Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hoboken pays $99,000 to settle police officer's racial discrimination case.

On May 21, 2013, the City of Hoboken (Hudson County) agreed to pay $99,000 to a police officer who sued members of the Hoboken Police Department for racial discrimination and ethnic hostility.  The officer also agreed to retire from the Department "effective May 1, 2014 or on the twenty fifth (25th) anniversary of his employment for retirement pension purposes, whichever date is later."

In his suit, William James said that African-American officers such as him were routinely passed over for promotion.  He claimed that the Hoboken Police Department uses "an arbitrary process of 'off the books' promotions" which gives the police administration "unfettered discretion to place cronies, friends or favorites in 'acting' positions of higher rank."  Beyond promotional issues, James also claimed that he "saw images of Hoboken Police Personnel wearing what are obviously Ku Klux Klan hoods made out of table napkins."

Individually named in the suit were former Mayor David Roberts, Former Police Chief Carmen V. LaBruno and former Public Safety Director William Bergen.  Neither Roberts, LaBruno nor Bergen signed off on the settlement, but James' complaint was dismissed against them as part of the settlement.

The case is captioned James v. Hoboken, Docket No. HUD-L-1961-10 and James' attorney was Robert M. Anderson of Allenhurst.  Case documents are on-line here.


None of James' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $99,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Hoboken or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Hoboken or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay James $99,000 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.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hudson Sheriff's Department pays $180,000 to settle employee's whistleblower and discrimination suit

On August 2, 2013, the County of Hudson, on behalf of the Hudson County Sheriff's Department agreed to pay $180,000 to 56-year-old female Sheriff's Officer who has been employed by the Department since 1985.

In her suit, Rosemary Frank said that her superiors harassed, retaliated and discriminated against her due to her settling a separate lawsuit in the mid-1990's in which she claimed that he was sexually harassed in the workplace.  She claimed that after she was prevented from becoming a sergeant, she was told by a lieutenant that "she would never be promoted because of her previous lawsuit."  Frank also claimed that despite having seniority, she was forced to take the night shift by Lieutenant Gary Reibesell who allegedly threatened her with a transfer if she refused to take the shift.

She made several other allegations of discriminatory treatment at the hands of Reibesell "which resulted in her hospitalization due to the stress of the situation."  She also said that a Sergeant Webber, while leading a hostile work environment training seminar encouraged an officer to read a passage aloud from the manual "in a manner that mocked gay people."

The case is captioned Frank v. Hudson, Docket No. HUD-L-539-10 and Frank's attorney was Charles J. Sciarra of Clifton.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Frank's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $180,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Hudson or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Hudson or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Frank $180,000 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.

State pays $6,000 to settle police improper detention/assault suit

On June 14, 2013, the State of New Jersey agreed to pay $6,000 to a Newark man who sued members of the New Jersey State Police for allegedly assaulting him, macing him and arresting him without probable cause.

In his suit, Salah Williams said that on January 29, 2008, he was walking near his carpet store in Newark when he was detained without cause by Troopers Gerald Dellagicoma and David Valente.  He claimed that the Troopers "proceeded to physically assault [him] and maced him for no reason at all."  He also claimed that in order to cover up their improper acts, the Troopers, along with Supervising Trooper Dennis White, "conspired together and filed false criminal charges against" him which were ultimately dismissed.

The case is captioned Williams v. State, Federal Case No. 2:10-cv-03478 and Williams's attorney was Randy P. Davenport of Newark.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Williams's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $6,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by State or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that State or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Williams $6,000 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.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Buena pays $250,000 to settle police officer's discrimination/harassment suit

On October 22, 2013, the Borough of Buena (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $250,000 to a Hispanic police officer who claimed that officials in the Buena police department harassed and created a hostile work environment for him.

In his suit, Ronald Bonilla, who was hired as a patrol officer in 2009, said that it was the policy of the Buena Police Department to target Hispanic drivers.  Bonilla claimed that he was the only Hispanic in an otherwise completely Caucasian department.

He claimed that before becoming his direct superior officer, Sergeant Stacey Steudle told him that "she is not a big ticket writer, but if I need to keep my stats up I will find a Mexican and write him ten tickets."  (In December 2009, Steudle settled her own whistleblower lawsuit against the Borough for $375,000--click here.) 

Bonilla claimed that the police management, including Chief David P. Sherma, had "a discriminatory bias against minorities."  When Bonilla complained to Sherma about the racial profiling, Bonilla said that he became the target of mistreatment and harassment by the other officers.  Specifically, he claims that he was not backed up by other officers, was falsely charged with not backing up other officers and that Steudle would repeatedly belittle him and cover up a Puerto Rican flag that he had put on his locker.  When he was performing desk duty, he was harassed by a picture of "a dog scooping up a pile of dog waste" and la bled "our new employee" that was placed directly in front of his desk.

The case is captioned Bonilla v. Buena, Federal Case No. 1:11-cv-05412 and Bonilla's attorney was Adam J. Kleinfeldt of Newark.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Bonilla's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $250,000 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 Bonilla $250,000 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.