Monday, December 1, 2014

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.