Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Perth Amboy paid out $150,000 to settle sexual harassment complaint filed against former police chief.
In her lawsuit, Nalda Capo said that former police chief Benjamin Ruiz stared at her and harassed her from 2007 until 2014. According to the complaint, Ruiz told Capo to "start dressing up and get your nails and hair done." She claimed that he would come to her office uninvited and "rub her neck and shoulders," would introduce her to citizens as his wife and stand in front of her desk and "stare at her breasts for long periods of time." She said that she "lived in fear every time the door opened to her office" and that she "would jump out of her chair in fear that Defendant Ruiz would try to touch her again."
Capo said that she reported Ruiz's behavior to her union president Ruth Vega but that Vega "violated her rights" by reporting to Ruiz Capo's intention of filing a sexual harassment charge against him.
Capo also said that Ruiz gave her unfairly poor performance reviews and that she was passed over for a Detective Bureau secretary position in favor of someone who was less qualified and had less seniority. She said that at a grievance hearing, her union representative, Debra Parks, told her that Ruiz "put [Capo] down like a piece of garbage."
Ruiz no longer works for the City. According to news reports, he was suspended without pay in December 2014 and was later terminated after having been indicted on official misconduct and other charges. In September 2016, Ruiz was acquitted by a jury on all charges.
The case is captioned Capo v. City of Perth Amboy, et al, Docket No. MID-L-7267-15 and Capo's attorney was Stephen E. Klausner of Manville. Case documents are on-line here.
The settlement agreement specifically reserves for Capo the right to pursue three orthopedic Workers Compensation claims against the City while calling for "a claim for psychiatric or psychological injury" to be dismissed.
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 Perth Amboy or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Capo $150,000 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.