Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Penns Grove-Carneys Point Board of Education paid out $145,000 to settle Caucasian teacher's racial discrimination lawsuit.

On July 30, 2016, the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional Board of Education (Salem County) agreed to pay $145,000 to a Logan Township man who claimed that the Board refused to hire him because he is Caucasian.

In his lawsuit, Brian Shields said that his 2013 job interviews with School Superintendent Joseph Massare and Field Elementary School Principal Mary Kwiatkowski went well and that Massare recommended to the Board that he be hired as a 2nd or 3rd grade teacher.  Shields also said that Massare told him that the Board "always approved his recommendations."

According to the lawsuit, unnamed individuals came to the August 12, 2013 Board meeting and accused the Board of "not hiring enough minorities at the school."  Despite Massare's refutation of the accusation, Shields claims that the board rejected his application and that Massare later told him that "his hiring had been rejected because [he]was not a minority." 

Also named in the suit was former Board President Gregory T. White.

The case is captioned Shields v. Penns Grove-Carneys Point Public Schools, et al, Federal Case No. 1:14-cv-2106 and Shields's attorney was James M. Duttera of Philadelphia.  Case documents are on-line here.  Of the $145,000, Shields received $83,778.21 and his lawyer received $61,221.79.

None of the Shields'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 Penns Grove-Carneys Point or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Shields $145,000 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.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Paterson agrees to pay $150,000 to resolve DPW head's hostile work environment lawsuit.

On September 13, 2016, the Paterson City Council (Passaic County) agreed to pay $150,000 to the present Director of the City's Department of Public Works (DPW) who claimed that he suffered retaliation because he remained a supporter of Paterson Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres from 2010 to 2014 when Jeffrey Jones served as mayor.

In his lawsuit, Manuel Ojeda, who has worked for the City's DPW since 1988, said that despite his "exemplary record" Jones, Business Administrator Charles Thomas and then DPW Director Christopher Coke retaliated against him.  Ojeda claimed that the defendants demoted him to Sanitation Inspector, tried to reduce his pay by $40,000 and "doubled the size of his street cleaning route and otherwise increased his workload without a corresponding increase in pay."

He also claimed that Coke ridiculed him in front of the other DPW employees.  Coke allegedly told Ojeda that "You and Joey [Mayor Torres] did a fine job f***ing this department up."  Ojeda said that a fellow employee who brought baseless charges against him was rewarded by being allowed to have his girlfriend ride around with him during work in a City vehicle.

According to news reports, the City Council has previously rejected higher settlement offers, the most recent being a $175,000 offer which was rejected in June 2016.

The case is captioned Ojeda v. City of Paterson, et al, Federal Case No. 13-cv-0628 and Ojeda's attorney was Susan A. Champion of Wayne. Case documents are on-line here.  According to the City's settlement resolution, no payment will be made to Ojeda until the settlement is approved by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

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 Paterson or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Ojeda $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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mullica paid out $95,000 to laborer's discrimination lawsuit.

On September 21, 2016, the Township of Mullica (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $95,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a "mixed race, both African-American and Puerto Rican" laborer who sued because he was allegedly discriminated against by his white supervisor and coworkers.

In his lawsuit, Jose Robles, a resident of Hammonton, said that his Supervisor, Steven Sperlak, would refer to him as "Hector, Carlos, Jesus and other traditionally Hispanic names" and that his coworkers told him that some equipment that was outside a local hunting club was for "hanging n****ers." Sperlak also allegedly made a joke about hangings that Robles found offensive.  His lawsuit claimed that when he asked why he wasn't give a code to access fuel from the fuel pumps, coworker Ronald Kahn said that it was "because you're Puerto Rican and you might steal gas."

The case is captioned Robles v. Township of Mullica, et al, Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-871-14 and Robles's attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel.  Case documents are on-line here and former summary judgment briefs 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 Mullica or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Robles $95,000 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.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Riverdale confidentially paid out $75,000 to police sergeant allegedly referred to as a "scumbag" by the mayor.

On July 12, 2016, the Borough of Riverdale (Morris County) agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a whistleblower and retaliation lawsuit filed by a police sergeant against the Borough and its former mayor.

In his lawsuit, Riverdale Police Sergeant Gregory Bogert claimed that former Mayor William Budesheim perceived that Bogert harassed Budesheim's son, who worked for the Borough as a police dispatcher.  Bogert, however, maintains that the junior Budesheim was often late to work and neglected his duties but escaped discipline because his father was the mayor.  Bogert also alleged that the junior Budesheim more than likely destroyed the campaign signs of his father's political opponents.  He also alleged that Mayor Budesheim has become so enraged at Bogert that he has tailgated his car and made a "scumbag" comment for which the Borough Council forced him to apologize.  This is just a sampling of Bogert's grievances. Read the lawsuit at the link below for more.

The case is captioned Bogert v. Borough of Riverdale et al, Superior Court Docket No. MRS-L-2639-13 and Bogert's attorney was Patrick P. Toscano, Jr. of  Caldwell. 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 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 Riverdale or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bogert $75,000 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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Haddon paid out $16,000 to 73-year-old who claimed that police attacked him after he complained about officer's "leisurely" issuance of a summons.

On June 7, 2016, the Township of Haddon (Camden County) agreed to pay $16,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a Collingswood businessman who said that Township police officers used excessive force against him in retaliation for his expression of displeasure on how one officer treated him.

In his lawsuit, John Saponara, a 73-year-old auto repair shop owner, said that on March 22, 2013 Haddon police officer Diaz Camacho detained him in the parking lot of a business named the Tire Corral for failure to have a license plate on his vehicle.  Saponara claimed that he had told Camacho that he was at the Tire Corral to buy tires for a car he was repairing at his own shop and was under "business related time constraints."  Despite his hurry, Saponara claimed that Camacho made him "wait in his car for an unreasonable period of time . . . while she leisurely prepared the summonses."  Saponara said that Camacho intentionally made him wait because she was miffed that he did not immediately comply with her order to sit in his car.

After Camacho handed him two summonses, Saponara said that he exited his car so that he could go to Tire Corral to conduct his business. While getting out of his car, Saponara said that he told Camacho that he was not pleased with how she treated him.  He said that he didn't threaten Camacho--he only conveyed to her "an expression of his frustration and disapproval."  A second officer, Joseph Talucci, who was standing nearby, ordered Saponara back into his car and then both officers allegedly tackled him when he didn't immediately comply.  He said that Camacho drove her knee into her back while he was on the ground and that he suffered bruises and abrasions while being handcuffed.  He said that he was charged with Disorderly Conduct but was later acquitted in municipal court.

The case is captioned Saponara v. Township of Haddon, et al, Superior Court Docket No. CAM-L-997-15 and Saponara's attorney was Gregg A. Shivers of Cherry Hill. 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 Haddon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Saponara $16,000 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.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Belleville confidentially paid out $25,000 to retired fireman who claimed breach of contract and retaliation.

On April 24, 2016, the Township of Belleville (Essex County) agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a retired fireman who claimed that the Township retaliated against him for refusing to drop a wage claim stemming from a 1993 agreement.

In his lawsuit, Peter Coppola said that a 1993 arbitration agreement obligated the Township to pay him for 283 hours that he had worked without pay.  He said that after the Township reneged on its agreement in 2009, the Township Manager told him that "the Township does not have the money to make the payout." 

In 2013, after his 2010 retirement, Coppola said that he was re-employed by the Township as a part-time mechanic.  He claimed that he was called in the fire chief's office and told that "the powers that be" said that if wanted to keep his part-time job, he would have to drop his claim for the 283 hours of pay.  Coppola, who said that he was "shocked and disappointed," asked the fire chief if the Township would agree to a long term contract for his present job.  Coppola claimed that the was fired a few days later.

The case is captioned Coppola v. Township of Belleville, et al, Superior Court Docket No. ESX-L-2488-14 and Coppola's attorney was Howard A. Vex of Parsippany. Case documents are on-line here.  According to the agreement, Coppola received $18,500 and Vex received $6,500.

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 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 Belleville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Coppola $25,000 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.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

NJ Transit, Far Hills paid out $15,000 to settle lawsuit filed by horse racing fan.

On July 22, 2016, the New Jersey Transit Corporation and the Borough of Far Hills (Somerset County) each agreed to pay $7,500 to a man who claimed that he was falsely arrested and assaulted by police and then, five months later, improperly charged with Criminal Mischief for allegedly urinating on a cloth-covered chair to which he was handcuffed.

In his lawsuit, Samuel H. Collingswood said that on October 20, 2012 at about 6 p.m. he and two friends were waiting at the Far Hills train station after having attended the Far Hills Races--a steeplechase horse racing event. The trio "had been drinking but had not violated any laws or ordinances."  One of Collingswood's friends, Chris Twombly, allegedly "complained loudly about the fare" charged by New Jersey Transit which the attention of a New Jersey Transit police officer who grabbed Twombly's shoulder. 

Collingwood said that he approached the officer to advise him that Twombly had recently dislocated his shoulder when, according to Collingswood, he was "assaulted" by transit officer Robert Sobocinski and other transit officers. The officers allegedly shoved Collingswood's head into the side of the train, dragged him from the station and threw him into a bush near Route 202. 

Collingswood claimed that he "urinated in his pants when he was thrown into the bush." He said that he was arrested for Disorderly Conduct and taken to the Far Hills municipal building where he was handcuffed to a cloth-covered chair.

Collingswood claimed that Far Hills Officer Ken Hartman, in response to his claims about his mistreatment by the Transit Police, videotaped him and said "I promise you that this is going be used against you" and "You're gonna be sorry that I'm videotaping."

On March 14, 2013, about five months after the arrest, Hartman allegedly issued Collingswood a Criminal Mischief summons for "urinat[ing] in his pants while being held in custody and saturating the cloth-covered seat portion of a chair within the Far Hills Municipal Court."  Collingwood said that Hartman issued the summons to retaliate against him for having filed a motion to quash the Disorderly Conduct summons on March 7, 2013.  He also said that any urine on the chair (which had been discarded by police) transferred from his pants which had become saturated when he urinated himself after having been  thrown into the bush.  According to the lawsuit, the Criminal Mischief summons was later dismissed.

Also named in the lawsuit was New Jersey Transit Officer Kevin Mooney.

The case is captioned Collingswood v. New Jersey Transit, et al, Federal Case No. 2:14-cv-6228 and Collingswood's attorney was W. James Mac Naughton of Newton.  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 New Jersey Transit, Far Hills and/or their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Collingswood $15,000 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.