Thursday, April 23, 2015

Millstone pays $375,000 to settle two whistleblower lawsuits.

On March 4, 2015, the Township of Millstone (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $375,000 to two former Township Department of Public Works employees who claimed that they were fired after reporting other DPW employees' "unlawful conduct."

In separate lawsuits, Ronald Anderson and Mark Philpot said that that things went bad at the DPW after Jeffrey Hawk and Jack Guyette were hired.  Hawk allegedly boasted that he was then Mayor (now municipal council member) Nancy A. Grbelja's "boy" with whom he had a "close personal relationship." Each plaintiff settled for $187,500.

According to the complaints, Hawk, Guyette and a third employee, Ryan Elsbree, were shown "favoritism" such as being exempt from routine random drug testing.  The complaints allege that Hawk would fail to appear at assignments without telling anyone and smoked marijuana on the job.  Hawk also allegedly did personal chores for Grbelja during work hours and while using Township vehicles.

The cases are captioned Anderson v. Millstone et al, Docket No. MON-L-5222-11 and Philpot v. Millstone et al, Docket No. MON-L-5950-10 and both men's attorney was Stephan T. Mashal of Morganville.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Anderson's or Philpot's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $375,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Millstone or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Millstone or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Anderson and Philpot $375,000 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.