Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Longport Borough pays $70,000 to settle police lieutenant's whistleblower claim.

On December 23, 2014, the Borough of Longport (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $70,000 to settle a Borough police lieutant's lawsuit claiming that he was retaliated against for raising questions about the department's sale of a machine gun magazine.

In his complaint, William Hewitt, who started with the Borough police department in 1989 and ultimately became a lieutenant, alleged that he was retaliated against after complaining that a rare, Thompson Sub-Machine Gun drum magazine that was held in the department's arsenal inventory, was sold for less than market value and without notice to the Longport Borough Council.  He claimed that he also was retaliated after he put in for 18 hours of overtime for being "on call" when he was acting as a temporary replacement in 2011 for the police chief during the chief's absence.

He claimed that the retaliation took several forms, including being denied access to the departmental computers, being forced out his positions of Range Master and Firearms instructor and being assigned to the oldest vehicle in the department's fleet.

According to DataUniverse, Hewitt retired in 2015 at a final salary of $113,800 and is collecting an annual pension of $75,392.

The case is captioned Hewitt v. Longport,Borough, et al, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-2087-14 and Hewitt's attorney was Todd J. Gelfand of Voorhees.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Hewitt's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Longport or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hewitt $70,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision 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 resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.