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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Buena pays $375,000 to settle police officer's whistleblower suit

On December 15, 2009, the Borough of Buena (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $375,000 to a borough police officer who alleged that she was harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment after she had reported that a police sergeant was stealing taxpayer dollars by falsifying time sheets.

In her suit, Stacy L. Steudle said that in 2007, she became aware that Buena Police Sergeant Lawrence Petrillo "was falsifying time records by indicating that he had worked on days and/or during times when he had not worked."  She claims that after she reported the matter to Chief Douglas E. Adams, Adams communicated to Petrillo that "we have a rat." Steudle further alleges that Petrillo told her that Chief Adams had said that he was was "pissed" at her for starting "drama in the department." Thereafter, she claims that she was retaliated against and treated differently than other officers.

The case is captioned Steudle v. Buena, Atlantic County Superior Court, Docket No. L-833-08 and Steudle's attorney was Eileen Oakes Muskett of Atlantic City.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Steudle's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $375,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Buena or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Buena or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Steudle $375,000 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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Atlantic City pays $2,500 to settle police assault suit

On May 16, 2012, the City of Atlantic City (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $2,500 to a local man who sued members of the Atlantic City Police Department for allegedly assaulting him.

In his suit,Benjamin Demby said that on April 23, 2009, he was at 1401 Memorial Drive, Atlantic City when he was assaulted by Officer Brent Dooley and/or Brian Hambrecht.  The lawsuit is very vague and gives no other information about the alleged assault.

The case is captioned Demby v. Atlantic City, Federal Civil No. 1:11-cv-1881 and Demby's attorney was Jeffrey M. Sheppard of Absecon.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Demby's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $2,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Atlantic City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Atlantic City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Demby $2,500 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.

Edison pays $27,500 to settle police excessive force and malicious prosecution suit

On July 16, 2012, the Township of Edison (Middlesex County) agreed to pay $27,500 to a  man who sued members of the Edison Police Department for allegedly beating him and maliciously prosecuting him.

In his suit, Taleb Ahmed said that on September 11, 2007 he "was falsely arrested, violently assaulted and brutally beaten, hit with a weapon, pushed into the ground, and held in jail by" Edison police officers Theodore Hamer, Michael Dotro, Peter Conforte and Sergeant Jason Gerba.  He claims that he was charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest, but that the Grand Jury returned a "no bill" when the Township sought an indictment against him.

The case is captioned Ahmed v. Edison, Federal Case No. 2:08-cv-00066 and Ahmed's attorney was Nicholas Martino of Marlboro.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Ahmed's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $27,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Edison or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Edison or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Ahmed $27,500 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.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Seaside Heights pays $62,500 to settle police assault/excessive force suit

On August 9, 2012, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $62,500 to a Manahawkin man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for allegedly beating him and applying handcuffs too tightly.

In his suit, Joseph Alfieri said that on either April 26th or April 27, 2009 he was assaulted by his live-in girlfriend.  The girlfriend, who was allegedly arrested by Seaside Heights Officer Elijah Bryant, returned to the residence the next and demanded her car keys. 

Alfieri alleged that when he told his girlfriend to leave and return the following day, Bryant, along with fellow officers John Clarizio and John Dudas entered the apartment without his consent and proceeded to assault him.  Alfieri claims that he was "maced, choked, kicked and [that police applied inordinate pressure in handcuffing [him.]"

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Stephen Korman and James Hans.

The case is captioned Alfieri v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:11-cv-00919 and Alfieri's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Alfieri's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $62,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Alfieri $62,500 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.

Matawan pays $7,500 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On April 9, 2012, the Borough of Matawan (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $7,500 to a Neptune man who sued members of the Matawan Police Department for allegedly flicking a lit cigarette butt down his shirt and arresting him without probable cause.

In his suit, Anthony Gray said that on October 5, 2009, he was walking down the street on crutches when Matawan Police Officer James Alston allegedly "pulled his vehicle up to house in the neighborhood in reckless fashion, nearly sideswiping a young man on a bicycle." Officer Alston, who Gray claims was intoxicated and "was often intoxicated in public during police/citizen encounters" allegedly yelled and cursed at neighbors who asked him why he almost hit the bicyclist.

When other officers arrived at the scene, they allegedly ignored Alston's instructions to arrest Gray.  Alston then reportedly told Gray that he was under arrest and when Gray asked why, Alston allegedly told him to "shut the f**k up."  During the arrest, Alston allegedly flicked a lit cigarette butt down Gray's shirt in order to provoke him.

The case is captioned Gray v. Matawan, Federal Case No. 3:11-cv-05508 and Gray's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Gray's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $7,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Matawan or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Matawan or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Gray $7,500 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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Newark pays $300,000 to taxicab company that alleged licensing discrimination

On June 7, 2012, the City of Newark (Essex County) agreed to pay $300,000 to a taxicab company who sued the City and its Taxicab and Limousine Commission for unfairly applying its licensing laws against it.

In its suit, Jacob's Limousine Transportation, Inc. said Newark "thwarted and rejected" its efforts to get licenses so that it could lawfully operate taxicabs in the city.  Despite the trouble that the city allegedly gave to it, Jacob's Limousine claims that city officials "have allowed numerous other autocab, limousine, and livery services companies to operate in and on Newark's streets and highways without complying with, and in blatant violation of, the requirements of the Newark Code for the operation and licensing of autocab, limousine, and livery services companies to operate in and on Newark's streets and highways."

In addition to the $300,000 payment, Newark also agreed to permit Jacob's Limousine to "register, license, and operate up to 150 vehicles" until August 31, 2014. 

The case is captioned Jacob's Limousine v. Newark, Federal Case No. 09-cv-6331 and Jacob's Limousine's attorney was Jeffrey Kantowitz of Florham Park.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Jacob's Limousine's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $300,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Newark or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Newark or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Jacob's Limousine $300,000 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.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Warren County pays $140,000 to settle trespass and invasion of privacy claim against deputy sheriff.

In November 2011, the County of Warren agreed to pay $140,000 to a Blairstown woman who sued an employee of the Warren County Sheriff's Office for allegedly breaking a lock to enter her home and frightening the minor daughter who was home alone at the time.

In her suit, Sylvia Zika said that on January 28, 2008, her minor daughter was home in their secluded, rural house when she observed Anthony DiLauri, who is employed by the Warren County Sheriff's Office, approach the house in an unmarked car.  Unknown to the daughter was that DiLauri was at the house in order to serve legal papers.  She claims that because she was alone and did not recognize DiLauri, she went into the house through the garage and locked the garage door behind her.

Zika alleges that DiLauri, who didn't identify himself as a sheriff's officer, pounded on the door and demanded entry.  Fearing for her safety, the daughter called 911 and reported a break in.  DiLauri allegedly broke the lock on the door and entered the house and put the legal papers he intended to serve on a table.

When Blairstown police responded to the daughter's 911 call, DiLauri allegedly falsely told them that he had "served the paperwork without incident."  The recordings of Zika's daughter's 911 calls as well as photographs that Blairstown police took of the broken door were "subsequently lost" or "deleted."

The case is captioned Zika v. Warren County, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. WRN-L-114-09 and Zika's attorney was Walter M. Luers of Clinton.  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 Zika's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $140,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Warren or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Warren or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Zika $140,000 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.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ocean Board of Social Services pays $50,000 to settle breach of contract case

On May 2, 2012, the Ocean County Board of Social Services (OCBSS) agreed to pay $50,000 to a vendor who successfully bid on a two year contract to provide local and long-distance telephone service to three PBX phone systems at the OCBSS' Lakewood, Toms River and Manahawkin offices.

In its suit, Data Networking Services (DNS), a telecommunications service provider out of Tinton Falls, bid on the OCBBS's publicly advertised request for proposal.  According to the suit, Larry Perlberg, who is the lawyer for the OCBSS, was the project manager even though he had "stated he did not understand telecommunications words and their meanings."  Accordingly, he hired Robert E. Hammond of Hammond Consulting Group, LLC of Wall Township as a "go between" between Perlberg and DNS.

According to the complaint, Hammond, at a design review meeting allegedly rejected DNS' design, which employed fiber optic cabling, as "non traditional" and insisted that DNS amend its design to "match exactly the OCBSS existing voice network technology [which was] over 30 years old."  Hammond allegedly required DNS to use "traditional copper circuits" which the suit characterizes as "absurd and wasteful."  DNS also alleged that the OCBBS already had some fiber optic cabling in place but prevented DNS from using that cabling by "falsely claim{ing that they] were dedicated to the local computer network."

While the specifics in the complaint are technical and difficult to understand, DNS alleges, generally, that OCBSS and Hammond deliberately sabotaged its attempts to fulfill the contract and then breached the contract by replacing DNS with a different vendor.

The case is captioned Business Automation Technologies d/b/a Data Network Service v. Ocean County Board of Social Services, et al,  Federal Case No. 3:11-cv-6453 and DNS's attorney was Walter M. Luers of Clinton.  Case documents are on-line here. As part of the settlement, Hammond also paid DNS $5,000.

None of DNS's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $50,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the OCBSS or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that the OCBSS or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay DNS $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.