Monday, November 23, 2015

Tinton Falls Borough pays $527,500 to settle police lieutenant's whistleblower lawsuit.

John A. Scrivanic
Tinton Falls Police Chief
On July 7, 2015, the Borough of Tinton Falls (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $527,500 to a retired police lieutenant who claimed he was disciplined and harassed out of his position for reporting a police sergeant's alleged theft to the county prosecutor.

In his suit, Kevin Pierson said that in or about 2008 he reported Sergeant (now Lieutenant) David Scrivanic to the Monmouth County Prosecutor's office for "knowingly and illegally placing a device on his home water pipes to divert water for his personal use without charge."  Pierson's report allegedly caused the prosecutor to direct "the Tinton Falls Police Department to institute a major disciplinary action against Scrivanic."

But, according to Pierson, instead of disciplining Scrivanic, the Borough disciplined him for reporting Scrivanic's alleged activities to the prosecutor.  Upon learning of Tinton Falls' actions against Pierson, the prosecutor allegedly threatened to take over the Tinton Falls Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit unless the disciplinary charges against Pierson were withdrawn.  After Tinton Falls withdrew the charges, former Chief (now Mayor) Gerald M. Turing, current Chief John A. Scrivanic (David's brother) and David Scrivanic, along with other Borough officials, allegedly "began to engage in repeated retaliatory and harassing conduct directed towards" Pierson.  Among the specific instances of retaliation cited by Pierson are being passed over for overtime, withholding information, denying training opportunities, filing Internal Affairs complaints against him and tampering with his computer. Pierson also claimed that the same officials harassed his brother, Craig Pierson, who is also a police officer.

According to Paragraph 62 of his complaint, on August 19, 2014, Pierson entered into an agreement with the Borough under which he would retire and agreed to accept a written reprimand on one of the Internal Affairs charges brought against him.

The case is captioned Pierson v. Tinton Falls Borough et al, Monmouth County Superior Court Docket No. MON-L-377-13 and Pierson's attorney was Richard P. Flaum of Warren.  The case documents are on-line here.

None of Pierson's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $527,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Tinton Falls or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Tinton Falls or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Pierson $527,500 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.