Friday, May 30, 2014

Wildwood pays $75,000 to settle police intimidation and harassment suit.

On May 11, 2008, the City of Wildwood (Cape May County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a local bar owner who sued members of the Wildwood Police Department for allegedly harassing him and his bar patrons and issuing bogus summonses.

In his suit, Michael C. Petaccio, who operated the Fairview Cafe, said that Officer David Romeo and Sergeant Terry Osler entered his bar on two occasions and harassed his customers even though the establishment was operating legally.  In the first instance, Petaccio claimed that Romeo entered his bar on June  of 2004, prior to the mandated 3 a.m. closing time, arrested Frank Miller, the D.J. who was providing music that night and later issued summonses for "playing music at one minute past 3:00 a.m."  Petaccio claimed that he and his bar were ultimately acquitted of the charges.

In an earlier incident, Petaccio complained that Osler, based on an alleged phone call from parents worried that their under aged daughter might be in the bar, entered and started checking identification of both male and female patrons.  He also complained that Romeo, dressed in full uniform and black gloves, would stand outside the bar with his arms crossed apparently in an attempt to intimidate bar customers.

The case is captioned Petaccio v. Wildwood, Federal Case No. 1:06-cv-03587 and Petaccio's attorney was Robert D. Herman of Linwood.  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 Petaccio'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 Wildwood or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Wildwood or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Petaccio $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.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Collingswood and Woodlynne pay $15,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On May 5, 2014, the Boroughs of Collingswood and Woodlynne (Camden County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a Woodlynne man who sued members of the Collingswood Police Department for allegedly assaulting and arresting him without probable cause.

In his suit, Earl Whaley said that on August 25, 2008, he was playing cards with his friends on his front porch in Woodlynne.  He claimed that even though he was creating no disturbance, Police Officer Brian Eidmann falsely stated that a neighbor had filed a noise complaint and told Whaley and his friends to "keep it down."  Whaley claimed that when he "voiced his objections forcefully and with occasional profane word" Eidmann "barged through the closed screen door and onto the screened in porch" and "ripped the chair out from under [Whaley] and then struck him one or more times about the face."  Whaley said he was arrested for disorderly conduct but was later acquitted.

It appears from the lawsuit that Woodlynne contracts its police services out to Collingswood Borough.

The case is captioned Whaley v. Collingswood, Federal Case No. 1:10-cv-04343 and Whaley's attorney was Justin T. Loughry of Camden.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Whaley'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 Collingswood, Woodlynne or any of their officials. All that is known for sure is that Collingswood, Woodlynne or their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Whaley $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, May 22, 2014

Raritan Valley Community College pays $105,000 to settle discrimination and hostile work environment lawsuit

On May 14, 2014, the Raritan Valley Community College (Somerset County) agreed to pay $105,000 to a former employee who claimed that she was subjected to "numerous incidents [of] derogatory, ethnic and racist comments regarding ethnic backgrounds of various employees."

In her suit, Teresa Carreras-Melendi, an administrative assistant first hired by the college in 2009, claimed that her supervisor, Nancy Jordan, who has served as the Dean of Students and Dean of Academic Programs and Partnerships, said such things as "Asians are smarter, Hispanics are typically poor in math, and that an African-American student would probably have to attend a traditionally African-American college."  Jordan also allegedly referred to "certain parts of the population being 'White Trash.'"

After Carreras-Melendi filed a complaint against Jordan with the Human Resources Department, she alleged that she was forced to sign a "self-serving document purporting to exculpate" Jordan.  She said that although she disagreed with the document, she "was threatened and intimidated and informed that plaintiff could not leave the room without signing" it. 

After filing the grievance, Carreras-Melendi alleged that the college administration, including Human Resources Director Nancy Moore, retaliated against her and treated her negatively.  She later complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which ultimately issued a "Notice of Right to Sue." 

The case is captioned Carreras-Melendi v. Raritan Valley Community College, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-03838 and Carreras-Melendi's attorney was Glenn A. Montgomery of Bridgewater.  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 Carreras-Melendi's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $105,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the college or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that the college or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Carreras-Melendi $105,000 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, May 21, 2014

Deptford pays $25,000 to settle EMT's sex discrimination suit

On May 6, 2014, the Township of Deptford (Gloucester County) agreed to pay $25,000 to an Emergency Medical Technician who claimed that the Township's EMT chief made unwelcome sexual advances toward her.  She also claimed that Deptford's attorney, who also serves as Deputy Director of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders, pressured her into resigning.

In her suit, Dawn Law, who worked as a Deptford EMT since 2000, claimed that EMT Deputy Chief David Snyder sent her a text message on October 2, 2012 "propositioning her to engage in a sexual relationship."  Law claimed that the invitation was "unanticipated, unwelcome and unappreciated."  Snyder then allegedly tried to meet with Law for a matter not related to work.

Thereafter, Law claimed she was afraid that she might be forced to work shifts alone with Snyder.  After reporting Snyder's advances to Chief Tom Newman, Snyder was allegedly given a choice between resigning immediately or being suspended pending an investigation.

Then, a few days later, Law was ordered to meet with Deptford Township Solicitor Doug Long.  According to the complaint, Long told Law that "he had conducted a preliminary investigation and decided that the relationship between plaintiff and Mr. Snyder was consensual."  Long allegedly then gave Law a choice between resigning and receiving a check for unpaid sick and vacation time or to "fight Mr. Long and be suspended for 30 days and then terminated."  Law claims that neither she nor her partner, Paul Reyes, were interviewed during Long's alleged investigation.  After declining Long's offer to resign, Law claims that she was suspended from duty from October 25, 2012 to November 19, 2012.

The case is captioned Law v. Township of Deptford, Docket No. GLO-L-1890-12 and Law's attorney was Kevin Costello of Mount Laurel.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Law'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 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 Law $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.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Roselle Park pays $15,000 to settle case alleging a wrongfully issued parking ticket

In an undated agreement, the Borough of Roselle Park (Union County) agreed to pay $15,000 to an Elizabeth woman who sued a Roselle Park Police officer for "illegally, improperly and without probable cause" issuing her a summons for unlawful parking in a space marked for the physically handicapped.

In her suit, and according to an Appellate Division decision, Lorraine Selecky said Officer James Cantrell issued her the summons by mail after Cantrell, while off duty, interjected himself in an "intense argument" that Selecky was having with her 13-year-old daughter as they approached a Redbox video machine outside a 7-Eleven store in Roselle Park.  Cantrell was already at the Redbox machine with his children when Selecky and her daughter approached.  According to the Appellate Division decision, "a heated argument occurred between [Selecky] and Cantrell, either because [Selecky] thought Cantrell's children were taking too long in making their choice or because Cantrell interjected himself in [Selecky's] mother-daughter dispute."

Selecky was convicted of the offense in Roselle Park Municipal Court and the conviction was affirmed by the Law Division of the Union County Superior Court.  It was reversed by the Appellate Division and remanded to a different judge.  The second judge, sitting in Kenilworth, entered "a judgment of acquittal entered upon completion of all the testimony."

The case is captioned Selecky v. Cantrell, Union County Superior Court Docket No. UNN-L-1171-13 and Selecky's attorney was Joel I. Rachmiel of Springfield.  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 Selecky'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 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 Selecky $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.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Neptune pays $660,000 to settle sex discrimination lawsuit

On April 11, 2014, the Township of Neptune (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $660,000 to two female police officers who sued the Township and the Township's police officials for sexual harassment.  Each officer settled for $330,000.

In their suit, Christine Savage and Elena Gonzalez complained that they were discriminated against, denied training opportunities and passed over for promotion because they were female.  The also alleged that Captain Michael Emmons engaged in inappropriate sexually-related speech and conduct such as "gesturing as if he was masturbating and shooting at officers with his penis saying 'Pow, pow, pow'" and announcing in front of Savage, Gonzalez and other officers that he had "fisted" another officer's wife.  They complained that upper level police management, including former Chief Robert Adams and Deputy Chief James Hunt, dismissed their concerns and told them to "get used to it" and "that is the culture here."

The case is captioned Savage and Gonzalez v. Neptune, Monmouth County Superior Court Docket No. L-4899-13 and Savage's and Gonzalez's attorney was Nancy Erika Smith of Montclair.  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 Savage's and Gonzalez's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $660,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Neptune or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Neptune or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Savage and Gonzalez $660,000 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.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weehawken pays $120,000 to settle tax collector's whistleblower suit.

On May 14, 2014, the Township of Weehawken (Hudson County) agreed to pay $120,000 to its former tax collector who had filed a Conscientious Employee Protection Act (i.e. "whistleblower") lawsuit against the Township, Mayor Richard Turner and Manager James Marchetti.

In his suit, Joseph Fredericks, who served as Weehawken's tax collector since 1994, said that Turner would call him into his office "to instruct him as to what amount of taxes to assess for political reasons."  According to a December 24, 2012 Jersey Journal article, Fredericks claimed that "at times when it was politically expedient, Mayor Turner would have me manipulate the collection of garbage levy to advance his political agenda, such as the last May election when minimum garbage levy was collected."  Fredericks also claimed that Marchetti simply shrugged his shoulders and asked "What do you want me to do?" in response to Frederick's complaints.

Frederick claimed that after he reported Turner's alleged wrongdoing to Weehawken Police Lieutenant Richard DeCosmis, Turner retaliated against him by not paying for him to go to a tax collector's conference, not paying him for additional work performed and not giving him the raises that were given to other employees.

The settlement calls for Fredericks to receive a) a $15,000 annual increase in salary retroactive to May 14, 2011 (for a total of $45,000); an additional $30,000 and $45,000 for attorney fees.  Fredericks has agreed to "leave the Township's employment irrevocably on May 14, 2014."

The case is captioned Fredericks v. Weehawken, Federal Case No. 2:11-cv-0536 and Fredericks's attorney was Louis A. Zayas of North Bergen.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Fredericks's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $120,000 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 Fredericks $120,000 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, May 10, 2014

Hackensack pays $50,000 to settle Muslim father's claim that police beat him in front of family and called him a "f***ing terrorist."

On April 15, 2014, the City of Hackensack (Bergen County) agreed to pay $50,000 to a local businessman and his family who sued members of the Hackensack Police Department for excessive force and hate crime violations.

In his suit, Fouad Dakka said that on April 7, 2007, he brought his 11 year old daughter to the Hackensack Police Department at the direction of Detective Tina M. Clouse in order to be processed under a complaint "that some other girl filed against her in retaliation for plaintiff's daughter having filed a complaint against this girl."  He said that because he was Muslim and of Arab descent, he was nervous and arranged to have an attorney be with him during this encounter with police.  Dakka claimed that when he arrived at the police station, he advised Clouse that his attorney was parking his car and would be in the station to accompany them in a moment.

Clouse allegedly "became extremely irate, indicated that she refused to wait even a second for any attorney or for any reason . . . [because] it is Saturday and she was already late for her personal plans for that day."  Dakka alleged that Clouse "lunged forward at" the 11-year-old, grabbed her arm and attempted to pull her into the police department.  Dakka said that he and his daughter were hugging each other protectively while she was being pulled by Clouse. 

At this point, Dakka claimed that Officer Allen Borntrager and Lieutenant Donald J. Lee, Jr. grabbed him and "threw him to the ground in a violent manner, in front of his two minor daughters, his 5 year old son, and his wife."  The officers then allegedly "beat him with arms, knees and legs, forcing his face and body into the ground" and "then picked him up, shoved him into the wall of the outside of the police station and searched him."

Various police officers then allegedly taunted him with statements such as that he was a "typical Arab" and a "f***ing terrorist" and said things such as "this is my house, and we are the boss in our house. This is not no cave in the desert." 

Dakka said that he was charged with Aggravated Assault but was eventually acquitted of the charge.

Also named in the suit was Hackensack Police Captain David B. Walsh.

The case is captioned Dakka v. Hackensack, Federal Case No. 2:09-cv-04564 and Dakka's attorney was Douglas C. Anton 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 Dakka's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $50,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Hackensack or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Hackensack or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Dakka $50,000 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, May 3, 2014

North Brunswick school board pays $20,000 to settle alleged bullying victim's lawsuit.

On June 24, 2013, the North Brunswick Board of Education (Middlesex County) agreed to pay $20,000 to a former North Brunswick High School student and his parents who sued the school's football coach for subjecting him to "bullying and abusive conduct."

In his suit, former student Nicholas Fabian, together with his parents Richard and Dawn Fabian, said that Nicholas was participation in the North Brunswick High School football program in 2009 when football coach Mark Zielinski subjected him to bullying and abuse that was subsequently joined by other players and students.  The family claimed that Superintendent Brian Zacowski and Principal Brian Brochel were aware of the bullying but did not prevent it. The family claimed that the bullying required them to pull Nicholas out of North Brunswick High School and place in him parochial school.

The case is captioned Fabian v. Township of North Brunswick School District, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-05964 and Fabian's attorney was Gregory J. Sullivan of Hamilton.  Case documents are on-line here.

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