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.