Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Perth Amboy school board confidentially pays $48,500 to settle another racial discrimination lawsuit.

On November 19, 2015, the Perth Amboy Board of Education (Middlesex County) quietly paid $48,500 to settle its former transportation manager's lawsuit that claimed that Board members non-reviewed his contract because they were heavily biased in favor of hiring Hispanics. The lawsuit is very similar to the one filed by Bernice Marshall that resulted in a $170,000 settlement and was recently reported by New Jersey Civil Settlements.

In his suit, Edmund Treadaway, who is Caucasian,, said that Board members "openly stated they sought to hire only individuals of Latino or Hispanic descent."  In one instance, Board Member Samuel Lebreault allegedly stated, "[i]f it were up to me, and there were 88 positions in the school district, all 88 positions would be filled by Dominicans."

Treadaway claimed that he was told by several people that "his employment was in jeopardy because the Board of Education wanted to replace him because he was not Hispanics or Latino."  According to the lawsuit, the Board of Education voted to non-renew Treadaway's reappointment effective June 30, 2014.  The settlement agreement calls for the Board to give a "neutral job reference" to Treadaway's prospective employers.

Named in the suit were Acting Superintendent Vivian Rodriguez and individual Board members Obdulia Gonzalez, Israel Varela, Milady Tejeda, Samuel Lebreault, and Business Administrator Derek Jess.

The case is captioned Treadaway v. Perth Amboy Board of Education, et al, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. MID-L-5622-14 and Treadaway's attorney was Christopher M. Leddy of Freehold.  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 Treadaway'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 the Perth Amboy school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Treadaway $48,500 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.