Friday, January 12, 2018

Burlington County Xmas tree seller suing town and police for not enforcing zoning laws against competitors.

On January 8, 2018, a Willingboro Township (Burlington County) Christmas tree seller filed a lawsuit against Edgewater Park Township and its police department seeking to compel Township officials to enforce zoning ordinances against two competitors.

In his lawsuit and accompanying brief, Frank E. Woolman, Jr. said that Edgewater Park Police Chief Gene DiFilippo told him that "he has no intention of enforcing [zoning] ordinances" against Dunphy Landscaping and Edgewater Stone and Garden which both compete with Woolman's Christmas tree sales.  Woolman claims that he complies with all local zoning codes while his two competitors violate various codes that regulate parking lots, safe customer ingress/egress and signage.

Woolman claims that he has suffered economically because he has been made to "endure unfair business competition from illegal business operations."  He seeks a court order forcing the Township to enforce its zoning ordinances against the two competitors.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Lawsuit alleges that Buena Regional BA gave a secretary a $10,000 raise to become his secretary/lover.

On March 8, 2017, Phyllis Boehm, a confidential secretary for the Buena Regional School District (Atlantic County), filed a hostile work environment lawsuit claiming that Business Administrator Pasquale Yacovelli gave a $10,000 raise to a secretary who worked "on a different side of the building" so that she would become his secretary and ultimately his lover.  Boehm claimed that the secretary, who is referred to in the lawsuit as "Jane Doe," was her friend and that Yacovelli asked her talk to Jane Doe about his interest in her.

According to Boehm, Yacovelli would say things to her such as "Hook a brother up" and make comments about Jane Doe's body "and say that he wanted her sexually."  Jane Doe was apparently not averse to Yacovelli's interest because, according to the complaint, when Yacovelli allegedly asked whether "it's a red light, green light or yellow light," Jane responded "Perhaps yellow light."

When Yacovelli asked Jane if she wanted to be his secretary, she reportedly "laughed and said, 'If you get me a $10,000 raise, I'll be your secretary.'"  According to the lawsuit, Jane became Yacovelli's secretary in September 2015 and Yacovelli "used his influence as Business Administrator to get Jane the ten thousand dollar raise she wanted."

Thereafter, according to the complaint, Yacovelli and Jane Doe would regularly "steal school time" to have sex in Yacovelli's office.  After one sexual encounter, Yacovelli allegedly "lifted one arm and pumped his fist" in Boehm's presence and said "I wrecked it, Philly."  The pair also reportedly went to the Tropicana in Atlantic City and the Holiday Inn Express on Route 322 to have sex.  According to the suit, Jane Doe told Boehm that Yacovelli was "a machine" and "would make comments about [his] sexual performance."

Boehm said that she "was very uncomfortable with the whole situation" and that the Yacovelli's and Jane Doe's sexual activity and comments created "an environment that was hostile for women to work in [and] was in violation of [the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination]."

Readers should keep in mind that allegations in a lawsuit are just that--allegations.  Nothing has been proven and both the school district and Yacovelli have filed responses to the lawsuit.  Boehm is burdened with proving her case before a jury.  The case is currently in the discovery phase.

Before working for Buena Regional, Yacovelli served as business administrator for the Ocean City Board of Education until his October 7, 2014 resignation. Until recently, Yacovelli served as a member of the Audubon Board of Education.

Monday, January 8, 2018

State dismisses ethics complaint against former Montvale mayor.

On December 13, 2017, the Local Finance Board (LFB) dismissed a December 29, 2013 ethics complaint the New Jersey Libertarian Party and I filed against then Montvale Borough (Bergen County) Mayor Roger J. Fyfe.  After a four-year investigation, the LFB, the principal enforcer of New Jersey's Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL), decided that because a court had previously determined that the former mayor apparently engaged in a conflict of interest, the ethics charge should be dismissed because the facts had already "been decided as part of broader litigation."

Underlying the ethics complaint was a December 27, 2013 article in The Record.  According to the article, Bergen County Judge Lisa Perez Friscia ruled that Fyfe was "intricately involved" in an ordinance that transferred the borough's Department of Public Works to a newly created, shared-service public works department where "Fyfe's brother-in-law was among the first hires."  According to our complaint's summary, as set forth in the LFB's dismissal letter, Fyfe "failed to disclose that [he] had made a referral to the newly created entity to hire [Fyfe's] brother-in-law, who was ultimately hired by the Pascack Valley DPW."

Despite what appears to be a clear and provable conflict of interest, the LFB stated that because a court had already found that Fyfe had participated in a matter in which he was conflicted, it would somehow be wrong to punish him for that conflict.  Under state law, the LFB is empowered to issue fines of between $100 and $500 against local government officers and employees who violate the LGEL but chose not to do so in this instance.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Former Sea Isle cop sues to obtain handgun carry permit.

On December 26, 2017, a former Sea Isle City (Cape May County) police officer filed a lawsuit against the New Jersey State Police Firearms Investigation Unit claiming that the agency is dragging its feet on processing his permit to carry a handgun.

In his lawsuit, Vincenzo J. Macrino claims that he has met all the requirement of the statute that permits retired law enforcement officers to carry a handgun.  Yet, despite seven months having elapsed since his application was submitted, the State Police Unit has not yet granted or denied his application.

According to the lawsuit, Sea Isle City Police Chief has "failed to sign off on [Macrino's] application.  The lawsuit makes reference to "Macrino's prior expungement" which may be a cause of the perceived delay.  According to an October 30, 2007 Cape May County Herald article titled "Chief Kennedy Latest in Sea Isle Police Woes" by Joe Hart, "Sgt. Vincenzo J. Macrino, 33, was charged with falsifying a police report in a summer 2006 underage drinking case, for which he was admitted into a pretrial intervention program in April that forced him to do community service, lose his job and not seek future public employment."

Macrino's lawyer, Michael B. Roberts of Somerset, is requesting an order to show cause hearing before Gloucester County Superior Court Judge David W. Morgan.

Lawsuit: County Vo-Tech accuses Regional High School of "fraudulently" claiming it's a vocational school.

On December 26, 2017, the Cumberland County Board of Vocational Education, which runs the County's Vo-Tech school in Vineland, filed a lawsuit against the Cumberland County Regional High School Board of Education claiming that the latter Board "is purposefully and knowingly attempting to limit the educational choices of its students and parents by fraudulently holding itself out as a vocational school."

According to the lawsuit, the Regional Board sent a December 13, 2017 letter to all 8th grade students and parents advising them that since the Regional Board had established a new vocational school at its Upper Deerfield campus it "will no longer pay tuition and transportation costs for any students who reside in the Cumberland Regional District who enroll with the Cumberland County Vocational School in the following programs of study: Engineering, Health Sciences and Medicine." 

The lawsuit, filed by Woodbury attorney Douglas Long, claims that Cumberland Regional has not secured the required permissions from state education officials and therefore cannot lawfully operate as a vocational and technical school."  The Vo-Tech Board accuses the Regional Board of "engaging in a deliberate campaign to interfere with the rights of its students’ and parents guaranteed [by the New Jersey Constitution] through threat, intimidation and coercion in order to frighten its students and parents into the belief that they may not attend Cumberland County Technical Education Center ("CCTEC") without incurring a significant, potentially insurmountable financial burden."

The lawsuit seeks a court order compelling the Regional Board to immediately notify its entire student and family population in writing that it is not a vocational and/or technical school" and assure them that they will pay the tuition and transportation costs of students who attend CCTEC.  The Vo-Tech Board also seeks an order compelling the Regional Board to pay its attorney fees.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Supervisor of Monroe's Detective Bureau sues over reassignment to Patrol Division.

Chief John McKeown
On December 20, 2017, an Acting Lieutenant of the Monroe Township (Gloucester County) Police Department sued Police Chief John McKeown and Deputy Chief Stephen Farrell for transferring him to make room for "a person who McKeown liked and had a personal relationship with."

In his lawsuit, Francis Montone claimed that after joining the Monroe Police Department in 1997, he moved up through the ranks with glowing reviews to become an Acting Lieutenant who supervised the Detective Bureau.  He claimed that he was called into Chief McKeown's office on September 13, 2017 where he was told that he would be reassigned to the Patrol Division effective January 1, 2018.  McKeown's stated reason for move, according to the lawsuit, was that he had "received several oral complaints about [Montone] being too abrasive and intimidating to the men in the Detective Bureau."  Montone claimed that the Chief's stated reason was a pretext and that the real reason for the transfer was to open the position up to Sergeant Gene Sulzbach, an alleged friend of McKeown's. 

Montone claimed that his transfer violated state law because he was not served with a written complaint and was not afforded a hearing.  His lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing his transfer, monetary damages and attorney fees.

Montone's lawsuit, like all lawsuits, is a list of allegations.  Nothing has yet been proven and the burden of proof remains on Montone.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Female inmate claims in lawsuit that male Cumberland jail guard forced her to perform sex acts on him.

On December 18, 2017, a Vineland woman who said that she had been incarcerated at the Cumberland County Correctional Facility "through multiple periods of her life" claimed that "guards sexually harassing and abusing female inmates was rampant at the jail" and that guards are able to get away with it "because of the failure of Cumberland County to enforce any form of sexual harassment policy."  Her lawsuit named one particular guard as a defendant and claimed that he sexually assaulted her several times.

In her lawsuit, Fatima Rolle of Vineland claimed that Corrections Officer John Berry grabbed her buttocks and breasts when he was alone with her.  She claimed that one two occasions in 2014, Berry "cornered" her in the locker room by the warden's office and forced her to have intercourse with him and perform oral sex on him.  (Note: On October 6, 2017, another lawsuit alleging forced sex by jail officers was reported in the Daily Journal.  That article identifies one of the officers as "John Barry" who may be the same person identified as "John Berry" in Rolle's lawsuit.)  

She said that male corrections officers were regularly left supervised with female inmates in areas without cameras.

Rolle's lawsuit, filed by Mark R. Natale of Mount Laurel, is only a list of allegations. Nothing has been proven and the burden of proof remains on Rolle.