Monday, December 8, 2014

Weehawken pays $49,500 to settle gender discrimination suit.

On January 7, 2014, the Township of Weehawken (Hudson County) agreed to pay $49,500 to a female employee who had sued for gender discrimination and creating a hostile work environment.  The Township also agreed to transfer the employee to another Township department with her retaining the same seniority and benefits.  Of the $49,500, $4,500 was specifically said to compensate the employee for attorney fees expended to contest what appears to be a municipal court complaint that was filed against her.

In her suit, Pilar Bardroff, who has been employed by the Township since 1992, most recently served Weehawken as its Assistant Recycling Coordinator. After Recycling Coordinator Stanley Iacono retired on December 31, 2007, Bardroff said that she was the "de facto" Recycling Coordinator and sought to be given that title and the attendant pay.  Instead of promoting her, Bardroff alleged that the Township left the position open until May 2010 and filled it with a less qualified male.  The male allegedly made $64,000 per year while Bardroff made $34,000.

She also alleged that she was transferred to another department in another building that was in disrepair, infested with mice and insects, reeked of chemical fumes and had pornographic graffiti displayed.  She also claimed that her filing cabinet was broken into by Public Works Director Robert Barsa and that Weehawken officials withheld her personal mail for over a year.

The case is captioned Bardroff v. Weehawken, Docket No. HUD-L-167-12 and Bardroff's attorney was Louis A. Zayas of North Bergen.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Bardroff's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the 449,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Weehawken or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Weehawken or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bardroff $49,500 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, December 5, 2014

Freehold secretly pays $7,500 to settle police negligent arrest case.

On October 10, 2014, the Borough of Freehold (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $7,500 to a Trenton man who sued members of the Freehold Police Department for allegedly not taking his disability into account when arresting him.

In his suit, Jerome White said that he had called 911 on July 8, 2010 to report a dispute he was having with a clerk at a check cashing store.  The police officer who took White's call, who White said was informed that he was wheelchair bound, ran a check on him and learned that he had warrants out for his arrest.  When Officers Eduardo Santana, Sean Healy and and Christopher Colaner came to arrest White, he claims that they did so in an "unreasonable manner."  Despite being allegedly aware of his disability, the officer allegedly forced him out of a vehicle in which he was sitting causing him to fall to the pavement.  The officers were then allegedly "verbally abusive" to him as he lay on the pavement.

Also named in the suit were Freehold Police Chief Mitch Roth.

The case is captioned White v. Freehold, Federal Case No. 11-cv-00722 and White's attorney was Jonathan D. Singer of Freehold.  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 White'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 Freehold or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Freehold or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay White $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.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Plainfield secretly gives police captain back pay, release from discipline and $27,500 in attorney fees to settle whistleblower suit.

On April 2, 2013, the City of Plainfield (Union County) agreed to reinstate a police lieutenant to his previous position of captain, dismiss all disciplinary charges against him and pay his attorneys $27,500 to settle his whistleblower suit against the City and former Police Director Martin R. Hellwig.  In his suit, the captain said that he was demoted to lieutenant on May 26, 2010 after having reported Director Hellwig's alleged work-related use of the Internet to solicit prostitution services.

The plaintiff, Captain Michael Gilliam, claimed that his demotion was a direct result of his report of Hellwig's alleged activities to to Plainfield's business administrator.  According to the blog Plainfield Today, Hellwig retired in late 2013.

The case is captioned Gilliam v. Plainfield, Docket No. UNN-L-2104-11 and Gilliam's attorney was Cahn & Parra of Edison.  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 Gilliam's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the concessions and payment do not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Plainfield or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Plainfield or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather settle with Gilliam 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.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Berkeley secretly pays $110,000 to settle police excessive force suit.

On November 4, 2014, the Township of Berkeley (Ocean County) agreed to pay $110,000 to a Toms River man who sued members of the Berkeley Police Department for allegedly beating him while he was in a holding cell.

In his suit, Darren Yurick said that on January 27, 2013, he was arrested by Berkeley Officers Patrick J. Stesner, Jr. and Michael Tier.  He said that after being taken back to the station he "was handcuffed and subsequently assaulted with excessive force and without justification by Defendants Stesner and Tier while in a holding cell."

Also named in the suit was Berkeley Police Chief Karin DiMichele and Sergeant Kevin Santucci.

The case is captioned Yurick v. Berkeley, Federal Case No. 3:14-cv-03655 and Yurick's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Yurick's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $110,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Berkeley or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Berkeley or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Yurick $110,000 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.

Perth Amboy secretly pays $70,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On December 1, 2014, the City of Perth Amboy (Middlesex County) agreed to pay $70,000 to an Old Bridge woman who sued members of the Perth Amboy Police Department for allegedly arresting her without probable cause and with excessive force.

In her suit, Meredith G. Faltings said that on April 1, 2011, Officers Jesus Martinez and Nicholas Millroy assaulted her "without justification and with excessive force" during a domestic disturbance call.  She claimed that the charges against her for Obstructing the Administration of Law and Disorderly Conduct were later dismissed in municipal court.

Also named in the suit was Perth Amboy Police Chief Benjamin Ruiz.

The case is captioned Faltings v. Perth Amboy, Federal Case No. 2:13-cv-1976 and Faltings's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Faltings's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $70,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Perth Amboy or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Perth Amboy or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Faltings $70,000 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.

New Milford secretly pays $125,000 to settle police lieutenant's whistle blower suit.

On November 19, 2014, the Borough of New Milford (Bergen County) agreed to pay $125,000 to a police lieutenant who claimed that Borough officials improperly refused to promote him.

In his suit, John F. Kiene, who has been with the New Milford Police Department since, 1982, said that former police chief Frank Papapietro refused to recommend his promotion to the rank of captain despite him having acted as a "de facto captain since 2008."  As part of the agreement, Kiene will be promoted to captain effective November 24, 2014 and will retire from the department on January 1, 2017.

The case is captioned Kiene v. New Milford, Bergen County Superior Court Docket No. BER-L-4690-12 and Kiene's attorney was Edward J. Nolan of Hackensack.  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 Kiene's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $125,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by New Milford or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that New Milford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Kiene $125,000 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 28, 2014

Deptford school board secretly settles with former high school vice principal.

On February 22, 2014, the Deptford Township Board of Education (Gloucester County) agreed to pay $20,000 and make other concessions to its former high school vice principal who sued the board for Law Against Discrimination and Family Medical Leave Act violations.

In his suit, Franco Colamarco, who has been employed at the school district since 2005, said that in 2012 he "was unlawfully demoted and returned to his prior position as a teacher."  He said that the demotion was due to him going out on disability on January 27, 2012 for a back injury.  He also that he was removed from the vice principal position in part because principal Melvin Allen preferred a female vice principal.

The case is captioned Colamarco v. Deptford Township Board of Education, Gloucester County Superior Court Docket No. GLO-L-1539-12 and Colamarco's attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel.  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 Colamarco's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $20,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Deptford or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Deptford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Colamarco $20,000 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, November 25, 2014

Middlesex County pays $325,000 to settle man's estate's wrongful death suit against jail guards.

On October 8, 2014, the County of Middlesex agreed to pay $325,000 to the estate of a man who died while in custody at the County's Correctional Facility.

The lawsuit was brought by Lena Delgado de Torres, the personal representative of the Estate of Humberto Alfonso.  Alfonso was a pre-trial detainee who died on February 28, 2011 while in custody at the Middlesex County Correctional Facility.  According to the complaint, jail officers attempted to handcuff Alfonso to move him from his jail cell to the medical area.  Alfonso's alleged refusal to fully comply with the officers resulted in a physical altercation involving Alfonso and several corrections officers.  The lawsuit states that Alfonso was pepper-sprayed after having been handcuffed and placed in a "restraint chair."  When a nurse saw that he was unresponsive, Alfonso was moved to a stretcher and died after cardio-pulmonary resuscitation efforts failed.  The lawsuit states that Alfonso's autopsy revealed that the pepper spray was the proximate cause of his death.

The corrections officers were identified only by their last names: Knight, Poulson, Castro, Estevez, Ortega, Christiansen and Szumowski.  They, along with Warden Edmond C. Cicchi, were identified in the settlement agreement as "non-settling defendants."

The case is captioned the Estate of Alfonso v. Middlesex County, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-01227 and the Estate's attorney was Lennox S. Hinds of Somerset and New York.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of the Estate's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $325,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Middlesex or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Middlesex or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Estate $325,000 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.

North Haledon secretly pays $16,000 to settle police illegal stop and search lawsuit.

On June 11, 2012, the Borough of North Haledon (Passaic County) agreed to pay $16,000 to four Wayne men who sued members of the North Haledon Police Department for allegedly stopping, searching and detaining them without probable cause.

In their suit, Anthony Terrana, Nicholas Terrana, Antonio Terrana and Antonio Amabile claimed that on July 15, 2009 the car in which they were travelling was illegally stopped by Officer Michael Cedar.  They allege that they were all ordered out of the car by Cedar, Officer Dean Fusco, Sergeant Marc Rowe and Lieutenant Todd Darby.  They claim that the officers illegally searched them, seized their cell phones and wallets and subjected them to "abusive language and intimidation."  Eventually, they claim, the officers told them that they were free to go.

The case is captioned Terrana, et al v. North Haledon, Docket No. PAS-L-2563-10 and the men's  attorney was Raymond P. Vivino of Wayne.  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 the men's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $16,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by North Haledon or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that North Haledon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the men $16,000 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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Plainfield pays $145,000 to secretly settle Police Aide's racial discrimination/hostile work environment lawsuit.

On April 24, 2014, the City of Plainfield (Union County) agreed to pay $145,000 to a Police Aide who sued a Plainfield Police lieutenant for retaliating and racially discriminating against her.

In her suit, Sharon Williams claimed that Lieutenant Jeffrey Plum suspended her for refusing to obey orders that Williams claimed violated established rules and guidelines.  Williams, who is African-American, claimed that Plum, who is white, "constantly inject[ed] himself into [her] business and job when he has no need or right to" and filed false disciplinary charges against her.  She said that he didn't conduct himself in the same way toward white employees.

The case is captioned Williams v. Plainfield, Docket No. UNN-L-4536-11 and Williams's attorney was Lawrence N. Lavigne of Union. Case documents are on-line here.

None of the Williams's have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $145,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Plainfield or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Plainfield or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay him $145,000 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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hillside pays $450,000 to settle police chief's whistleblower suit

On October 28, 2013, the Township of Hillside (Union County) agreed to pay $450,000 to a its retired police chief who sued the Township and Mayor for allegedly retaliating against him.

In his suit, Robert Quinlan listed a litany of allegations against the Township and Mayor Joseph Menza including Menza's alleged attempt to interfere with a summons issued to a "Christie for Governor" sound truck, Menza's alleged opposition to Quinlan's promotion of an African-American female police officer and Menza's alleged improper involvement in a matter involving the Superintendent of Public Works being "probably drunk" at a Linden tavern with a Township vehicle.

The case is captioned Quinlan v. Hillside, et al, Docket No. UNN-L-618-12 and Quinlan's attorney was Damian Christian Shammas of Morristown.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Quinlan's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $450,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Hillside or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Hillside or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Quinlan $450,000 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 14, 2014

Howell pays $15,000 to settle police excessive force suit.

On December 10, 2013, the Township of Howell (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a Toms River man who sued a Howell Police Officer for injuring him when he was placed in a squad car.

In his suit, Douglas Kessel, vaguely claims that on January 15, 2009, an officer identified as "John Doe, Badge No. 189" "placed [him] in a the back of a squad car and . . . caused [him] to sustain severe, serious and permanent injuries."

The case is captioned Kessel v. Howell, Docket No. MON-L-2815-10 and Kessel's attorney was Richard B. Stone of Neptune. Case documents are on-line here.

None of the Kessel's have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $15,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Howell or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Howell or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay him $15,000 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 13, 2014

Margate settles Clerk's Whistleblower suit: Clerk to retire and get $284,000, with lawyer to get $50,000.

On November 6, 2014, the City of Margate (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $334,000 to its longtime municipal clerk and his lawyer to settle a whistleblower suit he filed against the City after he was allegedly retaliated against for reporting illegal conduct by a Margate elected official.

In his suit, Thomas Hiltner, who has worked for the City since 1986, said that in 2011, he and City Chief Financial Officer Lisa McLaughlin compared proposals from two accounting firms--Bowman & Company and Ford Scott Accountants--and recommended the Bowman firm due in part to that firm being 7% less expensive than Ford Scott.  Hiltner claimed that he learned in August 2011 that Commissioner Brenda Taube opposed the recommendation based on the Ford Scott Accounting firm's alleged "help and assistance 'to the Commissioner's ticket' throughout her campaign."

Hiltner claimed that he reported Taube's position to his immediate supervisor as well as to the police because he believed that "the award of a public contract based upon a vendor currying favor with a candidate was the precise type of "contribution' outlawed by New Jersey law."  Hiltner also alleged that in his subsequent conversation with Mayor Michael Becker, Becker "confessed and responded that regardless of the request for proposal process, Ford Scott was getting the contract."

According to the lawsuit, Hiltner's reporting of Taube precipitated "the most aggressive and continuous campaign of retaliatory action [he] has ever experienced in over a quarter of a century of public service" at the hands of Taube and Becker.  Among the retaliatory acts, Hiltner claimed that he was stripped of his duty as beach badge sales supervisor and the $5,000 stipend that went with it.  Also, Hiltner alleged that City officials "manufactured verba1 and written reprimands against [him], allegations of [his] violation of the City's vacation and sick time policy [and] allegations of [his] failure to follow the Family Medical Leave Act policy."

The case is captioned Hiltner v. Margate, Docket No. ATL-L-3105-12 and Hiltner's attorney was Louis M. Barbone of Atlantic City.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Hiltner's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $334,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Margate or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Margate or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hiltner $334,000 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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Belvidere pays $45,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit.

On September 11, 2014, the Town of Belvidere (Warren County) agreed to pay $45,000 to a local woman who sued members of the Belvidere Police Department for allegedly assaulting and falsely arresting her.

In her suit, Lisa Patton said that on February 10, 2011, her daughter called police after the mother and daughter had an argument over proper dosage of the daughter's prescription medicine.  According to the complaint, Patton's daughter had substance abuse issues and wanted to ingest more of the medicine than prescribed and Patton wished to limit her daughter's medication intake to the prescribed dose.  Belvidere police officers Matthew Scott and Frank Tootle, III went to the family home and both Patton and her son told them that the daughter had already had her prescribed dose that day.

According to the complaint, both officers then left the residence and "attempted to find a criminal violation with which to charge" Patton. They returned a short time later and, allegedly without a search or arrest warrant, entered Patton's home and ordered Patton to give her daughter the medication.  After the daughter reached into Patton's pocket and removed the medication, the daughter was allegedly asked by the police to leave the residence.  Thereafter, Patton alleged that she "tapped [Tootle] on the shoulder."  Scott allegedly grabbed her by the wrists and Tootle elbowed her in the hip and face.  She was then arrested for assaulting a police officer, dragged from her home in her bathrobe and handcuffed to a wall at the Warren County Jail.

The case is captioned Patton v. Belvidere, Docket No. WAR-L-521-11 and Patton's attorney was Robert C. Woodruff of Morristown.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Patton's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $45,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Belvidere or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Belvidere or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Patton $45,000 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.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Atlantic City pays $200,000 to settle police excessive force suit.

On April 30, 2014, the City of Atlantic City (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $200,000 to two local women, who are sisters, who sued members of the Atlantic City Police Department for allegedly beating them and unleashing a police dog on one of them.

In their suit, Shaheedah Woodall and Khadijah Woodall said that they were at Bally's Hotel and Casino on August 8, 2010 when a fight erupted on the casino floor.  Shaheedah, who is partially disabled and uses a cane, was knocked to the ground during the fight and lost her cane.  According to the suit, Bally's security officers made everyone leave the casino and wait outside.  After the police had arrived and everything calmed down, Khadijah said that she asked the police officers for permission to re-enter the casino to retrieve Shaheedah's cane.  After having been denied re-entry by several officers, the sisters claimed that Officer Natane Naylor wrapped her hands around Khadijah's neck and pushed her to the ground.  The complaint alleged that Naylor, along with Officers Syed Shah, Grace Cook and Joseph Procopio then "unleashed a savage attack on Khadijah, which included numerous punches to the head and face, kicks to the ribs and midsection." Officer James Hurley then allegedly grabbed Shaheedah from behind and called her a "crippled n****r whore." Shaheedah claims that a police dog, handled by Officer Garry Stowe, then ripped into her and disfigured her left breast.  Shaheedah claims that she was so scared that she lost control of her bowel functions.

The sisters claimed that they were both charged with and indicted for resisting arrest and other offenses, but that those charges were later dismissed against Shaheedah but were still pending against Khadijah when the lawsuit was filed.

Also named in the suit were Atlantic City Police Sergeant William Bell who allegedly came to the scene but did nothing to intervene.

The case is captioned Woodall v. Atlantic City, Federal Case No. 12-cv-4963 and Woodall's attorney was Stanley O. King of Woodbury. Case documents are on-line here.

None of the Woodall sisters' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $200,000 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 the sisters $200,000 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, November 8, 2014

Long Branch pays $175,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On July 30, 2014, the City of Long Branch (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $175,000 to an Oceanport man who sued members of the Long Branch Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force upon him.

In his suit, Ralph Mazza said that on May 25, 2012, he was present at his sister's home when she had called police because of unwanted guests at her residence.  He claimed that he "was assaulted without justification and excessive force" by Officers Alfred K. Cistaro and Joseph Kennedy "as be spoke with his sister about the summons issued to her by [police]."

Also named in the suit was Alphonse Muolo, Long Branch Director of Public Safety

The case is captioned Mazza v. Long Branch, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-04535 and Mazza's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Mazza's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $175,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Long Branch or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Long Branch or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Mazza $175,000 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 6, 2014

Lawnside secretly pays $125,000 to settle negligence suit by family of slain 18 year-old.

On August 6, 2013, the Borough of Lawnside (Camden County) agreed to pay $125,000 to the estate of a teen who was fatally shot on April 12, 2009 while at a party at the Borough's Wayne R. Bryant Community Center.

In the suit, Lissette Rivera, claimed that Borough officials "knew or should have known" that an unruly crowd that gathered at the party would become violent and that her son, Sergio Rivera, would have been alive today but for the officials' negligence.

The case is captioned Rivera v. Lawnside, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. CAM-L-1832-11 and Rivera's attorney was Timothy J. McNamara of Marlton.  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 Rivera's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $125,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lawnside or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lawnside or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Rivera $125,000 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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

East Newark pays $101,000 plus attorney fees to settle former police dispatcher's lawsuit claiming forced oral sex. Lawyer seeks $1.2 million in fees.

Update: 11/22/14:  Although Arias' lawyer sought a total of $1,215,935.15 in costs and legal fees, Judge Kimberly Espinales-Maloney cut the amount substantially and awarded him $93,480.15.  Her opinion, which is misdated (it was really argued on November 7, 2014 and issued on November 10 2014), is on-line here.
On July 25, 2014, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mary K. Costello confirmed an agreement under which the Borough of East Newark (Hudson County) agreed to pay a Borough former police dispatcher and volunteer firefighter $101,000 in damages, plus attorney fees to be established by the court, to settle her lawsuit which claimed that she was repeated assaulted sexually by a Borough police sergeant.  In an October 8, 2014 application to the court, the woman's attorney applied for attorney fees of $786,247.50, costs of $36,563.90 and a "contingency enhancement" of $393,123.75 for a total award of $1,215,935.15.  Judge Kimberly Espinales-Maloney is scheduled to hear the attorney's application on Friday, November 7, 2014, 9 a.m. in Courtroom 807, 595 Newark Avenue, Jersey City.

In her suit, Viviana Arias said that she served as a volunteer firefighter at the East Newark Fire Department from 2004 until her forced resignation in 2012 and also worked as a dispatcher for the East Newark Police Department from May 2008 until her termination on May 1, 2010.  She claimed that while working as a dispatcher, Sergeant Robert Tomasko "would repeatedly order Plaintiff Arias to work shifts that would create an opportunity where the two of them would be left alone." When working together along, Arias alleged that Tomasko would "force [her] to perform oral sex upon him [and] force [her] to swallow his sperm upon ejaculating."

She said that this would cause her to go into the bathroom and vomit and that Tomasko threatened to "immediately fire" her should she disclose to anyone what had occurred.  Arias also alleged that Tomasko would taunt and threaten her with comments such as "I am a family man and you are just a bitch with two children by two different fathers" and "I know where your children go to school" According to the complaint, Tomasko fired her on May 10, 2010 because he realized that "Borough of East Newark Police Department was becoming aware of the [alleged sexual] conduct . . . and terminated [her] in an effort to silence her."

In another count of her complaint, Arias alleged that she was harassed out of the Borough's fire department, where Tomasko served as fire chief, because of her pregnancy, her gender and as retaliation for having made the sexual allegations against Tomasko.

Arias' attorney, Paul S. Foreman of Whippany, has asked the court to award him a total of $1,215,935.15 in fees and costs for representing Arias.  In court filings, he complained that the law firm of Roth D'Aquanni of Springfield, which had been hired by East Newark to investigate Arias's allegations against Tomasko, did not interview "one single police officer other than Tomasko and did not interview East Newark Police Chief Kenneth Sheehan."

Among other documents received from East Newark in response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request were letters from 2013 and 2014 indicating that Tomasko "took a voluntary demotion rather than going through with the rest of the discipline."

The case is captioned Arias v. East Newark, Docket No. HUD-L-2155-12. Case documents, including those pertaining Foreman's attorney fee claim and the voluntary demotion, are on-line here.

None of Arias's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $101,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by East Newark, Tomasko or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that East Newark or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Arias $101,000 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, November 4, 2014

Morris-Union Jointure Commission pays $60,000 to settle termination suit filed by teacher who alleged "improper touching" of a student.

On June 2, 2014, the Morris-Union Jointure Commission agreed to pay $60,000 to a Teacher Assistant who claimed she was fired after reporting that a male Teacher Assistant may have improperly touched a 9-year-old male student with Down Syndrome.

In her suit, Jeanine Somerville said that she was "abruptly terminated" from her Teacher Assistant position at the Commission's Union facility on June 30, 2011 even though her work had received good performance reviews.  She alleges that her termination was really caused by her report that another Teacher Assistant, Arthur Ciccione, may have acted inappropriately when taking a nine-year old autistic boy to the restroom on March 22, 2011.  Given that the student was non-verbal, he had scheduled restroom breaks.

According to the complaint, Somerville told Ciccione that the student stands when urinating and sits only if he "needs to poop."  Somerville returned to the restroom some time later and "noticed the child was sitting on the toilet and the Assistant's hand and wrist were out of eyesight under the child's testicles and buttocks area."  Somerville said that she was "alarmed at what she saw and asked the Assistant 'did he poop?'" According to the lawsuit, Ciccione "pulled his hand from under the child smoothly and with ease and stated in response, 'he was gaseous.'"  She noted that Ciccione was not wearing gloves and that there was no bowel movement in the toilet.

On March 24, 2011, Somerville said that she reported the matter to school principal Andrea Marmolegos and vice principal Kristen Szawan complied with their instruction to put her complaint in writing.  The next day, she claims she was "interrogated" by Superintendent Kim B. Coleman who asked her about her relationship with Ciccione, whether the two saw each other socially and if they were intimate.  She said she was called into the office on May 6, 2011 and given a termination letter effective June 30, 2011 which cited the reason for her termination as "economy and efficiency."

Also named in the suit was Business Administrator Susan Yaniro.

The case is captioned Somerville v. Morris-Union Jointure Commission, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. UNN-L-2336-12 and Somerville's attorney was Theodore Campbell of New Brunswick.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Somerville's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $60,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Morris-Union Jointure Commission or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that the Commission or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Somerville $60,000 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, October 28, 2014

Bridgeton pays $19,500 to settle lawsuit by woman who was arrested twice for same offense.

On September 18, 2013, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $19,500 to a local woman who sued the City's police department and municipal court for failing to note in their computer systems that she had already posted bail, causing her to be arrested and processed twice for the same offense.  The Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office, which was also named in the lawsuit, separately paid $3,000 to the woman.

In her suit, Cynthia Izquierdo said that on June 9, 2010, she was arrested by Bridgeton Police Officer Ronald Broomall.  After posting bail, she alleges that her bail was "never been properly docketed in the computer system" causing Broomall to re-arrest her on August 10, 2010 for the "exact same charges for which she was already arrested and processed."  She claimed that after learning of the mistake, Ronald Cuff of the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office and Bridgeton Police Lieutenant James Battavio visited her and acknowledged the error.  She claimed that the charges against her were later dismissed.

The case is captioned Izquierdo v. City of Bridgeton, et al, Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-516-12 and Izquierdo's attorney was Arthur J. Murray of Vineland.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Izquierdo's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $19,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bridgeton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bridgeton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Izquierdo $19,500 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, October 17, 2014

Bridgeton pays $530,000 to settle police racial profiling and excessive force suit.

On November 19, 2010, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $442,500 to a local man who sued members of the Bridgeton Police Department for allegedly beating him and fabricating charges against him. In addition, the city also paid $87,500 to the man's two co-plaintiffs.

In his suit, Thomas Bard, along with co-plaintiff's Donald Thomas and Jay Hall, all of whom are African-American, alleged generally that the Bridgeton Police Department "entered into a conspiracy to deprive minority residents of the City of Bridgeton of their civil rights under a pretext of combating drug trafficking and 'gang activity.'"  According to the lawsuit, Bridgeton Police had a long history of routinely profiling racial minorities and targeting them for motor vehicle stops, arrests without probable cause and physical assaults.  $442,500 was paid to Plaintiff Thomas Bard. and the city's insurer confirmed that co-plaintiffs Donald Thomas and Jay Hall, Jr were paid $7,500 and $80,000 respectively.

Plaintiff Donald Thomas alleged that on Christmas, December 25, 2008, while at a scene where his aunt was fatally shot, was forcibly pushed by Officer John Sloboda, who is white.  Sloboda allegedly raised his baton and told Thomas that "I'm going to f--- you up."  Although the assembled crowd's reaction caused Sloboda to not follow through on this alleged threat, Thomas alleged that while in municipal court a few months later, Sloboda gave him a summons for driving with a suspended license on a previous date.  Thomas alleged that this was harassment.  He also alleged that Sloboda continued to go out of his way to harass him and that another officer, B. McGuigan, told him: "You're the bulls eye, you're the target, the Bridgeton Police Department is going to kill you."

Plaintiff Thomas Bard, who has a mental impairment, claimed that on May 8, 2009 his mother called police because "her son was acting up and she needed assistance to get him back in the house."  Officers J. Crokus and David Sockriter responded but reportedly quickly lost interest in Bard and instead decided to investigate another man named Stephen Jefferies.  According to the complaint, Crokus and Sockriter followed Jefferies as he crossed a street in the middle of the block and threatened to arrest him for jaywalking.

At this point, the complaint alleges, Bard approached and protested the officers' treatment of Jefferies.  This allegedly resulted in Sockriter hitting Bard with his baton and Crokus macing him.  Sockriter's assault was alleged to be so vicious that another officer, named Kirkbride, had to restrain him.  The complaint alleged that still another officer, Deena Bertolini, had to stop Sockriter from staging another confrontation with Bard so that he could punch him in the face in order to provide cover for the injuries Bard suffered in the first encounter.

Meanwhile, Kirkbride reportedly informed Sergeant Donald Long that Sockriter had actually assaulted Bard, but "Long failed to remove Sockriter from the case and allowed him to complete the processing of the false charges against Thomas Bard which ultimately caused Bard to be placed in jail with a high bail and left there until May 14, 2009."

Plaintiff Jay Hall, Jr. claimed that he was walking in his neighborhood at 11 p.m. on November 5, 2009 when Officers Nicholas Scrivani and David Ringer pulled up and "instituted a 'pedestrian stop' for jaywalking."  Three more police units allegedly arrived shortly thereafter carrying officers William S. Deininger, Thomas A. Garofolo, Shane D. Morgan, Wayne Miller, Jr. and Donald J. Young.  One of the officers, after accusing Hall of providing a false name, allegedly "put on leather gloves and began pounding his fist into his hand" while complaining that "things had been boring that night and they were looking for some action."  Hall, fearing that he would be beaten, allegedly ran away.  The officers allegedly chased Hall down and handcuffed him.  The the officers, joined by Officer C. Blackburn, allegedly punched and kicked Hall even though he was handcuffed and offered no resistance. The officers allegedly "then dragged him face down across the ground to a police car and forcefully pushed him into the rear seat."

All three plaintiffs allege that they attempted to file Internal Affairs complaints against the officers involved but that those complaints were not taken seriously.

Also named in the suit were Bridgeton Police Chief Mark W. Ott, the Mayor and Bridgeton City Council and business administrator, Cumberland County Prosecutor Ronald Casella, First Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth A. Pagliughi and Bridgeton Police officials Burl Kimble and John Battavio

The case is captioned Bard v. Bridgeton, Federal Case No. 1:10-ov-03831 and Bard's attorney was F. Michael Daily of Westmont.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, in which Bard promised to "not take any action to affirmatively notify the news media of
the resolution of this matter."  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 Bard's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $442,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bridgeton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bridgeton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bard $442,500 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, October 3, 2014

Mercer County Community College pays $275,000 to settle ADA lawsuit.

On September 23, 2014, the Mercer County Community College agreed to pay $275,000 to a former assistant professor who alleged that the college deprived her of rights accorded by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The college also agreed to pay the costs of mediation and to give a neutral reference to future employers.

In her suit, Monique S. Simon, who was hired by the college as an Assistant Professor of Communications in July 2006, was known to have Active Epstein Barr Virus prior to her hiring but also fell victim to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in August of 2008.  Despite her illness, Simon claimed to have met or exceeded her performance expectations and took on the additional posts of Department Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty Liaison.  After she found herself to be excessively fatigued, she said that she asked Dean Judith Ehresman if she could, because of her illness, step down from the Coordinator and Liaison posts and work exclusively in her teaching position.

In a later meeting with Ehresman and Human Resources Director Eileen Curristine, Simon alleged that she was told that she was required to continue serving in her Coordinator and Liaison positions.  She said she was given the option of resigning her Assistant Professor position and work exclusively as Coordinator and Liaison.  The colleges unwillingness to accommodate her disability, Simon claimed, caused her to file a union grievance in which she prevailed.

She claimed that as her disease worsened, Curristine said "I don't know what you want us to do about it." Simon alleged that the college administration embarked on a "campaign of relation" against her and that "Dean Ehresman did not recommend Simon's re-appointment for the 2009-2010 school year."

The case is captioned Simon v. Mercer County Community College, Federal Case No. 3:10-cv-0550 and Simon's attorney was Jamison M. Mark of Basking Ridge.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Simon's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $275,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Mercer or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Mercer or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Simon $275,000 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.

Lacey secretly pays $10,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit.

On July 16, 2014, the Township of Lacey (Ocean County) agreed to pay $10,000 to three brothers who sued members of the Lacey Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force, falsely arresting them and searching their premises without a warrant.

In their suit, Daniel, John and Joseph Samoles said that on May 27, 2010, police were called after Bessie A. Patten "attempted to extort money from Plaintiff Daniel Samoles at gunpoint."  Daniel said that he called police after disarming Patten and that Officers Brian Flynn, Adam Ewart, Gerald Noda, Paul Sullivan, Thomas Bruce, James Veltri and James Wood arrived at the residence.  The officers, with guns drawn, ordered the brothers out of the house and told them to get on their knees and raise their hands.  The men, who claimed that their home security camera recorded the event, said that the officers arrested them and applied excessive force even though the brothers complied with all police commands.  The brothers said that the officers then went into the house without a warrant and searched the family's personal belongings.  They also claimed that $2,000 was stolen.

Also named in the suit were Lacey Police Chief William Nally along with Michael DiBella.

The case is captioned Samoles v. Lacey, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-03066 and Samoles's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 the Samoles brothers' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lacey or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lacey or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Samoles brothers $10,000 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.

Seaside Heights secretly pays $25,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On August 4, 2014, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a Voorhees woman who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for allegedly assaulting her and applying excessive force.

In her suit, Nicole A. Lamb said that on August 5, 2012, she and her family were in a parking lot loading thier car after a visit to Seaside Heights.  A woman whose car Lamb apparently scratched confronted her which led to a physical altercation between the two women.  When Officers Erik Hershey and Daniel Bloomquist arrived on scene, they allegedly "assaulted her without justification and with excessive force" and brought her to the police station where she was charged with simple assault and resisting arrest.

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

The case is captioned Lamb v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:13-ov-04715 and Lamb's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Lamb'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 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 Lamb $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.

Seaside Heights secretly pays $20,000 to settle police excessive force suit.

On July 10, 2014, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $20,000 to a Sussex County man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for applying excessive force.

In his suit, Josiah Dominski said that on July 1, 2012, he was standing outside the Bamboo Bar just after closing time trying to call a friend with whom he lost contact while inside the bar.  He said that Officers Zachary Rhein and Justin Heffernan told him to leave.  Dominski alleged that when he tried to explain that he was calling his friend, the two officers assaulted him without justification and applied excessive force upon him.

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

The case is captioned Dominski v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 13-cv-4967 and Dominski's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Dominski's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $20,000 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 Dominski $20,000 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.

Tuckerton pays $28,500 to settle police excessive force suit. Gag order imposed.

On September 9, 2014, the Borough of Tuckerton (Ocean County) agreed to pay $28,500 to a local man who sued members of the Tuckerton Police Department for allegedly using excessive force against him during a domestic disturbance call.

In his suit, Michael Quintenz said that on April 8, 2010, Tuckerton Officers Joseph Luna, Justin Cherry, John Sanzari and Brian Olsen responded to his home for a domestic disturbance.  Once there, he claims that the officers "assaulted him without justification and with excessive force."  No further details on the type of force or injuries received is disclosed.

Also named in the suit was Tuckerton Police Chief Michael Caputo.  The settlement agreement provides that if the media asks Quintenz about the suit, "he shall simply state that the matter is resolved and dismissed and that he has no further comment."

The case is captioned Quintenz v. Tuckerton, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-01970 and Quintenz's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Quintenz's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $28,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Tuckerton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Tuckerton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Quintenz $28,500 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, October 1, 2014

Seaside Heights secretly pays $500,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On August 1, 2014, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $500,000 to a Toms River man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for allegedly using excessive force against him causing a back injury.

In his suit, George Hatze said that on July 4, 2012, he and his family were on the boardwalk to watch the fireworks when Officer Robert MacFarlane "ran his bicycle into" his family "including his 8 year old daughter."  When Hatze asked MacFarlane why he hit his family with his bicycle, MacFarlane allegedly denied it and told him that "this is not a family place."  Then other officers, identified in the complaint as John Does 1-5, arrived and allegedly maced Hatze and kneed him in the back.  Hatze claimed that he "was diagnosed with a compression fracture in his back which may require surgery to repair."

Other than MacFarlane, Officers Thomas Boyd; Stephen Korman, James Hans, and Richard Roemmele were named in the original complaint. By order of the court, the complaint was amended in April 2013 to add Officers Vincent Capette, Russell Moeller, Richard Novotny, and Joseph Vargavic as defendants.

The case is captioned Hatze v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. :12-cv-06067 and Hatze's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Hatze's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $500,000 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 Hatze $500,000 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.

Roselle Park secretly pays $35,000 to settle police illegal search lawsuit

On June 17, 2014, the Borough of Roselle Park (Union County) agreed to pay $35,000 to three men who jointly sued members of the Roselle Park Police Department for lying about having a search warrant and illegally entering a dwelling.

In their claims, Phillip Szabo, James Redington and Mark Salerno said that on December 9, 2012 Roselle Park Police Officers Alexander Lanza, Gregory Polakoski, Vathianakis Kostantinos Peter Picarelli and Michael Bell gained entry to a home "by a deliberate and blatant lie to the effect that said officers were armed with a search warrant, which subsequent discovery proved beyond all reasonable doubt was completely false."  The event was allegedly captured on video.

According to the claims, Szabo was arrested for a marijuana possession claim which was later dismissed.  Of the $35,000, $25,000 went to Szabo and $5,000 went to each Redington and Salerno.

The case is captioned Szabo, Redington and Salerno v. Roselle Park, Federal Case No. 2:13-cv-05022 and Szabo, Redington and Salerno were represented by Ronald Esposito of Union.  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 Szabo, Redington and Salerno's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $35,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Roselle Park or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Roselle Park or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Szabo, Redington and Salerno $35,000 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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

State Police pay $25,000 to settle excessive force suit.

On September 10, 2014, the New Jersey State Police agreed to pay $25,000 to a Jersey City man who claimed that a State Trooper choked him without justification.

In his suit, Joshua Agosto said that on June 29, 2012 he was arrested and charged with drunk driving and several traffic violations.  He said that while at the police station Trooper Damien Joseph choked him without justification.

The case is captioned Agosto v. Joseph, Federal Case No. 2:13-cv-00667 and Agosto's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line

None of Agosto'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 State Police or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that State Police or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Agosto $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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Police sergeant retires as part of a secret settlement with the City of Bridgeton

On April 30, 2014, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) and Bridgeton Police Sergeant Steven Corey settled Corey's November 14, 2013 appeal of a disciplinary action taken against him.  The reasons underlying the disciplinary action were not disclosed.  The settlement document is on-line here.

According to the handwritten "terms and conditions" attached to the settlement agreement, the City agreed to rescind Corey's October 29, 2013 termination and place him on administrative leave until he retired on July 1, 2014.  The City also agreed to reinstate his health benefits, provide him with back pay from his date of termination through to the date of the agreement and reduce a 30-day suspension to an administrative rule regulation.  The agreement provides that Corey may retire sooner than July 1, 2014 if such was approved by the pension board.

As his part of the agreement, Corey promised to never again work in law enforcement in Bridgeton, except for as a school board security monitor, not to apply to Bridgeton for a firearms identification card and to waive any accumulated personal and vacation time.

Apparently concerned about adverse publicity, thee agreement also states that "neither party shall release information to the media."  The settlement is contingent upon approval by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.  As of this writing, I have not obtained information from the Commission as to whether approval was granted.

This appeal is not Corey's first litigation with the City.  According to a December 2, 2010 article in the South Jersey Times, Corey received a $75,000 settlement for his claim that "he was kidnapped from a local pub by former by former chief Jeff Wentz and a former police lieutenant and involuntarily confined to a psychiatric ward in 2006."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Updated: Perth Amboy school board secretly pays $45,000 to settle secretary's suit over illegal booze business in school.

Correction: I have discovered the that $45,000 settlement did not go to Susan Nieves.  A closer reading showed that it went to Linda Nagy, who was apparently named as a third-party in the lawsuit by Principal Alvaro Cores.  It was Nagy, not Nieves, who received the $45,000 and had disciplinary letters removed from her files under the settlement agreement.
 I am currently attempting to track down other court filings in order to determine the outcome of this lawsuit. 
I regret this error.
On July 21, 2014, the Board of Education of Perth Amboy (Middlesex County) agreed to pay $45,000 to a school secretary who claimed she was retaliated against after reporting that a secretary in the Dr. Herbert Richardson School was running an illegal alcohol sales and distribution business in the main office of a public elementary school."

In her suit, Susan Nieves said in mid-November 2011 elementary school secretary Hector Muniz advertised "that he was a 'mixologist' that was selling mixed drinks for the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years holidays."  According to the lawsuit, Nieves witnessed "parents and staff purchasing bottles of coquito and other mixed drinks were offered at Muniz's desk."  (Coquito is an alcoholic beverage usually made with rum and coconut milk.)  She claimed that Principal Alvaro Cores and Vice-Principal Karen Moffatt both publicly purchased bottle of coquito during the school day.

When she reported the alleged alcohol sales, Nieves claimed that Cores and Moffatt retaliated against her by issuing her bogus reprimands.  Her suit claims that Superintendent Janine Cafferty was an "aider and abetter" of the retaliation.  As part of the settlement, certain disciplinary letters from her personnel file.

The case is captioned Nieves v. Perth Amboy Board of Education, Superior Court Docket No. SOM-L-925-12 and Nieves's attorney was Stephen E. Klausner of Manville.  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 Nieves's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $45,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Perth Amboy or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Perth Amboy or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Nieves $45,000 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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

State pays $5,000 to settle State Trooper excessive force suit.

On April 28, 2014, the New Jersey State Police agreed to pay $5,000 to an African-American man who claimed that State Troopers maced, beat and directed racial slurs at him.

In his suit, Twann Hamilton said that on June 23, 2009, he was stopped by State Troopers Craig Kempinski and Robert Sickles in Bedminster Township, Somerset County. When Hamilton asked the Troopers "If I am not under arrest, why should I get out of my car?" he alleged that he was maced, pulled out of the car and had his head slammed into the pavement.  While this was happening, he claimed that one of the Troopers said "stupid n-----, see what you get."  Also named in the suit were Troopers Kesene (Mowatt) Grier and Gary Monterosso who Hamilton claimed also participated in the event.

The case is captioned Hamilton v. State, Docket No. SOM-L-974-11 and Hamilton's attorney was Jamison M. Mark of Basking Ridge.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Hamilton's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $5,000 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 Hamilton $5,000 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.

Bridgeton school board secretly pays $40,000 to settle paraplegic's discrimination suit.

On January 29, 2014, the Bridgeton Board of Education (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $40,000 to a "paraplegic who is absent both legs" who sued the Bridgeton school board for discriminating against him by refusing to hire him for a full time position.

In his suit, Adrian Garrett, who served as a substitute teacher since 2009, said that he had applied for multiple full-time positions with the Bridgeton school district but was not offered any position or even an interview.  He claimed that the district's Affirmative Action Officer, Tyrone Williams, said that Garrett "would probably not get the position because [the district] needed someone who could 'get around.'"  He claimed to have also been denied positions as truancy officer and teachers aide.  He claimed that the teachers aide position that he applied for was filled by Elizabeth Cartagena, who Garrett claimed was less qualified than he.

The case is captioned Garrett v. Bridgeton Board of Education, Docket No. CUM-L-329-13 and Garrett's attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel.  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 Garrett's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $40,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bridgeton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bridgeton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Garrett $40,000 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, September 18, 2014

State pays $60,000 to settle investigator's whistleblower lawsuit.

On April 27, 2014, the State of New Jersey agreed to pay $60,000 to a former investigator for the State's Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission (LGCCC) who claimed that state officials retaliated against him because he stood in the way of an application made by a private company that had "contributed using various means and methods to the campaigns or political war chest of Governor Christie."  As part of the settlement, the former investigator agreed to tender his "irrevocable resignation" from his position.

In his suit, Scott Jenkins, who worked for the LGCCC since 2005, said that Dave & Busters, a private company that provides food, drink and arcade games to the public, petitioned the LGCCC for a waiver from the State's rule of not allowing alcoholic beverages to be served to customers in close proximity where arcade games of chance are being played.  Jenkins said that he reported to the LGCCC members both verbally and in writing that such a waiver would violate state law.  But, according to the suit, Dave & Busters is a contributor to Governor Christie's campaign.  Because of this, Jenkins argued, "Governor Christie has made it clear . . . that he supports the D&B proposal, and that it must be passed whether it is lawful or not lawful to do so."

More generally, Jenkins claimed that officials at the LGCCC "are motivated by a desire to aid businesses make a bigger profit in the legalized games industry, to aid Governor Christie gain political allies and political contributions in order to support his gubernatorial campaign and his national campaign to be become President of the United States in 2016."

He claimed that the Governor's staff directed Eric Kanefsky, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, to bar Jenkins from speaking to Commission members "in order to effectuate a successful result in the D&B licensing application."

Jenkins also argued that on December 15, 2011, Governor Christie, "in a cloak and dagger act," appointed Steven P. Layman to the Commission so that Layman could "use the power of his Commission seat to further his efforts to engage in political warfare with persons in Margate's Town government."  According to a January 22, 2014 article in the Press of Atlantic City, Layman formerly served as Mayor of Hainesport Township in Burlington County.  Part of Layman's goal, the lawsuit alleged, was to "punish his political adversaries," which included Margate City Clerk Thomas Hiltner.  Hiltner has his own whistleblower suit against Margate.

Jenkins claimed that he has been denigrated and mocked by his superiors, "walled off" from the LGCCC and that his "future with the LGCCC is finished."

The case is captioned Jenkins v. New Jersey, Essex County Superior Court Docket No. ESX-L-7544-13 and Jenkins' attorney was Eric V. Kleiner of Englewood Cliffs.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Jenkins's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $60,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by New Jersey or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that New Jersey or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Jenkins $60,000 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.

Pleasantville school board secretly pays $30,000 to former teacher who claimed retaliation.

On April 8, 2014, the Pleasantville Board of Education (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $30,000 to a former special education teacher who sued the Board for refusing to renew her contract in retaliation against her for reporting that the Board was not making required pension contributions.

In her suit, Sandra Smith said that in 2010 she told school business administrator Dennis Mulvihill, union president Mark Delcher and comptroller Elijah Tompkins about the board's alleged failure to make the required pension contributions.  She also claimed to have filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Law on September 20, 2010.  She said that she then received a non-renewal notice effective June 30, 2011.

The case is captioned Smith v. Pleasantville Board of Education, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-9823-11 and Smith's attorney was Louis M. Barbone of Atlantic City.  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 Smith's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $30,000 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 Smith $30,000 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 16, 2014

Paulsboro pays $60,000 to secretly settle police excessive force suit

On August 19, 2014, the Borough of Paulsboro (Gloucester County) agreed to pay $60,000 to three brothers who sued members of the Paulsboro Police Department for allegedly beating and applying excessive force against them. Under the agreement, each brother is to receive $10,000 and their lawyer is to receive $10,000.

In their suit, Artavius, Eltereake and Shavon Mears said that on May 5, 2011, Eltereake was walking his baby in a stroller when Paulsboro Police Officers Vernon Marino and Gary Kille "jumped out of a police car in pursuit of another person."  While doing so, the officers allegedly falsely accused Eltereake of blocking their path.  They allegedly took him to the police station, beat him and refused to provide him with medical treatment.

After hearing that their brother was being held by police, Artavius and Shavon went to the station where they were confronted by Kille, Marino and Chief Francis Grogan who allegedly refused to give them any information concerning Eltereake and directed "denigrating racial remarks" toward them. After Artavius and Shavon left the station, Grogan allegedly instructed Kille and Marino "to arrest or in some fashion detain and assault" them.  This reportedly caused Artavius and Shavon to be "beaten" by Kille and Marino.  The brothers also accuse police of tampering with a video that captured the alleged beating of Artavius and Shavon.

The case is captioned the Mears v. Paulsboro, Federal Case No. 1:13-cv-02894 and the Mears brothers' attorney was William H. Buckman of Moorestown.  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 the Mears brothers's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $60,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Paulsboro or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Paulsboro or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Mears brothers $60,000 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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

New Jersey Transit pays $3,500 to settle passenger's case against allegedly abusive and anti-Semitic bus driver.

On October 15, 2013, the New Jersey Transit Corporation agreed to pay $3,500 to an Atlantic City woman who said that a bus driver screamed and directed obscenities and anti-Semitic slurs at her.

In her suit, Bunny Shore said that on December 14, 2009, she boarded an Atlantic City bound bus in Philadelphia when an unidentified bus driver yelled at her to to get off bus and buy a ticket from the machine."  The driver allegedly yelled that "degenerate gamblers are all the same" and "those Jews are all alike, liar, thief, degenerate."  She said that the incident caused her to suffer severe emotional distress, post traumatic stress disorder and depressive disorder.

The case is captioned Shore v. New Jersey Transit, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-10325-11 and Shore's attorney was Thomas F. Reynolds of Northfield.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Shore's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $3,500  payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by New Jersey Transit or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that New Jersey Transit or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Shore $3,500  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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Buena pays $75,000 to settle Clerk's whistleblower lawsuit.

On May 7, 2014, the Borough of Buena (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $75,000 to its Borough Clerk who sued the Borough for retaliating against her when she complained about "unlawful activities" by the Borough's Chief Financial Officer.

In her suit, Maryann Coraluzzo said that Buena Borough subjected her to "variety of adverse and retaliatory employment actions" after she had complained about the Chief Financial Officer's alleged "unlawful falsification of public documents" and violations of public bidding regulations.  She said that she was suspended without notice or cause, forced to undergo a fitness for duty examination, ostracized and was made the subject of non-meritorious complaints to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

In addition to the $75,000, the Borough also agreed to "remove an disciplinary documentation from her personnel file, including any correspondence to the
DCA."

The case is captioned Coraluzzo v. Buena, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-407-13 and Coraluzzo's attorney was Richard M. Pescatore of Vineland.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Coraluzzo's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $75,000 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 Coraluzzo $75,000 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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bergen Community College pays $5,500 to secretly settle employee's defamation suit

On January 24, 2014, the Bergen Community College agreed to pay $5,500 to its former Public Safety Officer who sued college officials for allegedly defaming her in communications with a future employer.

In her suit, Laura Hofsommer said that a medical condition caused her to fall asleep during work hours while working as the Bergen Community College's Public Safety Officer.  She claimed that despite her attempts to explain her medical condition to College officials Marie Jardine and William Corcoran, she was terminated from her position in 2009.

Hofsommer further claimed that she received a job offer in 2012 to work as a dispatcher for the Ridgefield Park Police Department.  She claimed that Corcoran and Jardine "made comments and representations to" the Ridgefield Police regarding her employment at the college "that were untrue and/or, if said representations were truthful in nature, intentionally omitted and/or failed to provide all circumstances surrounding Plaintiff's termination of employment."

It is unclear from Hofsommer's complaint whether or not the comments Corcoran and Jardine allegedly made caused the Ridgefield Park Police to not hire her.

The case is captioned Hofsommer v. Bergen Community College, Bergen County Superior Court Docket No. BER-L-5390-12 and Hofsommer's attorney was Robert A. Tandy of Montvale.  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 Hofsommer's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $5,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bergen or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bergen or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hofsommer $5,500 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 5, 2014

Perth Amboy school board secretly settles with former superintendent for $184,000.

On August 29, 2014, I blogged an entry entitled "Thirteen recent ethics cases against Perth Amboy school board members" concerning several school ethics matters filed by former Perth Amboy school superintendent Janine Walker Caffrey and former elementary school principal Alvaro J. Cores against members of the Board of Education.

In my blog, I noted that there were two other ethics matters, bearing Case Nos. ECC-11709-13 and ECC-00806-14 that had been " withdrawn by agreement of all parties in anticipation of settlement or mediation."  I promised to submit an additional OPRA request for records pertaining to those two cases.

Today, September 5, 2014, I was informed by business administrator Derek Jess that no records were found for Case No. ECC-00806-14 but that Case No. ECC-11709-13 had "settled."  Mr. Jess provided me with the complaint and settlement agreement, which I have placed on-line here.

According to its terms, the Board agreed to have its insurer pay $184,000 to settle claim Caffrey "may have against . . . any and all past or present board members of the Perth Amboy Board of Education from the beginning of time to a time to the date of this Agreement."  Of that amount, $121,033.33 went to Caffrey and the other $62,966 went to her lawyer, Alan Schorr, Esq.

In exchange, Caffrey agreed "not to voluntarily testify" in any of the ethics matters noted in my previous blog entry and to "advise the School Ethics Commission in writing that she believes that this Agreement is sufficient to resolve all the ethics claims she had originally instituted including those now prosecuted by the School Ethics Commission."

Caffrey further agreed to withdraw her ethics complaints, move out of Perth Amboy and not make any statements regarding her employment with the school district.  For each violation of this non-disclosure agreement, Caffrey agreed to pay the school district $10,000.