Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pleasantville pays $20,146.77 to settle retaliation suit brought former police officer.

On September 14, 2012, the City of Pleasantville (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $20,146.77 to a former city police officer who sued members of the Pleasantville Police Department for allegedly retaliating against him with false disciplinary charges for not supporting a mayoral candidate.

In his suit, Charles Oglesby said Police Chief Duane Comeaux, Captain Jose Ruiz, Sergeant Danny Adcock, Mayor Ralph Peterson, City Council President Jesse Tweedle and City Administrator Marvin Hopkins brought false disciplinary charges against him because he refused Ruiz's demand to get the Masons and the local PBA, with which Oglesby was affiliated, to give their "support . . . for the Mayoral Candidate Len Green."

Yet, according to an April 27, 2010 article in the Press of Atlantic City, Oglesby pleaded guilty to stealing money from a suspect and falsifying police reports to cover up the crime.

The case is captioned Oglesby v. Pleasantville, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-1015-10 and Oglesby's attorney was David R. Castellani of Northfield.  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 Oglesby's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $20,146.77 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Pleasantville or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Pleasantville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Oglesby $20,146.77 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.