Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perth Amboy pays $15,000 to settle breach of contract suit filed by former city official.

On April 9, 2014, the City of Perth Amboy (Middlesex County) resolved to pay $15,000 to its former Executive Director of General Government who sued the City in 2012 for failing or refusing to pay her incremental pay increases that were set forth in her contract.

In her suit, Helga Van Eckert, who now resides in Palm Coast, Florida, said that she worked as the City's Executive Director of General Government, as well as Executive Director of the Perth Amboy Redevelopment Agency, since 2000.  She claimed that during her final four year contract, which covered 2008 through 2012, she had negotiated for "percentage pay increases over her base salary" which were never paid by the City.  She also alleged that during the contract Mayor Wilda Diaz asked her to take on additional responsibilities in exchange for an additional $10,000 in salary.  She said that she performed the extra work but was never paid the additional $10,000.

The case is captioned Van Eckert v. Perth Amboy, Docket No. MID-L-7542-12 and Van Eckert's attorney was Steven D. Chan of Edison.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Van Eckert's allegations 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 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 Van Eckert $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.