Saturday, April 29, 2017

Haledon confidentially settled multiple lawsuits with its police chief. Chief receives $750,000 and agrees to retire.

On August 11, 2016, the Borough of Haledon (Passaic County) entered into two settlement agreements with police chief Louis Mercuro.  In one of the agreements, which is not labeled "confidential," the Borough agreed to pay Mercuro $100,821 in "retroactive adjustments to [his] salary and longevity."  The $100,821 in adjustments cover years 2009 through 2016 and are set forth in detail on an attachment to the settlement agreement.  In the other agreement, which says that it and its terms "are and will remain confidential to maximum extent permitted by law," called for Mercuro to be paid $649,179 and required him to "immediately submit his retirement application to the State of New Jersey."  The agreement also resolves seven lawsuits that Mercuro had filed against Haledon and its officials as well as three disciplinary matters that the Borough had filed against Mercuro.

All seven of Mercuro's lawsuits are not available at the time of this writing.  In one of the lawsuits, Mercuro v. Borough of Haledon, et al, Docket No. PAS-L-4489-14, Mercuro claimed that he was suspended with pay on November 26, 2014 after he was accused of not passing a firearms qualification exam.  Mercuro said that a disability prevented him firing a weapon from a kneeling position.  The suit also claimed that Mayor Domenick Stampone sought to get rid of everybody in the police department above age 40 and that Borough officials kept vital information from him.

Additional information about Mercuro's conflicts with Borough officials is contained within a December 3, 2015 Appellate Division opinion.  According to the opinion, Mercuro addressed the Borough Council during it June 2009 meeting.  Using props consisting of a miniature plastic skeleton, a replica of a glass house and a basket of dirty laundry, Mercuro claimed that he saw a sworn statement by a tavern owner that "detailed that councilpersons took a limousine ride to New York, during which time two councilpersons snorted cocaine."

Additional information about Mercuro's conflicts with the Borough is contained within a June 18, 2015 article in the Record concerning allegations that Mercuro had engaged in sexual harassment.

The settlement requires Mercuro to have reimbursed the Borough $100,821 if the State rejected his retirement application.  It also called for a reduction of the $649,179 payment for any pay Mercuro received after August 31, 2016.  The agreements also call for the $649,179 to be paid in two installments: $225,000 by November 1, 2016 and $424,179 by January 31, 2017.  Mercado's attorney was Stuart J. Alterman of Marlton.

None of any of the lawsuits' 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 Haledon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Mercuro $750,000 than take the matters 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, April 28, 2017

Haledon paid out $25,000 to settle veteran patrolman's claim that lieutenant punched him in the genitals at PBA dinner.

On March 23, 2017, the Borough of Haledon (Passaic County) agreed to pay $25,000 to settle an assault, racial discrimination and hostile work environment lawsuit filed in March 2015 by a currently 56-year-old, now retired patrolman who claimed that he was the Borough's only African-American police officer.

In his suit, Todd Ward claimed that Lieutenant Christopher Lemay punched him in the genitals during an April 12, 2014 PBA dinner "in full view of multiple witnesses."  Ward's suit claimed that Lemay was "previously diagnosed as a chronic alcohol abuser," which was known to Borough officials, and that he "was required to hospitalized due to an extreme level of intoxication following the PBA annual dinner."

Ward's lawsuit claimed that after an investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, "Lemay is now [i.e. in March 2015] facing discipline actions."  (As of the date of this writing, Lemay is still listed on the Borough's website as being a police lieutenant.) According to the court's computerized index, Lemay was dismissed from the lawsuit on June 24, 2016.

Ward also claimed that even though he had 24 years on the job, he was passed over for a sergeant promotion even though Jessica Funes, George Kelly, Michael Sussen and Frank Conca were promoted despite having far less experience than Ward. 

The settlement agreement also provides for a separate $64,841.40 payment for unused sick, vacation, holiday and compensatory time due Ward as a result of his retirement.

The case is captioned Ward v. Borough of Haledon, et al, Docket No. PAS-L-1113-15 and Ward's attorney was Stuart J. Alterman of Marlton. 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 Haledon or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Ward $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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Delaware Township, Hunterdon County paid out $55,000 and resurfaced driveway apron to settle homeowner's drainage lawsuit.

On February 7, 2017, Delaware Township (Hunterdon County), jointly with Hunterdon County, agreed to pay $55,000 and resurface the driveway apron of a homeowner who claimed that the Township and County improperly designed and constructed a storm water drainage system causing rain water to cascade onto and damage her property.

In her suit, Beverly Adamson, who owns a home on Locktown-Sergeantsville Road, claimed that the Township's and County's improperly installed culvert system and drainage paths, together with the Township allowing construction of numerous homes uphill from Adamson's property, had caused stormwater to run across her property causing "severe damage." Adamson claimed that the water flow caused ponds to form on her property which are "quite large" and last for several days.  She said that the ponds killed her lawn and provided a nesting area for mosquitoes.

Also named in the suit are the prior owners who sold the residence to Adamson in 2010.  Adamson's suit claimed that the prior owners "purposely misled [her] by not disclosing the reoccurring flooding on the property prior to her purchase."  The lawsuit was dismissed against the prior owners in May 2015.  It is unknown whether or not the prior owners paid a settlement to Adamson in exchange for the dismissal.

The case is captioned Adamson v. Township of Delaware, et al, Hunterdon County Superior Court Docket No. HNT-L-228-13 and Adamson's attorney was Anthony E. Koester of Flemington.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Adamson's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement  states that the $55,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Delaware Township, Hunterdon County or any of their officials. All that is known for sure is that Township, County or their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Adamson $55,000 and fix her driveway apron 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, April 8, 2017

Kean University paid out $375,000 to settle age discrimination suit.

On December 15, 2016, Kean University agreed to pay $375,000 to a 55-year old male employee who said he was let go because his supervisor wanted "new blood in the department."

In his suit, William DeGarcia, a 30-year employee of Kean University, claimed that he was not selected as Director of Kean's Educational Opportunity Center (EOC).  DeGarcia claimed that even though he had served as the EOC's interim director during the period when the EOC received praise from both Governor Chris Christie and Senator Robert Menendez, the Director position was given to employee named Rosa Perez who was under forty and had no prior executive experience.  DeGarcia said that his was only one example of pattern of age discrimination by Kean University.

Of the $375,000 DeGarcia received $260,367.41 and DeGarcia's lawyer received $114,632.59.

The case is captioned DeGarcia v. Kean University, Union County Superior Court Docket No. UNN-L-1303-14 and DeGarcia's attorneys were Andrew M. Moskowitz of Springfield.  The complaint and settlement agreement are on-line here(Note: The settlement may not be the final version.  According to a January 3, 2017 letter from Kean's attorney, which is included at the link above, there was a dispute over the effect the settlement might have on Mr. DeGarcia's pension benefits. All other aspects of the agreement, however, appear to be agreed to by both parties.)

None of DeGarcia's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $375,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Kean or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Kean or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay DeGarcia $375,000 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.

Elizabeth pays $50,000 to settle police excessive force lawsuit.

On October 25, 2016, the City of Elizabeth (Union County) agreed to to pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by two local residents and one of the resident's son that claimed that police falsely arrested and inflicted excessive force upon them during a motor vehicle stop.

In their suit, Sojay Mojica, Jean Precois and Precois' son Antonio Mojica claimed that on November 1, 2012 they were at a convenience store seeking to buy a container of gas.  After learning that the store was out of containers, Precois said he asked Elizabeth Officers William J. DiLollo and Louis P. Demondo for information and that a altercation broke out between Pecois and the two officers.  Precois claimed that after driving away from the altercation, his vehicle was later stopped by DiLollo and Demondo as well as officers with surnames Croban and Blanco.  The trio claimed that they were arrested when they ought to have issued a summons and that the officers used excessive force against them.

According to the settlements, Antonio Mojica and Sojay Mojica received $10,000 each and Jean Precois received $30,000.

The case is captioned Precios, et al v. William J. DiLollo, et al, Federal Case No. 2:13-cv-6279 and the trio's attorney was originally Michael S. Harwin of Fair Lawn.  Case documents are on-line here.  

None of the trio's allegations have been proven or disproven in court and settlement, without more, does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Elizabeth or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Elizabeth or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the trio $50,000 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.