Friday, July 29, 2016

Mount Olive Township confidentially paid out $60,000 to settle motorist's police false arrest and excessive force lawsuit.

On November 30, 2015, the Township of Mount Olive (Morris County) agreed to pay a Flanders man $60,000 to settle his claim that a Township police officer's conduct during a motor vehicle stop caused a Superior Court judge who reviewed the recording of the encounter to remark that she was "appalled by the conduct of the police in this tape" and that she found "it rather disturbing . . ."

In his lawsuit, Carl J. Granese said that on April 19, 2012, Officer Anthony Gardner stopped his car for a traffic violation.  Gardner allegedly asked Granese if he had smoked marijuana, inspected his eyelids and tongue and had him perform field sobriety tests. 

Gardner then asked for consent to search Granese's vehicle because he "perceived the odor of raw marijuana" in the vehicle.  Gardner reportedly became irritated when Granese did not consent to the search and called in a the Morris County K-9 Unit.  Gardner allegedly said he was "frustrated that [Granese] was wasting his time by refusing to consent to the search."

According to the complaint, no drugs or any other contraband were found in Granese's car but Gardner allegedly grabbed Granese, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him after Granese had used his cell phone after having received permission to do so by Sergeant Michael Novak.

Granese said that he was taken to the police station and booked for resisting arrest and obstruction of justice and was given traffic summonses for having an  expired license, failing to have a passenger mirror and making an unsafe lane change. 

Mount Olive Municipal Court Judge Brian Levine reportedly dismissed the resisting arrest charge but found Granese guilty on all the other charges.  On appeal, Superior Court Judge Mary Gibbons Whipple reportedly reversed the obstruction conviction.

The case is captioned Granese v. Gardner, Morris County Superior Court Docket No. MRS-L-2957-13 and Granese' attorney was John F. McDonnell of Washington.  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 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 Mount Olive or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Granese $60,000 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.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pleasantville paid out $125,000 to settle policewoman's sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.

On April 29, 2016, the City of Pleasantville (Atlantic County) agreed to pay a female police officer $125,000 to settle her claim that she was retaliated against after reporting that a fellow officer rubbed his erect penis against her arm.  The settlement was made about two months after the policewoman's receipt of an award by the Pleasantville City Council for saving the life of a heart attack victim. 

In her lawsuit, Stacey L. Williams, said that she worked well with Officer Robert Wright as a school resource officer until "a series of personal problems" caused Wright to behave erratically.  Wright, who according to the lawsuit was immune from being disciplined by then Chief Duane Comeaux, "would come to work whenever he felt like coming in, would disappear for literally hours at a time in a city vehicle whenever he felt like it during the work day, and would leave for the balance of the day whenever he felt like it."

The penis-to-arm incident allegedly occurred on July 27, 2011 while Williams was seated at her desk in short sleeves.  More alleged sexual harassment followed, including Wright sending inappropriate texts and an incident in Boscov's department store where Wright allegedly told Williams that "he was going to throw her on a bed in the store and 'rape' her."

Williams said that she reported the harassment to Sergeant Richard Moore who in turn reported it to Chief Comeaux.  Afterwards, she said, Captain Melendez (presumably Rocky Melendez) with whom she previously had a very good relationship began to exhibit hostility toward her.  Melendez was allegedly very good friends and played golf with Wright.

She further alleged that she was transferred to work patrol on the midnight shift in retaliation for having reported Wright's alleged sexual misconduct.

The complaint contains other allegations of misconduct and an August 13, 2015 order and opinion by Superior Court Judge J. Christopher Gibson suggests that the Pleasantville Police Department had lost Moore's report of Wright's alleged misconduct.

The case is captioned Williams v. City of Pleasantville, et al, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-655-13 and Williams' attorney was Sebastian B. Ionno of Pitman.  According to the settlement agreement, Williams received $77,808.20 and her attorney received $47,191.80.

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 Pleasantville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Williams $125,000 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.

Summit Board of Education to confidentially pay $47,500 to settle parents' IDEA lawsuit.

On July 22, 2016, the Summit Board of Education (Union County) produced a draft agreement that calls for $47,500 to be paid to the parents of a teenager who brought suit against the school district under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In their suit, the parents, who are identified only by their initials, claimed that the school district did not provide sufficient behavioral support services for their teenage son who "engaged in severe maladaptive behaviors."  The parents claim that although an Administrative Law Judge gave them the "full measure of substantive relief they sought," a federal lawsuit was needed to obtain "reimbursement of the attorneys' fees and costs of litigation expended in connection with the matter."

In the settlement agreement, "the Board denie[d] Plaintiffs were the prevailing party in the Administrative Matter and denies all liability to Plaintiffs" and noted that the $47,500 payment was desired by both the Board and its insurer to resolve the matter.

The case is captioned S.B and E.B. o/b/o J.B. v. Summit City Board of Education, Federal Case No. 2:15-cv-0713 and the parents' attorney was Ira M. Fingles of Lawrenceville.  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 the parents' 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 Summit or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the parents $47,500 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.

Note: The court marked the case as having settled.  While it is possible that a dispute will arise prior to the settlement agreement being signed by the Board of Education, this rarely happens because the settlement has been negotiated and agreed to by all the parties.  Readers who wish to be absolutely sure that this case settled according to the terms stated above should submit an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for the final, signed settlement agreement.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Linwood paid out $400,000 to settle current police chief's and police captain's "whistleblower" and retaliation lawsuit.

On April 5, 2016, the City of Linwood (Atlantic County) agreed to pay a two police officials a total of $400,000 to resolve their whistleblower and retaliation lawsuit against the City.  Of the $400,000, each officer received $143,088.67 and their attorney received $113,822.66.

The lawsuit, filed by then Captain Douglas F. Carman and then Detective Sergeant John A. Hamilton, is long, rambling and difficult to follow.  According to press reports, Carman's and Hamilton's chief complaints were that then Police Chief James Baker retaliated against them because they refused to negotiate with the police union in a manner favorable to Baker and that Baker tried to get them and other officers to falsify deposition testimony to undercut a woman's estate's lawsuit against the City.

The lawsuit also argued that Lieutenant Colin Hickey was appointed as police chief in 2014 even though Carman said he was more qualified.  The lawsuit further alleged that Hickey was being investigated in 2014 by Internal Affairs for making "racially derogatory comments regarding a Hispanic Police Officer" and that Hickey had "acknowledged in a statement under oath that he signed firearm qualification records for former Chief Baker" that claimed that Baker had qualified with his weapon in 2007 when he actually had not.

According to an article in the Current, Carman became police chief and Hamilton became captain in April of 2015.

Also named in the suit are Linwood Mayor Richard L. DePamphilis, III, former Council member Donna Taylor and current Council member Ralph Paolone.

The case is captioned Carman and Hamilton v. City of Linwood, et al, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-343-14 and Carman's and Hamilton's attorney was Sabastian B. Ionno of Pitman.  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 Linwood or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Carman and Hamilton $400,000 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.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Willingboro Township confidentially paid out $75,000 to settle woman's police excessive force lawsuit.

On July 14, 2016, the Township of Willingboro (Burlington County) agreed to pay a local woman $75,000 to settle her claim that Township police officers assaulted her while she was trying to help her friend who was just involved in a car accident.

In her lawsuit, Nicole Davis said that on she was first to arrive on the scene of a January 13, 2012 auto accident and that she tried to get her friend Tiffany out of the car.  After Sergeant Richard Coupe, Officer Curtis Hankey and another unnamed officer arrived on the scene, Davis said that she asked for and received permission from them to remove Tiffany's purse that contained needed medicine from the car.  She said that despite receiving permission, Coupe grabbed from behind without warning while she was in the process of retrieving the purse.  She said that she was dragged from the car and repeatedly punched in the back of the head and neck by Coupe, Hankey and other other officer.  The trio then allegedly repeatedly slammed her head against the car window and then handcuffed her too tightly and ignored her pleas to loosen them.

The case is captioned Davis v. Township of Willingboro, et al, Federal Case No. 1:14-cv-00183 and Davis' attorney was Thomas Bruno II of Philadelphia.  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 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 Willingboro or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Davis $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.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Asbury Park school board confidentially paid out $50,000 to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit.

On or about July 6, 2016, the Asbury Park Board of Education (Monmouth County) quietly paid $50,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by former female employee who said that she was discriminated against and ultimately terminated due to her pregnancy.

In her suit, Denine Hasan, a former Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) Specialist for the Asbury Park High School, said that she received positive performance reviews until she reported to school officials that she was pregnant.  After that disclosure, Hasan said that she started receiving "critical e-mails" regarding the JAG's budget from Assistant Guidance Director Colleen White who served as the JAG coordinator.  White also allegedly assigned Hasan to the district's Alternative School in addition to the High School.  The Alternative School had many students who "had previously been removed from the High School for disciplinary/behavioral issues," according to filed papers.

After determining that her pregnancy was "high risk," Hasan's doctor wrote a notice to school officials asking that Hasan be "transferred out of the Alternative School because its large concentration of students with behavioral and disciplinary issues posed an increase risk to her already 'high risk' pregnancy."  Hasan said that she had previously lost four children due to miscarriages.  School officials allegedly denied her request but did agree that her office should be located on the first floor of her assigned building.

Hasan said that when she arrived to work at the beginning of the 2012-13 term, "the District failed to provide her with an office or a computer."  She further claimed that White and Principal Reginald Mirthil began to issue her undeserved reprimands while treating other employees differently.  She said that a complaint she filed with Walter Barrett, the District's Affirmative Action officer, was not investigated.  Hasan said that during her maternity leave she received notification that her contract would not be renewed.

The case is captioned Hasan v. Asbury Park Board of Education, et al, Federal Case No. 3:15-cv-0832 and Hasan's attorney was Robert M. Schwartz of Monroe.  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 Hasan'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 Asbury Park school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hasan $50,000 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.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Clementon Borough paid out $75,000 to settle man's false arrest lawsuit.

On June 14, 2016, the Borough of Clementon (Camden County) agreed to pay a Pine Hill man $75,000 to settle his claim that he was kept in jail for three weeks for armed robbery when the robbery's victim reportedly told police repeatedly that they arrested the wrong man.

In his lawsuit, Vaughn Molock said that after having been released from jail on an unrelated offense on June 22, 2011, Clementon Police Officer Joseph McDevit interviewed the victim of a armed robbery that occurred on the day of Molock's release.  According to the lawsuit, McDevit, "without any support or factual basis, . . . claimed that the alleged victim had identified [Molock] as the perpetrator of an armed robbery."   Molock said that he was arrested and spent three weeks in jail even though the "victim of the armed robbery repeatedly advised that [Molock] was not the person involved in the crime reported."  Molock said that the armed robbery charge against him was dismissed.

The case is captioned Molock v. Borough of Clementon, et al, Federal Case No. 1:13-cv-03316 and Molock's attorney was Paul R. Rizzo of Warren.  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 Clementon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Molock $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.