Monday, April 23, 2018

Truck driver sues County for racial discrimination. Same driver received $6,000 settlement in 2015.

On February 7, 2018, a truck driver employed by Salem County filed a lawsuit against the county claiming that he was called a "n****r" and "compared to primates."  He also claimed that his superiors retaliated against for being injured on the job by subjecting him "to a barrage of false or frivolous write-ups."

In his lawsuit, Grady Butts, who has worked for the county since 1997, claimed that the racial harassment started in 2013.  In 2014, after internal complaints did not abate the alleged harassment, Butts filed a verified complaint with the the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (NJDRC).  In his NJDCR complaint, Butts claimed that co-worker Sean Eastlack referred to him and another black employee as "primates" and called him a "n****r."  Butts said that his complaints to supervisors fell on deaf ears and that he "received an unpaid suspension for insubordination and abandonment on December 3, 2014" in retaliation for his complaints.  The NJDCR matter was resolved on June 12, 2015 by a settlement in which Salem County paid Butts $6,000 and "agreed to expunge all discipline from [Butts'] personnel file."

In his recent lawsuit, Butts claimed that in 2014 he suffered two on-the-job injuries that caused his physician to order him to be placed on restricted work duties.  He claimed that in retaliation for seeking modified duties, his supervisors falsely accused him of insubordination and suspended him.  He also claimed that he was written up for frivolous reasons, forced to perform heavy lifting despite his doctor's orders and was again called a "n****r" and compared to primates.

On April 19, 2018, the county filed an answer to Butts' complaint which denied Butts' allegations and claimed, among other things, that Butts "welcomed and/or participated in the conduct of which he or she now complains."

Butts' lawyers are Gregg L. Zeff and Eva C. Zelson of Mount Laurel and the County of Salem is represented by Allan E. Richardson of Mullica Hill.  Butts' lawsuit, like all lawsuits, is comprised of allegations.  Nothing has been proven and the burden of proof is upon Butts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Former Vineland High student suing school district because maintenance worker allegedly hugged and kissed her and expressed his love for her.

On March 23, 2018, a former student at Vineland High School (Cumberland County) filed a lawsuit that accused the Vineland Board of Education of failing to protect her against a school maintenance worker's alleged unwanted sexual advances.

The woman, now 20 years old, is identified in the lawsuit only by her initials "J.L."  She claimed in her lawsuit that a maintenance worker, identified in the lawsuit only by his initials "J.C.," grabbed her by the shoulder when she was walking through "A wing" on March 23, 2016, "pulled her close, gave her a hug, then kissed her on the cheek" and told her "you know I love you."  J.L. further alleged that the maintenance worker followed her around school and waited for her at her locker.  She claimed that the maintenance worker's advances started when she was 17 years old.

An Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to the Vineland school district resulted in a response that disclosed the maintenance worker's name.  The response also shows that the maintenance worker is still employed as a Building Maintenance Worker by the school district and earns $27,113 annually. He began working for the school district in November 2006.

J.L.'s lawsuit, like all lawsuits, consists only of allegations.  Nothing has been proven.  The burden rests on J.L. to prove her allegations before a court of law.

J.L., who also named the maintenance worker as a defendant in the lawsuit, is being represented by Alexander J. Wazeter of Turnersville.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Gay employee claims in lawsuit that Salem school officials harassed him for being a foster parent.

According to his February 9, 2018 lawsuit, a gay man employed by the Salem City School District (Salem County) began to experience workplace harassment after he told his supervisor that he was taking foster parenting classes.  According to the lawsuit, his supervisor and fellow employees told him that he needed "to find a woman" and that "You don't need kids, just get another pet."

The lawsuit was filed by Joseph Longo, III, who is identified on the school district's website as a Social Worker.  The employees Longo claimed to have mistreated him are Pamela Bates-Thomas, Dale Gardner and Dr. Billie Slaughter, who are identified on the same webpage, respectively, as Director of Special Services, Transition Coordinator and School Psychologist, and Superintendent Dr. Amiot Patrick Michel.

According to the lawsuit, Longo told Bates-Thomas in September 2016 that he was taking foster parenting classes.  Longo claimed that Bates-Thomas and Gardner would make negative comments about him being a foster parent "nearly every day."

While not entirely clear, the lawsuit alleges that Longo took in a new foster child in May 2017 after two other foster children had left his home.  The departure of the two children caused Slaughter to tell Longo "I hope you learned your lesson, you don't need any children," according to the complaint.

Longo claimed in his lawsuit that Bates-Thomas told him that he "was not a real parent" and that he needed to choose between being a foster parent and his carerr.  She allegedly told Longo that he didn't deserve a personal day to take the child to a doctor's appointment.  She allegedly said that "Arrangements can be made to return the [foster] child to the [child care] organization, which would not occur if it is your own child.”

According to the suit, Superintendent Michel asked Longo "invasive and harassing questions" regarding whether he was getting paid to take care of the foster children.  Michel allegedly told Longo that because no one paid him (i.e. Michel) to take care of his daughter, Longo was "not a real parent."

Separately, Longo claimed in his suit that Bates-Thomas was dismissive of an LGBT club at the high school.  "I can't believe they have this club." she reportedly remarked.

On April 2, 2018, the school district filed its answer to Longo's lawsuit and denied nearly all of Longo's allegations.  The answer also challenged Longo's assertion that he was a "former employee" that began working for the district in September 2000.  According to the school district, Longo is a current employee who began working for the district in 2009.

Longo is being represented by Kevin M. Costello of Mount Laurel and the school district's lawyer is Jay D. Branderbit of Cherry Hill.

Longo's lawsuit, like all lawsuits, consists only of allegations.  Nothing has been proven.  The burden rests on Longo to prove his allegatinos before a court of law.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Student sues school district for failing to protect her against bullying that started when she was in third grade.

On March 15, 2018, a student, identified only her initials M.S., sued the New Hanover Township (Burlington County) public school district for failing to take action against students who, over several years, called her "whitey," "white bitch" and "Lesbian" and physically assaulted her. 

According to the lawsuit, M.S. v. New Hanover Township School, Docket No. BUR-L-548-18, other students began to harass M.S. when she began attending New Hanover Township Elementary School as a third grader in September 2013. According to the suit, other students called her names, kicked her in the stomach, hit her in the face with a water bottle and a ball and threatened to beat her up.

M.S.'s mother claimed that she notified Principal Scott Larkin several times about the abuse and even attended a meeting with Larkin and a State Trooper in February 2014 to no avail.  She said that she followed up with then Superintendent Dr. Cassandra Brown and even addressed the Board of Education at a public meeting but "nothing was done to stop the harassment, and the harassment continued."

According to the complaint, the abuse spilled over to the M.S.'s mother. M.S.'s mother said that she called the police in May 2017 when M.S., who then was a sixth-grader, was allegedly told by other students that the playground was "now a punching ground" and another student chased M.S. down the street. According to the lawsuit, the mother of the alleged attacker came to M.S.'s mother's home and called her a "white bitch" and "white trash."  The alleged attacker then reportedly wrote a social media post that mocked M.S.'s mother for being afraid of her mother.

The lawsuit claims that a teacher, Ms. Peterla, told M.S.'s mother in June 2017 that "If your daughter would just keep her mouth shut, we could avoid all these problems."  According to the lawsuit, M.S.'s mother took both M.S. and her younger sister out of school and is now homeschooling them.

M.S. is being represented by Drake P. Bearden, Jr. of Mount Laurel.

The allegations in the lawsuit are just that--allegations.  Nothing has yet been proven and the burden of proof lies with M.S. and her mother.

Court challenge filed against Mount Laurel ordinance that makes landlords liable for tenants' disorderly conduct.

On April 4, 2018, a Mount Laurel Township (Burlington County) property owner filed a lawsuit challenging an ordinance that holds residential landlords "responsible and liable for the conduct and actions of any tenant, invitee, guest or any other person who is in, or about the premises and/or property with the permission, either express or implied, of the landlord, owner, tenant, guest or invitee."  Property owners who violate the ordinance are subject to a fine of up to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, up to 90 days community service "or any combination thereof."

The lawsuit, captioned Sheppard v. Mount Laurel Township, Docket No. BUR-L-707-18, was filed in Burlington County Superior Court by Marlton attorney Daniella Gordon on behalf of her client Scott Sheppard who owns rental property in the Township.  The suit takes aim at several aspect of the Township's Rental Ordinance enacted in July 2016.  In her filing, Gordon also argues that the ordinance is preempted by state statute and that it violates the constitution because it requires landlords and tenants to give "free access" to an "inspecting officer . . . at all reasonable times" without requiring the officer to get a search warrant.

The suit seeks a declaratory judgment holding that the offending sections of the ordinance are preempted or unconstitutional "and ordering the Township to revise the Code accordingly."  The suit also seeks to make the Township pay Sheppard's costs of suit and Gordon's attorneys fees.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Man sues Vineland for "defiant trespass" arrest for collecting ballot signatures at Cumberland Mall.

On March 26, 2018, a Bridgeton man sued Vineland (Cumberland County) Police officials, a shopping mall and a mall security guard for arresting him while he was at the shopping mall on April 21, 2016 trying to get signatures on a petition to allow him to run in the Democratic Party primary for a seat on the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders. 

The man, Nathan J. Goldschmidt, said that he did not conduct himself in a disorderly manner.  He claimed that he was arrested for "soliciting mall patrons for political reasons."  Goldschmidt maintains, however, that a 1994 New Jersey Supreme Court decision permits political expression even on private property, such as a shopping mall's premises.

Goldschmidt claimed that the defiant trespass charge against him was later dismissed.

The lawsuit is captioned Goldschmidt v. Officer Matthew Garvey, et al, Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-197-18.  Goldschmidt's lawyer is Louis Charles Shapiro of Vineland.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Video: NJ Trooper, donned in latex gloves, searches man's crotch after allegedly smelling marijuana.

I did not realize that the odor of marijuana, without more, justified a roadside, under-clothes search of a motorist's genitals and anus by a State Trooper clad in latex gloves. I received this video in response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request made to the New Jersey State Police.