Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Voorhees pays $195,000 to settle police lieutenant's lawsuit

On September 27, 2011, the Township of Voorhees (Camden County) agreed to pay $195,000 to a former Voorhees Police lieutenant who sued the Voorhees Police Department for allegedly retaliating against him for supporting a fellow lieutenant who had complained about and filed a whistler blower lawsuit against Voorhees Police Chief Keith Hummel, Deputy Chief John Prettyman and Lieutenant Louis Bordi. (On December 2, 2009, Slack's fellow lieutenant, Jeffrey Nardello and his lawyer settled the whistler blower lawsuit for $930,000. For more details click here.)

In his suit, Gerard Slack said that after Nardello filed a written complaint against his superiors in October 2000, Chief Hummel demanded to know who Nardello intended to call as witnesses to support the complaint. According to Slack, after Nardello filed his whistle blower suit and Hummel saw that Slack was listed as one of Nardello's witnesses, a campaign of harassment against him commenced. Hummel allegedly filed baseless disciplinary actions against Slack.

According to the lawsuit, Slack's problems with his superiors worsened after Slack reported Prettyman for arriving at a hostage scene "in full uniform with his weapon and township vehicle in an intoxicated state." Slack also alleges that he got in trouble for allegedly "meowing" at Patrolman Brian Bonsall during a shift change. There are many more allegations of harassment listed in the complaint, a copy of which is at the link below.

The case is captioned Slack v. Voorhees, Docket No. CAM-L-5659-09 and Slack's attorneys were F. Michael Daily, Jr. of Westmont and Clifford Van Syoc of Cherry Hill. Case documents are on-line here. The settlement agreement states that $125,000 of the settlement was paid to Slack while the remaining $70,000 was paid to Van Syoc.

None of Slack's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $195,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Voorhees or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Voorhees or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Slack $195,000 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.