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.