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.