Thursday, September 27, 2012

Greenwich pays $25,000 to settle police whistleblower case

On September 23, 2011, the Township of Greenwich (Warren County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a former Township police officer who sued the Greenwich Police Chief for allegedly retaliating against him and creating a hostile work environment.

In his suit, Christopher T. Tasiopoulos said that Chief Richard J. Guzzo retaliated against him after he reported that Lieutenant Arthur J. Morrow "had made intentional and fraudulent misrepresentations" in official police department documents concerning Tasiopoulos and his fellow officers. 

Tasiopoulos claims that prior to reporting Morrow he "received excellent performance evaluations."  After reporting Morrow, however, he claims that he was removed from his position as a K-9 handler, was denied overtime hours and was subjected to "several petty and unfounded Internal Affairs investigations" against him.  He also claims that he was ordered to not speak with the Mayor or Township Committee members, which violated his right to free speech.

The case is captioned Tasiopoulos v. Township of Greenwich, Warren County Superior Court Docket No. WRN-L-109-09 and Tasiopoulos's 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 Tasiopoulos's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Greenwich or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Greenwich or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Tasiopoulos $25,000 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.

Update:

Christopher Tasiopoulos' other lawsuits against Greenwich Township

Officer Tasiopoulos, in addition to the lawsuit that resulted in the $25,000 settlement, also filed two other suits which were consolidated.  Both of these suits (available here and here) seek reversal of disciplinary actions, including discharge, taken against Tasiopoulos and one of them alleges a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act by Greenwich Township Officials.

The court has already scheduled a trial for both matters but that trial was postponed until a motion filed by Greenwich Township is argued on Friday, October 5, 2012.  If the consolidated lawsuits survive that motion, then it is likely that the court will order the matters tried within the next month or so.

Also, those who wish to see the January 14, 2006 report of the motor vehicle accident involving Pohatcong Officer Alan B. Hill, which was referred to as a "drunken driving crash" in a May 20, 2011 Express-Times article, may download the report here.

Tasiopoulos' allegations that his firing stemmed from his attempt to expose "a cover-up of what was done on his DUI," are fleshed out in a July 3, 2011 Express-Times article available on-line.  This article, as well as others regarding Officer Tasiopoulos' litigation with Greenwich Township are on-line here.