Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Paramus pays $75,000 to settle sexual harassment suit

On November 21, 2008, the Borough of Paramus (Bergen County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a female Paramus police detective who sued the Borough and its police chief after the chief allegedly groped her at a December 2006 party.

According to articles appearing in The Record ("Ex-chief's accuser is fearful, mom says," August 29, 2007 and Harassment probe: Why so long?" January 13, 2008), Detective Christine Ruggiero accused Paramus Police Chief Frederick J. Corrubia of the groping incident. The Record articles reported that Corrubia resigned days after the allegations became public in January 2007.

The lawsuit is captioned Ruggiero v. Paramus, et al, Docket No. BER-L-1665-07 and Ruggiero's attorney was Stephen H. Kahn of Fort Lee. The settlement agreement is 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 Ruggiero's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $75,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Paramus or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Paramus or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Ruggiero $75,000 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.