Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pohatcong Township, two weeks prior to OPRA lawsuit hearing, discloses its 2010 settlement agreement with former Police Sergeant.

On February 1, 2013, the Township of Pohatcong (Warren County) publicly released, for the first time, a copy of a December 2, 2010 settlement agreement the Township entered into with former Township Police Sergeant Francesco "Frank" Pagano. 

The settlement was one of the subjects of an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) lawsuit that Somerset County resident Blanca Carroll filed against the Township in 2012 (Carroll v. Pohatcong, Docket No. WRN-L-412-12).  Carroll's case is scheduled to be heard before Superior Court Judge Amy O'Connor in Belvidere on Friday, February 15, 2013.

The settlement agreement, which is on-line here, reveals that Pagano was paid a total of $255,000--with $215,000 representing back pay and the remaining $40,000 "representing settlement of threatened litigation."  In exchange, Pagano tendered a letter of resignation, which the Township agreed was a resignation "in good standing."

In addition, the settlement agreement required the Township Police to "withdraw and dismiss all charges set forth in the Notice of Charges dated July 30, 2008 and November 8, 2010" as well as "any uncharged allegations of violations of rules and regulations presently under investigation or contemplated."

Finally, and importantly, the settlement agreement specifically allowed Pagano to pursue additional financial claims against the Township "for attorney's fees related to his defense of the criminal indictment."  Indeed, Pagano has pursued those attorney fees by way of a 2011 civil suit (Docket No. WRN-L-63-11) that was covered by a January 24, 2013 Express-Times article entitled "Testimony against ex-cop denied. Trial Over Legal Fees resumes for Frank Pagano, former Pohatcong Township police sergeant," by Andrew George.

According to earlier Express-Times articles, Pagano was tried to a jury in September 2010 on charges of official misconduct, perjury and falsifying public records.  The prosecution contended that Pagano lied about the circumstances surrounding his search of a vehicle during a January 2007 traffic stop.  Pagano's criminal defense attorney, Jeff Garrigan, was reported to have said that the decision to prosecute Pagano was "a conspiracy by high-ranking Pohatcong Township police officers was the reason his client made inaccurate statements under oath." (Express-Times, September 16, 2010, "Report, video at odds in stop Defense Alleges Conspiracy against Pohatcong Twp. police Sgt. Frank Pagano as trial opens." by Sarah M. Wojcik.)

The "conspiracy" appears to be connected to Pagano's sworn statements that he had received reports from two officers that Pohatcong Lieutenant Dean McBride had "sexually touched" them at police headquarters.  He claimed that the retaliation began after he submitted those reports to Pohatcong Police Chief Paul Hager.  See a separate story on this matter here.

After a five day trial, the jury cleared Pagano of all charges on September 28, 2010.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality provision.  According to ¶ 10 the agreement, had Pagano breached confidentiality, he could be forced to repay $255,000 to the Township.  Under ¶ 8, however, Pagano is apparently able to now "comment on the contents of [the] agreement]" since it has, by virtue of Carroll's suit, "become part of the public domain through a lawful request for its production."