MEDIA & PRESS
Glen Rock settles with gay cop who alleged harassment (NorthJersey.com April 18, 2017)
GLEN ROCK — A police officer who alleged he was fired because of his sexual orientation has been reinstated under a legal settlement with the borough.
Officer Matthew Stanislao was terminated from the Glen Rock Police Department in October 2014. One week later, a lawsuit was filed against the borough and Police Department alleging a hostile work environment.
Stanislao will be reinstated to his position of patrol officer with back pay “on or before May 5, 2017,” said Mayor Bruce Packer in announcing the settlement on Wednesday. Read more»
Suspended cop found not guilty on drug charges, wants job back (NJ.com July 2016)
NEWARK — An East Orange police officer who was suspended without pay in 2014 after being indicted on charges of running a drug dealing operation out of her home has been cleared of all charges.
A Superior Court jury last Thursday found Rajheher Massenburg not guilty of conspiracy to distribute drugs and official misconduct.
Massberg’s lawyer Charles Sciarra said his client will now seek to get her job back. Read more»
In whistleblower verdict, Milburn ordered to pay $145K to Cop (Star Ledger, May 29, 2015).
Newark – A Millburn police sergeant on Thursday won a $145,000 verdict in his lawsuit against the township for allegedly retaliating against him by not promoting him to the rank of lieutenant.
The decision marks at least the second time in about a year that an Essex County jury has ordered Millburn to pay money in a whistleblower case involving the township police force.
In handing down the latest verdict, jurors found Millburn officials retaliated against Sgt. Robert Ronceray for reporting alleged wrongdoing by a superior officer, according to Ronceray’s attorney, Jeffrey D. Catrambone. Read more»
Mayor: Police settlement averts legal costs for Edison (Sentinel, December 18, 2014)
Township officials are calling the settlement reached with three veteran police officers last week a move that will save significant tax dollars.
The three officers — Lt. Anthony Marcantuono Jr., a 27-year veteran; and Lt. Joseph Shannon and Sgt. Dominick Masi, both 20-year veterans — sued the township after being passed over for promotions. Read more»
Former Glen Rock policeman alleges sex harassment (North Jersey.com, October 31, 2014)
GLEN ROCK — A former borough police officer has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the town and its Police Department, saying he was unjustly terminated because of his sexuality. Read more»
Passaic adds 13 police recruits, promotes veteran officer to captain (North Jersey.com, September 24, 2014)
PASSAIC – The city added 13 police recruits and promoted a veteran officer to the rank of captain during an emotional ceremony at City Hall on Wednesday. Read more»
2 Bergen County cops acquitted of all charges in official misconduct case involving shooting (Bergen Record, May 29, 2014)
A jury on Thursday cleared two veteran Bergen County Police Department officers of charges they lied to investigators and removed evidence from the scene of a police shooting following a high-speed chase almost four years ago. Read more»
Mendham Township officer lawsuit: Illegal ticket quotas (Daily Record, May 28, 2014).
A 16-year officer in the Mendham Township Police Department has filed suit against the force, alleging he has been bypassed twice for promotion and denied chances to earn overtime because he refuses to “profile” young drivers for tickets.
Patrolman Robert Wysokowski — a 43-year-old officer who started his law enforcement career in Mendham Township in 1998 at a salary of $36,425 — filed suit under the state’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act, also known as the Whistleblower Law. As of last year, Wysokowski was earning $99,192 annually. Read more»
Jury awards former Paterson cop $550,000 (August 23, 2010)
A jury awarded $550,000 to a former Paterson police officer Monday to compensate her for lost wages and emotional distress after she was fired in 2006 because of a medical condition.Read more»
Monmouth County settles wrongful termination case for $275,000 (Asbury Park Press, June 14, 2010)
The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders has unanimously approved a $275,000 wrongful termination settlement for a now-reinstated corrections officer whose allegedly flunked July 2004 random drug test result was reversed by an appeals court.Read more»
Police officers file suit over demotions (The Sentinel, February 17, 2010)
Four Edison Township police officers have filed a lawsuit against the township for the demotions handed down to them in January.
Mark Anderko, a 22-year veteran of the department, Anthony Marcantuono Jr., a 23- year veteran, and Dominick Masi and Joseph Shannon, both 16-year veterans, filed the legal papers in state Superior Court in New Brunswick on Feb. 16, stating that their demotions were not due to economic reasons, as stated. Instead, they argue, the job changes were made in retaliation for the officers’ “open and notorious” support for then-Mayor Jun Choi in last year’s Democratic primary election, and for Republican mayoral candidate Dennis Pipala in the November general election. Both ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Mayor Antonia Ricigliano, who took office in January.Read more»
N.J. appeals court seals disciplinary records for State Police troopers accused of sex assault (Star Ledger, February 25, 2010)
An appellate court decided today to seal disciplinary proceedings involving seven State Police troopers accused of sexually assaulting a Rider University student two years ago, while casting doubt on whether the alleged victim’s story is true.
“If the identities of the individual troopers are revealed and the details of the evening are made public, the harm to their familial relationships may be incalculable and forever impaired,” wrote the two judges. “The privacy interests of individual troopers should prevail, at least until a fact-finder finds that there is a basis for the charges following a full evidentiary hearing.”Read more»
Council OKs $217,000 payout in retired cop’s settlement (The Record, September 9, 2009)
The Borough Council ended a dispute over a settlement with a retired police lieutenant with a last-minute vote Tuesday to approve a $217,000 payout. A copy of the agreement with retired Lt. William Yirce was not immediately available, but council members said it had changed slightly from an earlier draft that had stipulated a $192,000 payment, plus compensation for a 45-day suspension. The approved agreement did not include the suspension payment, but Yirce’s attorney, Jeff Catrambone, said the total amount remains the same.”That was consistent with the monetary amount I understood my client to be receiving all along, so really there was no change to the monetary amount,” he said.Read more»
City settles cop’s suit for $500,000 Sex harassment alleged (Herald News, May 22, 2009)
The city paid $500,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Police Department and one of its highest ranking officers, Capt Richard Diaz, who also is a Board of Education member. Police Officer Ana Delntinis contended in a lawsuit that Diaz, who supervised the Internal Affairs division at the time, spread rumors that she had sex with her former patrol partner in a dark alley while she was on duty one night in 2005.Read more»
Former UMDNJ official wins $349K in whistleblower lawsuit (Star Ledger, April 9, 2009)
A jury awarded $349,000 today to a former official at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who sued for losing her job after she cooperated with a criminal investigation into the school’s practice of making illegal political contributions. The verdict is a split decision of sorts for Carol Caprarola of Chatham, a former government affairs coordinator at UMDNJ.Read more»
Former cop wins whistle-blower suit (The Record, February 12, 2009)
A retired Dumont policeman has won $367,000 in a whistle blower suite stemming from the 2000 drunken-driving arrest of a borough councilman.
The decision, made Tuesday by a Bergen County jury, found that police Officer Patrick Bland was retaliated against for his efforts to expose borough officials who tried quash the drunken-driving arrest of then-Councilman Phillip Fredericks, according to a statement released by Jeffrey Catrambone, the officer’s attorney.Read more»
Suit alleges retaliation by UMDNJ (Star Ledger)
A former compliance officer at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey filed a whistleblower suit against UMDNJ yesterday, making her the fourth official in three weeks to claim she was fired for reporting illegal activity. Deirdre Henry-Taylor, 42, of Orange alleges UMDNJ officials fired her as one of the culprits in the university’s effort to double-bill Medicare and Medicaid for millions of dollars and then cover it up. Henry-Taylor says in papers filed in state Superior Court in Newark that she was one of a handful of officials who tried to get the university to stop its illegal practices.Read more»
Clifton cop gets $1M in retaliation case (The Record)
A Clifton police officer who claimed he was punished for blowing the whistle on fellow cops was awarded nearly $1 million in damages Monday, according to a report in The Record. The report said a jury found Clifton police retaliated against Patrolman Joseph Napoleone, 38, after he spoke out against several colleagues whom he accused of wrongdoing. The jury accepted Napoleone’s claim that he became the target of an internal affairs investigation that ultimately cost him a promotion to sergeant.
Gay N.J. officer settles discrimination suit for $450,000 (Herald News, 2007)
A gay cop who sued the borough for discrimination won $450,000 in a settlement Wednesday.
In the May 2004 complaint, Sgt. James Len claimed he was passed over for promotion and harassed because of his sexual orientation. The brief proceedings in state Superior Court in Paterson on Wednesday contrasted with the case itself – a years-long political intrigue starring the plaintiff, a 20-year borough cop, and the two named defendants, former Mayor Ken Pengitore and former Councilman Ayman Mamkej.
Belmar settles police officer’s sexual harassment claim (NJ.com, December 28, 2007)
Belmar officials have agreed to pay $800,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female police officer. The settlement was approved Thursday by the Borough Council. Patrolwoman Kara Ketcham claimed a fellow officer shot her in the leg with a pellet gun. Another time, a firecracker went off behind her back. Ketcham said she’d spurned the officer’s romantic advances. As part of the settlement, Ketcham has agreed never to seek employment from the town government again. Belmar hasn’t acknowledged any wrongdoing.
A payment in the amount of $750,000 will be made to Stanislao and his attorneys; $600,000 of that will be paid by Glen Rock’s insurance carrier. The remaining $150,000 will be included in this year’s budget but will not increase taxes this year, due to offsets made in the budget, Packer said.
Other terms of the settlement include eligibility for future promotion opportunities and participation in classes at the Bergen County Police Academy as found appropriate by Chief Dean Ackermann and the academy director. In exchange, all claims made by Stanislao will be dismissed. Neither party has admitted fault or liability, said Packer.
The lawsuit filed in 2014 alleged that Stanislao was harassed by other officers using derogatory comments and lewd gestures referring to his homosexuality. It also claimed Stanislao was never recognized for his meritorious service, which included rescuing two people from a mostly submerged car.
“We welcome Mr. Stanislao back to the police force in a spirit of reconciliation and a clean slate on all sides,” said Packer in a statement he read at last week’s council meeting. “Chief Ackermann will guide the process that will reintegrate Mr. Stanislao back into the department.”
Reached for comment Monday, Charles Sciarra and Matthew Curran of Sciarra & Catrambone, the attorneys for Stanislao, released a statement on behalf of Stanislao condemning discrimination in any form in the employment decision-making process.
“Laws against discrimination make merit the only acceptable factor in employment decisions and are part of the reason New Jersey has one of the country’s highest-paid and most well-trained workforces, both private and public. Officer Stanislao looks forward to the new leadership of the department directing his skills towards serving the community once again,” read the statement.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
“Throughout this ordeal, Rajheher Massenberg maintained her innocence, rejecting plea negotiations and electing to go to trial, facing (the possibility of) five year mandatory imprisonment without parole on these charges,” Sciarra said.
He contends that Massenberg was the target of retaliation after she filed a lawsuit against the East Orange police department.
Massenberg was indicted in October 2014 on charges of running a drug dealing operation out of her home. Two other people were also indicted in the case, including Andrew Jones, 40, who lived with Massenberg and is the father of her children, and Wendy Rhea, 50, of East Orange.
Authorities said Jones stored drugs in Massenberg’s North Maple Avenue home and ran a drug operation out of that house.
Authorities said that undercover detectives purchased narcotics from Jones eight separate times in from October to December 2013, and that when police raided the home, they found crack cocaine packaged for distribution, and paraphernalia that indicated cocaine was being packaged on the property.
Charges against Jones and Rhea are still pending, according to court records.
Massenberg, 37, joined the East Orange force in 2003.
“We are going to fight to get her job back, starting today,” Sciarra said on Tuesday.
East Orange spokeswoman Connie Jackson said the city would not comment on Massenberg’s job because it is a personnel matter. However, Jackson said, “we respect the judicial process.”
Essex County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Katherine Carter, when asked about the verdict, said, “We’re disappointed, but we respect the decision of the jury.”
Sciarra said Massenberg testified in her own defense during the trial before Superior Court Judge Marysol Rosero. The lawyer praised his client for testifying about her life in East Orange where she bought a house and “planted roots.”
While saying the Essex County Prosecutor is “generally fair and professional,” Sciarra said, “in this case they should have scoured the full record of my client’s employment with East Orange.
Sciarra said prosecutors were unaware of Massenberg’s prior suit against East Orange police, and unaware that a detective allegedly retaliated against his client with unsubstantiated allegations.
“Had the East Orange Police Department been forthright with the prosecutor from the beginning, this matter may not have been prosecuted in the first place,” Sciarra said.
He said Massenberg was grateful for the support she received from the state and local chapters of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
“Although Ronceray has throughout his career pushed back against favoritism and special treatment, the jury specifically found Ronceray’s objection to and reporting of a superior who sought special favors for civilian suspects was the triggering event,” Catrambone, of Clifton-based Sciarra & Catrambone LLC, said in a statement.
“This firm and Sgt Ronceray are grateful that the jury saw through the bogus defenses raised by the township and are humbled by their hard work and effort during the trial,” Catrambone added.
But Eric Harrison, an attorney representing the township in the lawsuit, said in a phone interview that “while the township appreciates the jury’s service and very much respects the jury trial process, it strongly disagrees with the conclusion they reached.”
The verdict, Harrison added, “will not deter the administration from continuing to make personnel decisions that it feels are in the best interests of Millburn citizens and the public at large.”
Harrison declined to comment on Ronceray’s specific allegations, because the verdict may be appealed. The $145,000 verdict represents Ronceray’s lost wages and lost future pension earnings, Harrison said.
The jury’s decision comes about a year after a verdict was issued in favor of a former Millburn police sergeant in his whistleblower lawsuit against the municipality.
In that case, Kenneth Duym was awarded a $455,000 verdict based on his claims of being retaliated against by township officials for reporting a superior officer failed a firearms test.
Harrison said the municipality is appealing the verdict in Duym’s case.
In Ronceray’s lawsuit, which was initially filed in July 2012, he outlines various instances in which he filed charges against individuals associated with township police officials.
But Catrambone said the “triggering event” leading to the retaliation dealt with the circumstances surrounding a 2011 dispute involving the girlfriend of then-acting township Lieutenant Edward Blazinski, her mother and another individual.
At the scene, Blazinski directed Ronceray not to arrest his then-girlfriend, the lawsuit states. The lieutenant later questioned Ronceray about why he filed so many charges against his girlfriend’s mother, the lawsuit states.
Ronceray reported Blazinski’s actions in a memo to Millburn Police Chief Gregory Weber, leading to an internal affairs investigation, the lawsuit states. Ronceray’s complaint against Blazinski was ultimately found to be “not sustained” without any formal, written explanation, the lawsuit states.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The officers, along with now-Deputy Chief Mark Anderko, had been promoted by then-Police Director Brian Collier in 2009, but were demoted when former Mayor Antonia Ricigliano took office in 2010. Though Ricigliano cited economic reasons for the decision, the officers argued that her action was in retaliation for the officers’ open support for her opponents, former Mayor Jun Choi and Republican mayoral candidate Dennis Pipala.
The officers argued in the lawsuit that they were then passed over for promotions in 2013.
Under terms of the compromise — which includes no admission of liability — Marcantuono Jr. and Shannon will be promoted to captain, and Masi will be promoted to lieutenant. The promotions will take place in a private ceremony.
In return, Marcantuono, Shannon and Masi have agreed to drop their lawsuits and demands for damages.
The Township Council voted unanimously in favor of the settlement at its Dec. 10 regular meeting.
Lankey said in a statement that reducing Edison’s legal costs has been a top priority since he took office.
“My administration works hard to avert the potential for new litigation, and we strive to amicably resolve pending litigation in the best interest of Edison and at the lowest possible cost to our taxpayers,” he said. “Edison is pleased to have these matters resolved in the best interests of the township and at a minimal cost to taxpayers.”
Police Officer Keith Hahn, former president of Edison PBA Local 75, questioned the settlement and promotions at the council’s work session on Dec. 8. He said the actions would circumvent the police hiring and promotions ordinance that the council voted on this year.
“It’s a kick in the teeth,” he said.
Township Attorney William Northgrave said he could not answer any of Hahn’s claims as to whether the settlement was legal.
“It would be like rendering general legal advice,” he said. “The law is nothing until you put a factual context to it.”
Resident Bill Brunner called for action on the two Edison police officers who are suspended with pay for alleged misconduct, costing in excess of $200,000. He referred to a newspaper article that reported the two officers’ salaries.
Northgrave said he understood Brunner’s frustrations.
“There were a number of procedural events that needed to be handled,” he said at the council meeting, adding that the issue is moving forward. “I cannot talk at any length because it is a personnel matter. … We are moving as quickly as we can, and that is all I can say about it.”
Township officials have said two additional police lawsuits, alleging actions that predated the current administration, appear as if they will require further litigation. If the opportunity to resolve those cases at a minimal cost to Edison arises, township officials said they would pursue settlements; otherwise, Edison is prepared to take those matters to verdict.
Officials would not name the additional lawsuits.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
Matthew Stanislao’s suit names the borough of Glen Rock and the Police Department as defendants, but specifically alleges that several officers — rookies and high-ranking — on the borough’s police force sexually harassed him for being gay.
The lawsuit alleges that during the first year of his employment with the department, another Glen Rock officer would regularly make a lewd gesture behind Stanislao’s back.
Stanislao was fired from the department in a letter from the borough dated Oct. 16; his lawsuit was filed in state Superior Court a week later, on Oct. 23.
“By proving his claims, we intend to reverse the attacks against Matthew Stanislao, who has been consistently focused on doing a job he loves and serving the public,” Stanislao’s attorneys, Charles Sciarra and Matthew Curran, said, in a statement.
Glen Rock Police Chief Fred Stahman and Mayor John Van Keuren denied requests Thursday for comment on the lawsuit, saying they could not discuss ongoing litigation.
The defendants’ actions created a hostile work environment “because of his perceived sexual orientation and/or his sexual orientation,” the suit claims.
Stanislao, the suit contends, learned “that his sexual orientation was a frequent topic of conversation among Glen Rock police officers, starting the first year of his employment” in 2004.
The suit alleges that crude, vulgar and derogatory comments were often made in front of him — sometimes by his superior officers — referencing his homosexuality.
According to the complaint, Stanislao was the subject of several misguided, retaliatory internal affairs investigations — one allegedly launched after he reported an officer who had used a department vehicle for personal business.
The suit further claims his superiors took deliberate steps to keep him from working with children on drug-awareness education programs, often assigning him to night shifts.
In addition, the suit claims Stanislao was never recognized for his meritorious service, which included rescuing two people from a mostly submerged car.
“Defendants’ conduct was severe and pervasive enough to make a reasonable gay man believe that the conditions of employment were altered and the working environment was hostile or abusive,” the suit reads.
Stanislao is seeking reinstatement, as well as damages for emotional distress and lost wages and rights.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
Family and friends of the officers crowded the city council chambers and clicked their camera phones as Mayor Alex D. Blanco delivered the oath of office. The recruits are now headed to the Passaic County Police Academy for basic training and are due to return to Passaic to begin active duty in January.
The city also promoted Lt. Louis M. Gentile to the rank of captain, which settled a lawsuit he filed against the city in 2012.
The ceremony was held a day after the City Council introduced its $82.6 million municipal budget for fiscal year 2015. The budget, which is subject to a public hearing in October, proposed to raise municipal taxes by about 1.7 percent.
Blanco said the city can afford to add cops because it has stabilized its budget. The budget crunch of 2010 forced the city to lay off more than 50 municipal employees, including police officers and firefighters.
Speaking of the layoffs, Blanco said, “Those days are gone. We have a stable budget today. We promised to deliver a safe city and we have done so.”
Public Safety Director Richard Diaz said the Passaic police department now has 155 men and women, and although staffing is still below pre-layoff levels, the supervisory ranks have been thinned out through retirements. The police department is less top-heavy in supervisors and has more rank and file officers, Diaz said.
Gentile was elevated to captain and will command the non-uniform squad, Diaz said. Gentile sued the city in 2012, after he claimed Diaz blocked his promotion as a form of retaliation.
In his suit, Gentile claimed that once Diaz became acting Passaic police chief in May of 2011, he reduced the number of captains in the department from six to three to secure his position as chief and to block Gentile’s advancement. In his lawsuit, Gentile alleged that Diaz retaliated against him for offering testimony on behalf of a female Passaic police officer who sued Diaz for sexual harassment, a case the city settled for $500,000.
Neither Gentile nor Diaz would comment on the lawsuit. “Today is a great day for the city of Passaic,” Diaz said. “We’re swearing in a new captain and getting 13 new police officers.”
Sworn in as police officers were Kelvin Duran, Manuel Nivar, Junior Henriquez, Donald Braxton, Harold Robinson, Patrick Wlazel, Jasmine Ramirez, Christian Casiano, Jozalina Martinez, Juan Garcia, William Diaz, Dariel Nunez, and Robert Pleasant, Jr.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The verdict was a rebuke for Prosecutor John Molinelli, who had come under criticism for pursuing the criminal case. Defense lawyers said their clients were “collateral damage” in a feud between Molinelli and County Executive Kathleen Donovan over a controversial plan to merge the county police into the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department.
“I still believe the prosecution was appropriate and justified,” said Molinelli, who stressed it had nothing to do with the merger. “It was important for a decision to be made. … I just felt, let the people decide, and they decided and I accept it.”
The courtroom erupted in thunderous applause, punctuated by shouts of “Yes” and sobs of relief after the jurors returned not guilty verdicts on all counts against Officers Saheed Baksh and Jeffrey Roberts, including conspiracy to commit official misconduct, official misconduct and false swearing. The jury deliberated for three days following a monthlong trial in Superior Court in Hackensack.
Roberts and Baksh embraced their sobbing wives and their lawyers after the verdict was delivered. Jubilant spectators also gave the jury of nine women and three men a round of applause.
The two officers hope to now get their lives and careers back on track, their lawyers said.
Brian Higgins, chief of the Bergen County Police Department, said the jury came to a “just conclusion” and he lashed out at the Prosecutor’s Office for taking the matter to trial.
“This case should never have been brought to our already overburdened court system,” Higgins said in a statement. “These officers and their families should not have been subjected to two years with no pay and the prospect of facing years in prison. In fact, the career violent criminals who began this incident may not face as many years in jail as these two officers faced.”
Baksh, 38, and Roberts, 53, were the first two police officers to arrive on the scene in Bogota after a dangerous, high-speed pursuit of two men suspected of burglarizing a home in Paramus on Aug. 12, 2010.
In a sworn video statement played for the jury, Baksh told investigators from the Prosecutor’s Office that he ordered the driver to show his hands when he reached into the sport utility vehicle for what Baksh believed was a gun. Baksh said he fired two rounds, missing the driver, when he then spun around in a threatening manner.
Roberts, who was less than a block away in his own car when the shots were fired, told detectives he heard Baksh’s verbal warning but couldn’t see the suspects, neither of whom was hit.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Mello argued the officers failed to promptly report to their superiors that Baksh had discharged his weapon, and later lied about the warning because they believed it was a “bad shooting.”
The Prosecutor’s Office, which is obliged to investigate whether the use of deadly force by police is justified, didn’t begin its investigation until several hours later when it was first alerted to the shooting. By then the crime scene had been compromised, and the two shell casings from Baksh’s gun had disappeared, according to trial testimony.
Asked for his reaction to the verdict, Mello said, “I believe in the jury system when I win, and I believe in the jury system when I lose.”
Defense lawyers Louis DiLuzio, who represented Baksh, and Charles Sciarra, who defended Roberts, said the jury only took as long as it did to resolve the case because Mello had been a convincing opponent.
“Wayne Mello is the county’s best prosecutor, and he did an amazing job with this leaking bag of a case,” Sciarra said.
After the verdict, Sciarra said that Molinelli’s decision to pursue the case shows that he is “corrupt, and his corruption is now on display here, and that is his legacy.”
“This was all Molinelli’s mess. This was his quagmire,” Sciarra added.
The defense attorneys accused Molinelli of having their clients indicted to spite Donovan after initially declining to bring a criminal prosecution and referring the matter to the county police for administrative action. One had characterized it as a battle between two political titans.Molinelli, who testified during the trial, denied the assertions. “Corruption is a very strong word,” he said. “I would be disappointed in any attorney that characterized the responsibility of a prosecutor that way.”
Molinelli also downplayed any rift between him and Donovan. During his testimony, he acknowledged that his office had funded a study of how police agency consolidation could benefit taxpayers.
But he maintained that the issue of the merger had played no role in the prosecution of the two officers.
“Kathe is a decent person who I think generally tries to do what she thinks is right. I think she would probably tell you the same thing about me if you asked her,” Molinelli said Thursday. “But there are times when we disagree … if an attorney wants to somehow stand up and make something out of that, that’s their prerogative.”
Molinelli also said he thinks the jury looked “at the facts of the case very hard” and not peripheral issues.
“I’m grateful that they put the time in, and it’s our system, and as the prosecutor I support it, and we accept it, no matter the result,” he said.
Molinelli, the last of the state’s 14 witnesses, testified he took over the department’s internal affairs investigation when it became clear that officers were not going to face appropriate disciplinary action. He said criminal charges were later presented to a grand jury after Donovan contested his authority to oversee the internal probe.
Higgins, meanwhile, noted that the jury came to “the same conclusion that the Bergen County Police Department came to almost four years ago; that these officers committed no crimes.” He maintained that the incident “had been investigated thoroughly” by his department’s internal affairs investigators “and appropriate actions were being taken.”
“We will not let the actions taken by those with political motivations keep the Bergen County Police from working hard to keep Bergen County and its 905,000 residents safe,” Higgins said. “This verdict should also send a message to those who may consider committing a crime in Bergen County … that the men and women of the Bergen County Police will make every effort to chase you down and apprehend you. We will not allow politics to play a part in public safety.”
In October, the county freeholders voted to approve a merger between the two police agencies, prompting a legal challenge by Donovan.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The complaint, made public Wednesday in Superior Court, Morristown, seeks promotion to sergeant, punitive and compensatory damages for “all lost benefits, wages and rights,” and damages for emotional distress.
Township Mayor Maribeth Thomas said she has not seen the lawsuit and was not aware one was contemplated. She said that Police Chief Steven Crawford, statutorially, has the ability to “run his office” without day-to-day interference from the committee.
“As the facts come out we will be as open as possible with the public that we can,” Thomas said. Township attorney John M. Mills III declined to comment on the lawsuit and Crawford was not immediately available for comment.
Wysokowski contends that he has consistently met department standards on enforcement of motor vehicle laws but beginning in 2005, under now-former Police Chief Thomas Costanza, he was told he had to “increase his numbers.” The suit says that in 2005, Crawford, who was then a sergeant but now is chief, advised Wysokowski to “seek out and target younger drivers for motor vehicle stops.”
“Crawford told plaintiff that it was ‘good police work,’ or words to that effect,” the lawsuit said. The complaint said that Wysokowski has been advised by superiors that he can always find an infraction when he stops a vehicle.
“Then-Sgt. Crawford advised plaintiff to pull over any car with a group of younger drivers/passengers who appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties. Crawford went so far as to suggest to plaintiff that he should look for vehicles with a Morris County College parking permit or other identifier and to stop that vehicle,” the lawsuit charged..
Wysokowski claims that he repeatedly stated that such profiling was against laws regarding probable cause to stop vehicles but was advised “to keep his mouth shut.”
The lawsuit alleges that 2005 was the beginning of a continuing pattern of retaliatory conduct that continues to this day. The alleged retaliatory actions have included reprimands for draining the battery on a police vehicle, being visited at home when he called in sick, being accused of failing to meet ticket “quotas,” being denied overtime chances and being passed by for promotion twice to sergeant in the 15-officer department, including last year.
Wysokowski charged that he has been written up unfairly multiple times, for allegedly being late for work and even for giving juveniles summonses for local ordinance violations for being in a park after dark. And through it all, he said, the pressure to meet quotas is applied.
“Defendants continue to encourage officers to write as many summonses and effectuate motor vehicle stops regardless of whether probable cause exists, including a quota implemented in or about November 2013 whereby patrolmen assigned to a detail were required to write 15 tickets in a four-hour span. According to (a sergeant), if an officer did not issue the 15 summonses, then that officer would not be eligible for overtime,” the lawsuit said.
He also charged that superiors “systematically train” younger officers to shine lights into moving vehicles to determine the age of drivers and passengers.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
Michele Sedeyn, 31, of Woodland Park, sued the City of Paterson and the Paterson Police Department in 2008 after the city fired her for not reporting to work under her doctor’s orders.
Following three weeks of trial before a jury and state Superior Court Judge Garry S. Rothstadt in Paterson, a jury found that the City of Paterson and its police department engaged in discrimination by terminating her because of her disability.
The panel awarded Sedeyn $300,000 to compensate her for lost earnings and another $250,000 for emotional distress. She will ask the court to reinstate her as a police officer, said her attorney, Charles Sciarra.
The panel did not find that the department or city discriminated against her because of her gender, as the suit also alleged. Part of the case asserted that male officers with medical conditions have been allowed to remain on leave without consequence. The defendant also asserted that a male superior referred to her using offensive language.
When she was discharged, Sedeyn was on the blood thinning medication to combat blood clotting that resulted from a pregnancy.
Sedeyn was prone to clotting, according to her suit, as the result of a previous knee injury that occurred on the job in 2002 when a vehicle ran a stop sign and crashed into her patrol car. Attempts to recover from torn tendons and a dislocated knee without surgery were unsuccessful and, in 2004, Sedeyn needed an operation.
As a result of that surgery, she developed two clots on her left leg and was hospitalized for 12 days, after which she was placed on the blood thinner Coumadin for six months to prevent any additional clotting.
“When plaintiff was placed on the blood thinners medication, her doctors advised that she should be extremely careful because the blood thinners prevented her blood from clotting and thus cuts or physical trauma could pose a serious health risk,” states the lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in Paterson.
In June 2004, about six months after knee surgery, she finished her regime of blood thinners. She returned to work and resumed her patrol duties.
In March 2005, Sedeyn became pregnant. During the second trimester, according to the suit, her doctors advised her that her pregnancy had aggravated her pre-existing propensity to develop blood clots due to the accident. As a result, the doctors prescribed the blood thinner Fragmin to prevent additional clots. “All three doctors advised the plaintiff that she could not report to work on this medication due to the environment of her workplace and the high risk of serious injury,” according to her suit.
Sedeyn provided a doctor’s note to the Paterson Police Chief’s Office and the Internal Affairs Unit and on July 25, 2005, she went on medical leave. On Dec. 1, 2005, she had her baby via Caesarian section. Her doctors advised her that she as be put back on blood thinning medication for six months to reduce the risk of clotting and the she should remain on leave until June of that year.
From there, the city challenged Sedeyn’s inability to report to work. Various doctors offered conflicting opinions as to how dangerous it was for her to perform even so much as light desk duty while on the medication. The police department, according to the suit, promised Sedeyn would not have any contact with inmates in the municipal holding cell at headquarters while assigned to desk duty, to insure her safety. Still, her doctors maintained it was too risky. Finally, on April 10, 2006, Sedeyn was fired.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The guard, Michael C. Brown, was out of work for about five years, his attorney, Charles J. Sciarra of Clifton, said. Brown was reinstated seven months ago.
The payment to Brown is $210,000 for back pay and $65,000 in attorney fees, County Counsel Andrea Bazer said.
“When I reviewed this matter, I determined that settling it was is in the best economic interest of the county,” Bazer told the freeholders when they met Thursday. “There are new policies and procedures in place and there has not been a repeat of this situation since.”
Brown in 2004 was randomly selected for a drug test that was reported as positive for marijuana use, but the result was thrown out when a jail superior officer and a substance abuse program administrator offered sketchy testimony on testing procedures at a hearing.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The lawsuit names the township as a whole, as well as Ricigliano, the Township Council and the police department.
The four officers — promoted in November just one day after the general election and while Choi was still mayor — were demoted days after Ricigliano took office on Jan. 1. The mayor said in her Jan. 26 State of the Township address that rolling back the police and fire promotions and the raises that accompanied them would save Edison “more than $200,000 in salaries alone,” not including benefit packages.
The officers had received the promotions and were sworn in to their new positions on Nov. 4. Then-Police Director Brian Collier promoted 10 officers. Among them, Anderko was made deputy chief, Marcantuono and Shannon became captains, and Masi was named a lieutenant. Collier also hired two entry-level police officers.
Keith Hahn, state delegate for the Edison Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 75, which supported Ricigliano in her campaign, called the promotions “political payback” on Choi’s part.
However, Collier said it was he, and not Choi, who decided on the promotions. He said at the time that he made the promotions “all by myself because there are a vast amount of very capable officers. I put the money aside a while ago to do this.”
In their lawsuit, the four officers called the demotions “arbitrary and capricious” in nature, and call for a reversal of their demotions, along with compensatory and punitive damages, legal fees and costs associated with the litigation.
Charles J. Sciarra of Sciarra & Catrambone LLC, in Clifton, who represents the four officers, questioned the “budgetary crisis” reasoning that was given for the demotions.
“It was [Ricigliano’s] absolute first priority, allegedly for reasons of budgetary savings, yet [she] immediately hired two political supporters in newly created positions. … So much for the ‘budgetary crisis’ defense,” he said in a statement.
According to the complaint, Ricigliano announced that she had hired two political allies to newly created potions with the township government. Specifically, she created the position of management specialist, given to Bill Stephens, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor against Choi in 2006 and who was on Ricigliano’s ticket during the campaign. Ricigliano also created the position of special assistant to the mayor. The position was given to Anthony Russomano, who was Ricigliano’s campaign manager.
The officers said they were subject to the derogatory term “Choi boys” because of their support of Choi and his ideas for reforming the Edison Police Department.
“The ‘Choi boys’ were the targets of negative comments on Internet chat rooms and in the halls of the police department,” according to the complaint. A threat to “the Choi boys” was also left written on the chalkboard in the department after the June primary election, the complaint said.
Also, George Bandics, a retired deputy chief of detectives at the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, appointed by Ricigliano to her transition team to review police matters, advised the new mayor in a written report that she should not conduct any demotions, according to the complaint. Bandics reportedly advised Ricigliano that the officers promoted should retain their positions because the department was heading in the right direction, as was shown by a recent state accreditation.
Ricigliano could not immediately be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman at her office said she had yet to be served with a copy of the lawsuit.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The woman, who was 25 at the time, accused the troopers of raping her after they allegedly met at a Trenton nightclub. Lawyers for the troopers said the sex, at the Ewing home of one of the troopers, was consensual. The troopers have never been criminally charged or publicly identified but were suspended without pay in October after an internal investigation.
TheTop of Formcourt said doubts about the the woman’s credibility helped persuade them to seal the case, saying her story has been “roundly discredited.”
“It is clear why this matter was never presented to a grand jury,” the court wrote in its decision. “The discovery raises very substantial doubt that any fact-finder will find that some or all of the activities were without the consent of the woman.”
The decision reverses orders issued by an administrative law judge and State Police superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes. Both had said the public interest in police conduct outweighs privacy concerns.
The accuser’s attorney, Nat Dershowitz, said he’s not concerned the hearings will be sealed but called the decision “shockingly poorly done,” saying the judges overstepped the question of confidentiality by addressing the facts of the case. “They simply made rash assumptions,” Dershowitz said. “They’re taking the police version before she’s had a chance to testify.”
Lee Moore, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the state may ask the appellate division to reconsider. He declined comment beyond saying “transparency is important.”
Charles Sciarra, a lawyer for one of the troopers, said he hopes the state “comes to its senses” and drops the case. “As we’ve argued all along, this was consensual activity,” he said. “The state of New Jersey has no right to interfere.”
Robert Ebberup, the lawyer who filed the application to seal the case, said the previous attorney general, Anne Milgram, should not have pushed the case against the troopers.
“The taxpayers have been denied the services of seven talented, hard-working and decent state troopers for about two and a half years now,” he said. “There has been taxpayer money wasted on this.”Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
He added that he would drop a court request to force the borough to pay part of Yirce’s attorney’s fees and other fines as long as the settlement is paid by Sept. 25, a court deadline for a judge to hear his request.
The council’s 4-1 vote in favor of the agreement mirrors an informal tally taken when the agreement was first discussed in May, according to court documents.
Catrambone accused the borough of trying to back out of that agreement after two members said at a subsequent meeting that they had changed their minds and would vote against it, according to a court motion he filed.
The council revisited the issue in another closed session meeting last week, shortly after receiving a stern letter from its insurance fund, whose attorney had helped negotiate the original deal. The letter said the insurance fund would not pay for additional court costs or damages beyond its share in the original deal.
Mayor Steve Weinstein said he struggled with the decision but voted in favor of the settlement, because the borough’s attorneys advised the council that there was a strong chance that they would lose if the case went to court.
“This was a business decision in terms of saving the taxpayers possible additional dollars moving ahead,” he said.
Joseph Tedeschi, who cast the dissenting vote, said he thought the borough had enough documentation to defend itself against Yirce’s complaints, which included allegations that he was passed up for promotions, harassed and repeatedly made the victim of insulting pranks that associated him with crying babies. “I think it was an insult to the taxpayers of Fair Lawn and an insult to the officers of the Fair Lawn Police Department,” he said of the settlement.
He added that the case leaves the borough open to future litigation from disgruntled police officers.
“What are we going to do now?” he asked. “Have we set a precedent for when a police officer decides to sue, he starts taking notes and then he sues us and we settle?”
Weinstein disagreed, saying the settlement would have little effect on future lawsuits involving the Police Department, including four that have recently been filed or announced.
At least one of those cases, filed by Sgt. Mike Messina, overlaps with Yirce’s complaint. Messina, who worked under Yirce, claims that the department’s supervisors assigned him Yirce’s duties when they lost confidence in Yirce, but did not pay him for the additional responsibilities.
“I don’t think the Yirce case will have any effect on Messina,” Weinstein said. “Each case will rest on its own merits.”Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The rumors, which were not corroborated by an Internal Affairs report, created a harassing environment for Delntinis, the lawsuit contended. Following the rumors, Deintinis said in the suit, officers would “blow kisses” on the police radio while she was on patrol and cut off her radio transmissions. In an amended complaint filed last year in state Superior Court in Paterson, Dentinis alleged that Police Chief Daniel Paton retaliated against her for the sexual harassment lawsuit by not allowing her a shift transfer.
“She is looking forward to continuing to serve with the integrity and proficiency she has demonstrated throughout her career as a Police Officer in the city of Passaic,” said DeIntinis’ attorney, Charles Sciarra.
Lawyers for the city declined comment and a spokesman for Mayor Alex Blanco did not return phone calls. Samuel Rivera was the mayor during all but the conclusion of the case.
The settlement clears DeIntinis’ Internal Affairs record of any reference to the incident that sparked the lawsuit and another departmental charge, according to court documents. The suit also precludes the city from admitting guilt.
The two sides filed conflicting accounts of what occurred, but they agree on some elements. On April 26, 2005, DeIntinis was on patrol in the city’s southwest sector. Sometime that night, the Police Department’s dispatch center received a report from an anonymous caller who said it looked like an officer was being assaulted at Gregory and Passaic avenues – where DeIntinis had met with her former patrol partner, Claudio Mella.
DeItinis argued that during her conversation with Mella, several officers arrived and confirmed that everything was fine with DeIntinis. The city maintained, however, that one of the responding officers, Sgt. Louis Gentile, lied to Internal Affairs investigators that there were any officers in the alley.
In his deposition, Diaz said his officers on Gentile lied that there was no one there and why DeIntinis failed to radio into dispatch when requested. DeIntinis’ suit contends she was in contact with headquarters.
Although Sciarra named Diaz personally as a defendant, Superior Court Judge Anthony Graziano ruled in April that Diaz could not be held financially responsible because he was acting as a public employee. Still in depositions, Diaz admitted – after significant verbal fencing with Sciarra – that he thought DeIntinis was performing oral sex because of rumors about her in the past.
“When I was a walking officer many, many years ago there were sexual rumors when she wasn’t a police officer that she used to come out at night and hang out with the police officers, but that was many years ago,” Diaz said during depositions.
Anthony DeIntinis, the plaintiff’s husband, was president of the local police union at the time of the incident.
Diaz did not comment on Wednesday and Paton declined comment.
The settlement occurred about the same time a jury awarded $650,000 to a city sanitation truck driver who alleged he was subject to a hostile work environment because he is black.
The city also settled a sex discrimination lawsuit last year by the city’s first female firefighter. In November, the city agreed to pay former firefighter Glorimar Silva instead of going to court.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The jury agreed she had been passed over for a promotion in January 2006 after testifying before a federal grand jury, and after portions of a memo she wrote criticizing the university appeared in The Star-Ledger, said her attorney Charles Sciarra of Clifton.
But the jury did not find she lost her $74,641-a-year job in retaliation for her whistleblower actions, Sciarra said. During the 10-day trial before Superior Court Judge Mark Baber in Hudson County, the jury learned she was one of 100 people the university terminated around the same time, he said.
Caprarola still feels vindicated after the jury ordered the university to pay her $265,000 in punitive damages, Sciarra said. On Wednesday the jury awarded her $84,000 day in compensatory damages, for emotional distress and lost wages.
“The jury sent a clear message with their award for punitive damages, that you’ve got to take some action to encourage, not discourage people who blow the whistle,” Sciarra said. “Carol was asking for help and they kept turning their backs. No one cared. This is the cost of their indifference.”
UMDNJ spokesman Jeffrey Tolvin called the verdict disappointing” because “actions by UMDNJ in this matter were taken after careful and thorough evaluation.”
At the same time, the university is “pleased that the jury dismissed the allegations suggesting that the actions taken were retaliatory in nature,” Tolvin said.
Responding to UMDNJ’s statement, Sciarra said: “It appears they still don’t get it. When it came to particular acts aimed at her, the jury found there was retaliation in a big way.”
Caprarola contended she was fired after testifying before a grand jury in 2006 about a memo she had written criticizing the university for maintaining a political slush fund. As a public university, UMDNJ was precluded from conducting political activities, she advised.
The law “certainly supports the consideration of removing ourselves now from the business of political contributions,” she wrote in the Oct. 29, 2004 memo, obtained by the Star-Ledger. “The climate is perfect for us to just say ‘no.'”
UMDNJ had contributed more than $57,000 to state and local officials from a “Community Events” fund over three years, according to campaign records obtained by the newspaper. The university at the time said the money came from private foundations.
Caprarola’s memo was uncovered by the university during an investigation of its own government affairs department, and was turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
A former program director and manager for a Newark not-for-profit community based service organization settled her whistle-blower claim against her former employer for the amount of $250,000. The former employee, who brought a claim under the New Jersey state whistle-blower statute, was terminated from her employment as a result of her numerous complaints to her supervisor and her employer’s executive director about unsafe and hazardous conditions that posed a significant risk to the health, safety and welfare to employees and citizens, including children who were participating in various educational programs and activities. (Firm Entry)
A former director for student activities for a New Jersey state university settled his whistle-blower claim against his former employer for the amount of $225,000. The former employee, who brought a claim under the New Jersey state whistle-blower statute, was terminated from his employment as a result of his complaints to his supervisors and numerous deans of the university regarding financial irregularities with regard to funds allocated to the student government which were to be used for student activities and organizations. (Firm Entry)Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
“They tried to suppress the arrest of the councilman, who was later charged and convicted, and when Patrick Bland reported the matter to the authorities they targeted him and his career,” Catrambone wrote. “The jury saw through the borough’s denial and excuses.”
Catrambone said his firm plans to seek legal fees from the borough in excess of the damages already awarded.
Mayor Matt McHale, who said the borough plans to appeal the decision, said insurance will cover the award and warned that taxpayers may also have to foot the bill for legal fees.
The award will require “significant and draconian cuts’ to the town’s budget and services, McHale said.
“This is going to potentially cost us up to a million bucks, all because they tried to cover up the arrest of one of their political cronies,” Mchale said, referring to the Republicans who controlled the council at the time of the arrest.
The lawsuit grew of the July 2000 drunken-driving arrest of Fredericks. County prosecutors opened an investigation into former Republican Mayor Donald Winant and then-police Chief Michael Affrunti for allegedly ordering the council-man’s release before he was given a breath test.
Bland was denied promotions and forced to resign in December 2004 after 26 years with the department, Catrambone said. In 2006, the borough paid $200,000 to settle claims with two other officers for enforcing the law against elected officials. One officer was involved in the Fredericks case, and the second officer was accused of misusing police computers for investigation an illegal parking incident by another former councilman.
Prosecutors did file criminal charges against Affrunit, who was allowed to retired in latee 2000 as the trial against Fredericks began. Winant resigned in 2005 amid an unrelated financial scandal that swept Republicans from office.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
“Ms. Henry-Taylor conscientiously and unambiguously spoke out against the shameless attempts by top officials within UMDNJ’s administration to sweep under the rug UMDNJ’s fraudulent billing practices which resulted in the theft of millions of dollars of public funds,” Henry-Taylor’s attorneys, Charles Sciarra and Jeffrey Catrambone, said in a statement issued yesterday.
In her lawsuit, Henry-Taylor says she warned that the billing problems “would ‘ruin’ UMDNJ” and also raised concerns about millions of dollars in excessive bills – apart from the double-billing – filed with both public and private health insurance companies.
Henry-Taylor earned $117,000 as compliance officer at UMDNJ’s University Hospital in Newark. She worked there for three years until she was forced to resign last December. Then-UMDNJ president John Petillo ordered Henry-Taylor to quit at the direction of U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie after Christie’s office filed fraud charges against the university, forcing the school to submit to the authority of a federal monitor or risk being shut down.
UMDNJ spokeswoman Anna Farneski said university officials had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
Last month, a university billing manager charged he was harassed, demoted, then banished to a makeshift office in the lunchroom before he was suspended. Another finance official at the hospital sued UMDNJ, charging top officials conspired to obstruct a criminal investigation into the scandal-battered institution. And a project coordinator in UMDNJ’s government affairs office said her objections to a political slush fund got her fired.
The rash of cases follows a June settlement in which its former chief of cardiology was paid $2.2 million after alleging he was forced to leave the university because of his objections to an illegal scheme giving physicians no-show faculty jobs in exchange for patient referrals.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
The settlement won’t be considered final until it’s approved by the Borough Council. If the council gives the nod, taxpayers will be responsible for $30,000 of the sum, said Mayor Domenick Stampone, who confirmed the settlement amount. The rest will be paid by a borough insurer, he said.
Len, 45, began work for the department in 1986. In 2002, he told his wife and children he was gay and moved out of his family’s home.
Rumors swirled, and soon he was suffering from sexual discrimination, Len claimed. In his suit, Len said that he’d arrive for work three minutes late and be reprimanded, while other officers were routinely late and not disciplined. He further alleged that Mamkej once called over the police radio “Homo, homo, homo,” and Pengitore referred to Len as a “three dollar bill,” a derogatory term for a homosexual. Len claimed Pengitore and Mamkej tailed him in their cars while he was off duty. Len was up for promotion to lieutenant, he claimed, but was told he didn’t qualify because he didn’t hand in the necessary paperwork on time.
The council is set to consider the settlement Jan. 18.
The council has 45 days to approve the settlement, then 45 more days to pay the sum, according to Charles Sciarra, Len’s Clifton-based attorney.
The settlement also stipulates that past and pending charges brought against Len by the Police Department be expunged from his personnel file, and that any promotion practices in the future be done in “good faith,” Sciarra said, during proceedings in Judge Burrell Humphreys’ courtroom.
Sciarra said he advised Len not to comment for this story and “to look forward, not look back.” Mamkej could not be reached for comment. Pengitore said he didn’t want to comment.
Stampone is the newly elected Democratic mayor who defeated Pengitore, a Republican, in the mayoral race two months ago. He called the Len settlement an isolated incident – “not what the borough of Haledon is about.”Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5