Saturday, December 31, 2016

Aberdeen confidentially paid out $15,000 to settle police invasion of privacy lawsuit.

On December 1, 2016, the Township of Aberdeen (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a woman who claimed that Township police trespassed on her property, invaded her privacy and terrorized her.

In her lawsuit, Yolanda Mitter, claimed that several unidentified police officers, for no reason, banged on her door at about 2 a.m. on August 15, 2013 and made "offensive, threatening, harassing, frightening, menacing and terrorizing" remarks to her from outside her home.  She claimed that the officers' presence and remarks placed her "in panic, fear and terror that her home and body may be invaded."

Individually named as defendants were Chief of Police John T. Powers, Captain Alan Geyer, Sergeant Hank Chevalier and Patrolmen Michael Plant and Craig Hausman.

The case is captioned Mitter v. Township of Aberdeen, et al, Docket No. MON-L-3803-14 and Mitter's attorney was Robert A. Morley of Shrewsbury. Case documents are on-line here.  UPDATE: See the police reports and other information on the underlying incident 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 Aberdeen or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Mitter $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.

Barnegat school board confidentially paid $60,000 to settle middle school student's sexual harassment lawsuit.

On July 25, 2016, the Barnegat Board of Education (Ocean County) quietly paid $60,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a Brackman Middle School student who claimed that school officials were "willfully indifferent" toward her complaints of being sexually harassed by another student.

In her suit, the student, identified only her initials K.K., claimed that another student, referred to as S.H., regularly referred to her as "a cunt, whore, slut and bitch" and threw objects at her.  Despite having made "numerous complaints" to school officials, nothing was allegedly done to remedy the issue.

The case is captioned K.K. and C.K. v. Barnegat Township Board of Education, et al, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. OCN-L-2013-14 and K.K.'s attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel.  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 K.K.'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 Barnegat school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay K.K. $60,000 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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Millville confidentially paid out $40,000 to teenager who said that cop pulled a gun on him.

On August 3, 2016, the City of Millville (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $40,000 to a teenage dirt bike rider who said that a Millville police officer "point[ed] a gun directly at him."

In his lawsuit filed on January 12, 2015, a thirteen year old boy, identified only by the initials C.F., claimed that Millville Police Officer Michael Thompson pointed "a gun directly at him" for about 30 seconds after Thompson stopped the boy for riding a motorized dirt bike in a wooded area near Magnolia Avenue on September 27, 2014.  The boy and his parent, identified as D.F., claimed that the officer's decision to pull his weapon was unwarranted "because  of the lack of severity of the crime at issue, because [the boy] did not pose an immediate threat to the safety of the police officer or others, and because [the boy] was not actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight."  According to the lawsuit, the officer's decision to deploy his weapon amounted to excessive force and violated the boy's rights under both the federal and state constitutions.

After first learning about this lawsuit in 2015, I filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for the police report, use of force report and other documents related to the event.  The police report that I received gives no indication of a gun being used by Officer Thompson.  Rather, the report depicts a rather benign event where the boy was allowed to walk his dirt bike home after Thompson verified that it wasn't stolen.

The case is captioned C.F. v. City of Millville, et al, Docket No. CUM-L-24-15 and C.F.'s attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel. Case documents are on-line here.  According to a court order following an August 26, 2016 "friendly hearing" before Judge Richard J. Geiger, C.F. received $20,818.45 of the $40,000 settlement amount while Costello received $19,181.55 for his attorney fees and costs.

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 Millville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay C.F. $40,000 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.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

East Orange paid out $200,000 to police matron who claimed that police captain ejaculated on her furniture.

A recently uncovered settlement agreement made on June 16, 2014 shows that the City of East Orange (Essex County) agreed to pay $200,000 to a police matron who said that a captain with the city's police department ejaculated on her love seat and his service revolver while he visited her home in 2007.

In her lawsuit, Candida Ray said that Captain Anthony Cooke visited her home on January 26, 2007 to "discuss a business matter involving the sale of cakes and cookies."  She claimed that the meeting was "strictly business" and that she and Cooke never had an intimate relationship.  According to the lawsuit, Ray left Cooke alone in the living room while she stepped into the kitchen.  When she returned "she found that Captain Cooke had removed his penis from his trousers and was masturbating."  When she told him to stop and leave her home, Cooke reportedly "refused and masturbated to orgasm, ejaculating over Ms. Ray's love seat and his gun, which he had withdrawn from his holster."

Ray said that she complained to Internal Affairs and was later told that Cooke had confessed to having masturbated but claimed that Ms. Ray had consented. She said that ultimately, no disciplinary action was taken against Cooke.  She said that Cooke's visit caused her to miss work and to seek therapy.

Ray claimed that she was humiliated when Cooke's alleged act of masturbation became common knowledge throughout the police department causing numerous employees to press her for "embarrassing details."  She said that employees teased her, including Sergeant Michael Williams who allegedly told her that he would come over to her apartment "butt naked" and "jerk off on the furniture."  She claimed that such comments created a hostile workplace environment.

The case is captioned Ray v. City of East Orange, et al, Docket No. ESX-L-725-11 and Ray's attorney was Mark Mulick of Montclair. 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 East Orange or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Ray $200,000 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.

East Orange confidentially paid out $82,500 to settle whistleblower suit.

On May 31, 2016, the City of East Orange (Essex County) agreed to pay $82,500 to a former employee who said that she was forced out of her job after she complained about "certain improprieties" regarding the finances of some City programs.

In her lawsuit, Linda J. Hobson, who worked as a Budget Officer until her alleged "constructive discharge" on June 1, 2011, said that she found problems when she examined the books of the City's Urban Youth and Development Program, CDBG, Shelter Plus Care, and the Homeless prevention and Rapid Rehousing Programs.  She claimed that vendors "had wrongfully and illegally diverted resources from the program(s) for their own personal use and the personal use of their family members while the municipality turned a 'blind eye.'"  She said that when she complained, she was ridiculed and forced to take early retirement.

The case is captioned Hobson v. City of East Orange, et al, Docket No. ESX-L-364-12 and Hobson's attorney was Frederick Coles, III of Plainfield. 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 East Orange or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hobson $82,500 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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gloucester confidentially paid out $51,500 to settle Corrections Officer's gender and racial discrimination suit.

In a confidential settlement agreement that was only recently discovered, the County of Gloucester on March 30, 2012 agreed to pay $51,500 to settle a lawsuit filed by African-American, female Corrections Officer who claimed that her male coworkers would "grab each other's crotches" and that one specific coworker "plac[ed] a finger through the fly of his pants and pantomim[ed] that his penis had been exposed."

In her lawsuit, Malessia Lacy claimed that Sergeant Krulikowski (presumably Timothy Krulikowski) told her that he didn't think women should work as corrections officers and should instead "work in places like banks." Krulikowski also allegedly called her female coworker "a bitch" and used the word "spade" in a pejorative way.  Lacy claimed that Krulikowski, along with Corrections Officers Kirscher and Hahn (no first names given) would make sexually graphic comments about her such as "I'd let her put my d**k in her mouth" and "She can suck my b*lls."  She claimed that after she complained, she was retaliated against.

The case is captioned Lacy v. Gloucester County Department of Correctional Services, Superior Court Docket No. GLO-L-1142-11 and Lacy's attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel. 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 Gloucester or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Lacy $51,500 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.