Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Medford Township confidentially paid out $150,000 to settle cop's racial discrimination lawsuit.

On September 22, 2017, the Township of Medford (Burlington County) quietly agreed to pay $150,000 to a black officer who sued the Township's police department for racial discrimination in 2014.

In his lawsuit, Mark K. Hunsinger, who has worked for the Medford Police Department since 1999, claimed that the police officials discriminated against him based on his race by repeatedly passing him over for promotions, training opportunities and placement on the SWAT team.  Hunsinger also claimed that there was a hostile racial culture within the police department.  His lawsuit specifically names Corporal Robert Zane and alleges that Zane referred to an Italian as a "ginny and wop" and an Asian as "slant eyed."  Zane is alleged to have repeatedly referred to the Township of Maple Shade as "Maple Spade."  Hunsinger claimed that other Medford officers "commonly refer to blacks as animals and gorillas" and referred to another patrolman as a "sand ni**er."

The case is captioned Hunsinger, et al v. Medford Township Corrections, et al, Docket No. BUR-L-2804-14 and the Hunsinger's first attorney was Anthony F. DiMento of Cherry Hill.  He then replaced DiMento with Douglas M. Long of Woodbury.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from disclosing the settlement's terms to others, including the media.  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 the the 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 Medford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Hunsinger $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.