Sunday, July 24, 2016

Linwood paid out $400,000 to settle current police chief's and police captain's "whistleblower" and retaliation lawsuit.

On April 5, 2016, the City of Linwood (Atlantic County) agreed to pay a two police officials a total of $400,000 to resolve their whistleblower and retaliation lawsuit against the City.  Of the $400,000, each officer received $143,088.67 and their attorney received $113,822.66.

The lawsuit, filed by then Captain Douglas F. Carman and then Detective Sergeant John A. Hamilton, is long, rambling and difficult to follow.  According to press reports, Carman's and Hamilton's chief complaints were that then Police Chief James Baker retaliated against them because they refused to negotiate with the police union in a manner favorable to Baker and that Baker tried to get them and other officers to falsify deposition testimony to undercut a woman's estate's lawsuit against the City.

The lawsuit also argued that Lieutenant Colin Hickey was appointed as police chief in 2014 even though Carman said he was more qualified.  The lawsuit further alleged that Hickey was being investigated in 2014 by Internal Affairs for making "racially derogatory comments regarding a Hispanic Police Officer" and that Hickey had "acknowledged in a statement under oath that he signed firearm qualification records for former Chief Baker" that claimed that Baker had qualified with his weapon in 2007 when he actually had not.

According to an article in the Current, Carman became police chief and Hamilton became captain in April of 2015.

Also named in the suit are Linwood Mayor Richard L. DePamphilis, III, former Council member Donna Taylor and current Council member Ralph Paolone.

The case is captioned Carman and Hamilton v. City of Linwood, et al, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-343-14 and Carman's and Hamilton's attorney was Sabastian B. Ionno of Pitman.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of lawsuit'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 Linwood or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Carman and Hamilton $400,000 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.