattoo of a swastika that is visible while in his ACUA uniform" and that he witnessed a conversation disparaging Mexican immigrants who "are always warming up their rice and beans."  An October 25, 2014 Press of Atlantic City article reported on both lawsuits.

Personally named as defendants in the lawsuit were ACUA President Richard Dovey and Rodriguez's direct supervisor Michael Burton.

The case is captioned Rodriguez v. Atlantic County Utilities Authority, Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-2239-15 and Rodriguez's attorney was Lisa R. Marone of Cherry Hill.  Case documents are on-line here. Although the matter settled on June 23, 2016, the court was not notified of the settlement until March 13, 2017.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Rodriguez's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that the ACUA or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Rodriguez $70,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bridgeton confidentially paid out $90,000 to resolve part-time EMT's discrimination lawsuit.

On March 24, 2017, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $90,000 to a part-time Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who said that he was discriminated against and ultimately placed on the "do not call" list because his supervisors and co-workers "perceived [him] to be a homosexual male."

In his complaint, Donald Hymer, Jr. claimed to have been unlawfully fired from his part-time EMT position on May 29, 2015 and to have been discriminated against "because of his perceived sexual orientation."  He said that he was passed over for a permanent EMT job even though he had more seniority than any of the other interviewees. 

When he attended a March 3, 2015 interview for a full-time EMT position, Hymer said that he was ridiculed by his supervisor Tiffany Durham who heads the EMT unit for the Bridgeton Fire Department.  According to the complaint, Durham said to him, in the presence of the Bridgeton Fire Chief and other officers, "You need to watch who you hang out with! I saw pictures of you and [male friend] spooning on Facebook!"  Durham's quip allegedly caused the other interviewers "to laugh loudly at Mr. Hymer."

Hymer claimed to have been routinely called "faggot" and subjected to being mocked on social media by his coworkers.  He said that his schedule was changed to prevent him from working any more shifts and was placed on the "do not call" list.

The case is captioned Hymer v. City of Bridgeton, et al, Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-570-15 and Hymer's attorney was Zachary R. Wall of Haddonfield.  Case documents are on-line here.  As a condition for settlement, Hymer also agreed to resign as an EMT.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Hymer's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Bridgeton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hymer $90,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

ACUA confidentially paid out $97,500 to resolve racial discrimination lawsuit that alleged nooses and Confederate flags.

On May 20, 2016, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) agreed to pay $97,500 to an African-American male employee who said that two Caucasian co-workers "displayed Confederate flags in their vehicles" and that he found "a noose hanging from a chair in his work truck" in June 2015.  Although the matter settled on May 20, 2016, the court was not notified of the settlement until February 10, 2017.

In his complaint, Scott Henry said that his was the second time a noose had been left in the truck of an African-American worker.  According to the lawsuit, "the noose, used in spectacle lynching of African-Americans by white mobs in the years following the Civil War and well into the 20th Century, has become a powerful symbol of oppression and racism."  He claimed that management did not effectively address the matter and only briefly told employees "to stop joking around."

Henry claimed that the day after he found the noose in his truck a Caucasian employee asked him "How's it hanging?"  The lawsuit claims that the comment was "a clear reference to the noose."

An October 25, 2014 Press of Atlantic City article reports that few months after Henry's suit was filed another lawsuit was filed against the ACLU that complained about the noose and  Confederate flags as well as a swastika and "derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants 'heating up their rice and beans.'"

The case is captioned Henry v. Atlantic County Utilities Authority, Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-1872-15 and Henry's attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Henry's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that the ACUA or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Henry $97,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Haledon confidentially settled multiple lawsuits with its police chief. Chief receives $750,000 and agrees to retire.

On August 11, 2016, the Borough of Haledon (Passaic County) entered into two settlement agreements with police chief Louis Mercuro.  In one of the agreements, which is not labeled "confidential," the Borough agreed to pay Mercuro $100,821 in "retroactive adjustments to [his] salary and longevity."  The $100,821 in adjustments cover years 2009 through 2016 and are set forth in detail on an attachment to the settlement agreement.  In the other agreement, which says that it and its terms "are and will remain confidential to maximum extent permitted by law," called for Mercuro to be paid $649,179 and required him to "immediately submit his retirement application to the State of New Jersey."  The agreement also resolves seven lawsuits that Mercuro had filed against Haledon and its officials as well as three disciplinary matters that the Borough had filed against Mercuro.

All seven of Mercuro's lawsuits are not available at the time of this writing.  In one of the lawsuits, Mercuro v. Borough of Haledon, et al, Docket No. PAS-L-4489-14, Mercuro claimed that he was suspended with pay on November 26, 2014 after he was accused of not passing a firearms qualification exam.  Mercuro said that a disability prevented him firing a weapon from a kneeling position.  The suit also claimed that Mayor Domenick Stampone sought to get rid of everybody in the police department above age 40 and that Borough officials kept vital information from him.

Additional information about Mercuro's conflicts with Borough officials is contained within a December 3, 2015 Appellate Division opinion.  According to the opinion, Mercuro addressed the Borough Council during it June 2009 meeting.  Using props consisting of a miniature plastic skeleton, a replica of a glass house and a basket of dirty laundry, Mercuro claimed that he saw a sworn statement by a tavern owner that "detailed that councilpersons took a limousine ride to New York, during which time two councilpersons snorted cocaine."

Additional information about Mercuro's conflicts with the Borough is contained within a June 18, 2015 article in the Record concerning allegations that Mercuro had engaged in sexual harassment.

The settlement requires Mercuro to have reimbursed the Borough $100,821 if the State rejected his retirement application.  It also called for a reduction of the $649,179 payment for any pay Mercuro received after August 31, 2016.  The agreements also call for the $649,179 to be paid in two installments: $225,000 by November 1, 2016 and $424,179 by January 31, 2017.  Mercado's attorney was Stuart J. Alterman of Marlton.

None of any of the lawsuits' allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Haledon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Mercuro $750,000 than take the matters to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Haledon paid out $25,000 to settle veteran patrolman's claim that lieutenant punched him in the genitals at PBA dinner.

On March 23, 2017, the Borough of Haledon (Passaic County) agreed to pay $25,000 to settle an assault, racial discrimination and hostile work environment lawsuit filed in March 2015 by a currently 56-year-old, now retired patrolman who claimed that he was the Borough's only African-American police officer.

In his suit, Todd Ward claimed that Lieutenant Christopher Lemay punched him in the genitals during an April 12, 2014 PBA dinner "in full view of multiple witnesses."  Ward's suit claimed that Lemay was "previously diagnosed as a chronic alcohol abuser," which was known to Borough officials, and that he "was required to hospitalized due to an extreme level of intoxication following the PBA annual dinner."

Ward's lawsuit claimed that after an investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, "Lemay is now [i.e. in March 2015] facing discipline actions."  (As of the date of this writing, Lemay is still listed on the Borough's website as being a police lieutenant.) According to the court's computerized index, Lemay was dismissed from the lawsuit on June 24, 2016.

Ward also claimed that even though he had 24 years on the job, he was passed over for a sergeant promotion even though Jessica Funes, George Kelly, Michael Sussen and Frank Conca were promoted despite having far less experience than Ward. 

The settlement agreement also provides for a separate $64,841.40 payment for unused sick, vacation, holiday and compensatory time due Ward as a result of his retirement.

The case is captioned Ward v. Borough of Haledon, et al, Docket No. PAS-L-1113-15 and Ward's attorney was Stuart J. Alterman of Marlton. Case documents are on-line here.

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Haledon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Ward $25,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Delaware Township, Hunterdon County paid out $55,000 and resurfaced driveway apron to settle homeowner's drainage lawsuit.

On February 7, 2017, Delaware Township (Hunterdon County), jointly with Hunterdon County, agreed to pay $55,000 and resurface the driveway apron of a homeowner who claimed that the Township and County improperly designed and constructed a storm water drainage system causing rain water to cascade onto and damage her property.

In her suit, Beverly Adamson, who owns a home on Locktown-Sergeantsville Road, claimed that the Township's and County's improperly installed culvert system and drainage paths, together with the Township allowing construction of numerous homes uphill from Adamson's property, had caused stormwater to run across her property causing "severe damage." Adamson claimed that the water flow caused ponds to form on her property which are "quite large" and last for several days.  She said that the ponds killed her lawn and provided a nesting area for mosquitoes.

Also named in the suit are the prior owners who sold the residence to Adamson in 2010.  Adamson's suit claimed that the prior owners "purposely misled [her] by not disclosing the reoccurring flooding on the property prior to her purchase."  The lawsuit was dismissed against the prior owners in May 2015.  It is unknown whether or not the prior owners paid a settlement to Adamson in exchange for the dismissal.

The case is captioned Adamson v. Township of Delaware, et al, Hunterdon County Superior Court Docket No. HNT-L-228-13 and Adamson's attorney was Anthony E. Koester of Flemington.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Adamson's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement  states that the $55,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Delaware Township, Hunterdon County or any of their officials. All that is known for sure is that Township, County or their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Adamson $55,000 and fix her driveway apron than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.