Thursday, September 25, 2014

Former Bridgeton Comptroller files "Whistle Blower" suit against City

In May 2014, Teresa Delp, who served as Comptroller for Bridgeton (and also had part time positions in Shiloh, Lawrence and Stow Creek) filed a lawsuit against the City of Bridgeton claiming that she was retaliated against her when she complained in early 2012 that "the City's business administrator engaged in conduct in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination based upon the protected class/category of gender and/or sexual orientation and its anti-retaliation provisions."  Further details of exactly how the business administrator violated anti-discrimination laws is not disclosed in the lawsuit.

Records on DataUniverse show that Delp retired in 2014 at a final salary of $134,186 from all her employers and is collecting a pension of $78,380 per year.

The lawsuit, Teresa Delp v City of Bridgeton, Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-342-14 is on-line here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Camden County Democrat and Republican Committee Members on-line

On-line here is a list of the Democrats and Republicans who serve on the County Committees for terms running from 2013 through 2015.  I am not aware of this information being on-line anywhere else.

It's interesting to take the Committee members in a town that is controlled by the dominant party (i.e. the Democrats in Camden County) and cross reference their names with DataUniverse's listing of government employees.  Many of them have positions with the county or one of the school districts or municipalities in Camden County.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Deptford Township Board of Education records

I made a records request to the Deptford Township (Gloucester County) Board of Education and the following documents, which may be of public interest, were disclosed to me.
Board's Confidential Settlement Agreement with Gary M. Loudenslager.
Board's Confidential Settlement Agreement with Christopher Rodia.
Board's agreement with the Deptford Education Association, July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2016
April 9, 2014 Police report of verbal dispute between Butch Berglund and Cedric Hunter.  (I am informed that former school board president Walter J. Bergland is sometimes referred to as Butch Berglund.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Margate Clerk's suit scheduled for trial on 09/22/14

Update: Trial rescheduled for November 10, 2014

Margate City Clerk Thomas Hiltner's whistle blower lawsuit against the City of Margate is scheduled to be tried before Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Donna M. Taylor on Monday, September 22, 2014 at 9 a.m.  Some details of Hiltner's lawsuit against the City are contained in a news article on-line here.

The trial will be held at the Civil Courts Building at 1201 Bacharach Blvd., Atlantic City. Members of the public and media representatives who wish to view the trial should call the court at 609-594-3436 on the Friday before the trial to make sure that it hasn't been postponed or transferred to a different location.  Refer to Docket No. ATL-L-3105-12.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Regarding Repeal of Paulsboro's juvenile curfew ordinance

September 8, 2014

Hon. W. Jeffery Hamilton, Mayor, and members of the
Paulsboro Borough Council
1211 Delaware Street
Paulsboro, NJ 08066
Via e-mail only

Dear Mayor Hamilton and Council members:

For the reasons that follow, I believe that Chapter 28 of Paulsboro's Code, establishing a juvenile curfew, is unconstitutional and that a person against whom enforcement is sought may have a viable lawsuit against the Borough.

Compare Chapter 28 to Wanaque Borough's juvenile curfew ordinance which is attached as Exhibit A to the April 10, 2013 civil complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which I've placed on-line here.  Like Wanaque's, Paulsboro's curfew ordinance does not contain an exception for cases where the minor has parental consent to be in public during curfew hours.

The brief filed by the ACLU, which is on-line here, gives several compelling reasons why that lack of such an exception makes Wanaque's curfew ordinance unconstitutional.  According to an August 13, 2014 article in Suburban Trends, Wanaque has responded to the ACLU's lawsuit by introducing an ordinance repealing its curfew law in its entirety and by paying $55,000 in attorney fees to the ACLU."

Egg Harbor Township in Atlantic County repealed its curfew ordinance after being sued and paid $10,000 in attorney fees. The Atlantic County judge's preliminary decision in that case is on-line here.

Whether you are for or against juvenile curfews, I am sure that you will see the wisdom in keeping the Borough out of a potentially costly lawsuit.  I ask that you please ask the Borough Attorney to provide a legal opinion regarding the curfew ordinance's constitutionality and discuss that opinion at your September 16, 2014 work session meeting.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,

John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Preempted Ordinance Project
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ  08875
Phone 732-873-1251

New Milford police lieutenant's age discrimination case to be tried in November.

On November 10, 2014, a New Milford police lieutenant who sued the Borough and Police Chief Frank Papapietro in 2012 for passing him over for a promotion to police captain, will be tried before Bergen County Superior Court Judge Robert L. Polifroni.  Lieutenant John F. Kiene, who was 50 when the suit was filed, claimed that he was passed over for promotion because of his age.

He is represented by the Law Offices of Edward J. Nolan of Hackensack.  Kiene's lawsuit and Judge Lisa Perez Friscia's May 9, 2014 decision denying the Borough's motion for summary judgment in the matter, are on-line here.

Former Executive Director's lawsuit against Gloucester Township Housing Authority

Update: On January 9, 2015, U.S. District Judge Marie Renée Bumb dismissed Rogers' federal claims but did not preclude him from asserting his state law claims in New Jersey Superior Court.  Bumb's opinion is on-line here.
I just learned today that Roy Rogers, the Gloucester Township Housing Authority's (GTHA) former director, filed a lawsuit against the Authority earlier this year alleging that he was improperly fired on February 27, 2013 and that he "was terminated for his objection to unethical GTHA policies and actions." The lawsuit is on-line here.

The most specific allegations start on page 9 and include charges that Mayor David Mayer "became visibly angry and frustrated" when Rogers objected to awarding a contract for a development project to a person who did not submit a bid.  He also charged that he upset Township officials when he "refused to request campaign donations at fundraisers from private contractors for GTHA commissioners and Township officials and candidates." He also claimed that he verbally objected to a land transfer made by GTHA Commissioner Cindy Carlamere and her husband, who is Gloucester Township Attorney David Carlamere, stating that it was "unethical and procedurally improper."

He claimed that his "objections and non-compliance" cause the Township to staff the GTHA with "new commissioners that were opposed to Rogers' continued tenure," including Steven Piccolo, Stan Washington, Kelly Matthews and Steve Orner.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My complaint to the School Ethics Commission regarding the Perth Amboy Board of Education

September 5, 2014

Robert W. Bender, Chairman and members of the
School Ethics Commission
New Jersey Department of Education
100 Riverview Plaza
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Chairman Bender and Commission members:

I understand that the Legislature passed the School Ethics Act to establish uniform and enforceable ethics standards to guide the actions of local school board members and administrators.  The public interest is having such standards is evident from the language of the Act itself which states that
In our representative form of government it is essential that the conduct of members of local boards of education and local school administrators hold the respect and confidence of the people.  These board members and administrators must avoid conduct which is in violation of their public trust or which creates a justifiable impression among the public that such trust is being violated.  To ensure and preserve public confidence, school board members and local school administrators should have the benefit of specific standards to guide their conduct and of some disciplinary mechanism to ensure the uniform maintenance of those standards among them. N.J.S.A. 18A:12-22.
Given this legislative policy, I find it offensive when school board members who are subject to the Ethics Act negotiate a secret settlement agreement with an ethics complainant in which the complainant receives a substantial cash pay out in exchange for her agreeing "not to voluntarily testify" in any of the ethics matters pending against the Board members for her agreeing to "advise the School Ethics Commission in writing that she believes that [her financial settlement] is sufficient to resolve all the ethics claims she had originally instituted including those now prosecuted by the School Ethics Commission."

This is exactly what happened, however, in the Perth Amboy School District's secret settlement agreement with former school superintendent Janine Walker Caffrey which is fully described on my blog here.  This appears to be nothing more than an attempt by craven school board members to use public and insurer money to get themselves out of hot water.

I note that the settlement agreement provides that Caffrey may still testify in these ethics matters if commanded by the Commission's subpoena.  At your next meeting, I ask that you issue a subpoena to compel Caffrey's testimony.  This way, the pending ethics matters against the school board members will be decided on their merits which, I believe, it what the legislature intended.

I look forward to learning the Commission's decision on this matter.

Very truly yours,

John Paff

Really Freeholder Long?

The South Jersey Times reported on September 4, 2014 that Freeholder Doug Long and his law partner Albert Marmero were charged by ethics authorities with using nearly $200,000 from client trust funds to pay for the firm's operating expenses.  The article quoted Long as saying "It's important to note that neither myself, nor my partner are being accused of any wrongdoing ... Instead, this is an issue of negligent supervision of an employee."

The filed ethics complaint, in paragraphs 46 and 47, states that "on November 1, 2010, a cash deposit of $10,000.00 was made to the trust account. These funds replenished the trust account for the funds misappropriated from Royal Court tenants in October 2010. The cash deposit was a loan from Jeff Long," who is Don Long's brother.  Long and Marmero, in their answer to the ethics charge, admitted that Long's brother deposited the $10,000 into their firm's trust account but claim that they "only learned in the course of this investigation that [bookkeeper Colleen] Redman routinely transferred funds among different firm accounts, including the trust account, and in this instance deposited a loan, to ensure that firm liabilities were covered and duly paid."

So, Redman, on her own and without Long or Marmero knowing about it, reached out to Long's brother and arranged for him to make a $10,000 cash loan to the firm's trust account to keep the trust account from being overdrawn?  Really?

Apparently, the Freeholder expects us to believe that he and his brother never discussed this loan and that the entire scheme was cooked up by the "negligently supervised" bookkeeper.  For Long's sake, I hope the members of the State's Disciplinary Review Board are as gullible as he believes the public to be.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lawsuit by Sussex County volunteer firefighter drawing to a close.

On September 29, 2014 and October 20, 2014, respectively, a settlement conference and a trial are scheduled before Sussex County Judge Edward V. Gannon in a "whistle blower" case that pits a veteran volunteer and his girlfriend, a female breast cancer survivor, against a Sussex County volunteer fire department and several fire department officials.

On August 14, 2012, Dale Molnar, 51, and Wendy Reskovac filed a civil lawsuit against Hampton Township and the Hampton Township Fire & Rescue Company claiming that fire department officials harassed Reskovac and shunned Molnar when he spoke out against the alleged harassment.  According to the lawsuit, Reskovac, who had responded with Molnar to an August 2008 fire call, entered the firehouse to use the restroom. When she was returning from the restroom, Robert Wehrenberg, who is described in the suit as "the President, Vice President, or other officer or senior member" of the fire department, allegedly accessed a picture of "female breasts and male genitalia" on his cell phone and showed it to others, including Reskovac.  Reskovac claimed that the photograph upset her both because of its pornographic content and because she was a breast cancer survivor.  Molnar said that he spoke with Fire Chief David Gunderman about the incident.

About a month later, Wehrenberg spoke with Molnar in private and allegedly told him that "the officers bad convened and decided that Reskovac was not allowed in the building or on the property at all."  Wehrenberg then allegedly initiated a verbal altercation with Molnar and Reskovac in presence of Chief Gunderman who "said nothing."  Reskovac then claimed to have sent a letter of complaint to the Township of Hampton which was allegedly ignored.

Molnar alleged that beginning in 2009, other members of the fire department were avoiding him and not including him on the roster of fire calls to which he responded.  His former friends in the fire department allegedly told him that Wehrenberg had instructed them not to speak with Molnar. Others told him that his treatment was part of a larger effort to "get rid of the old guys."

The complaint cites a number of other grievances and transactions that ultimately resulted in Molnar allegedly being suspended from the department and being refused refused reentry after his term of suspension was over.

The lawsuit is on-line here.  Molnar and Reskovac are represented by Pauline M.K. Young of McLaughlin & Nardi in Totowa.

North Haledon lawyer charged in attorney ethics complaint

Update 11/25/2017: By order of the Supreme Court, Catania was disbarred on November 17, 2017.

Update 03/23/2017: In her January 3, 2016 Hearing Panel Report (which I only recently learned about), Special Ethics Master Melinda L. Singer recommended Catania's disbarment.  Records requests have been submitted to Hackensack (to see if Catania still serves as municipal prosecutor there) and to the Disciplinary Review Board (to see if any further action has been taken on this ethics matter) and this article will be updated upon receipt.

Singer's recommendation was sent to the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) and I have sent a request to the DRB to see if it has yet reviewed this matter.  Neither Singer nor the DRB can actually disbar Catania.  Only the New Jersey Supreme Court has that power.  On 03/24/17, I was informed by DRB Chief Counsel Ellen Brodsky that there has yet to be a disposition of the matter.  On March 27, 2017, I was informed that Catania was appointed as prosecutor by the Hackensack City Council in 2013 and that his law firm, Catania & Ehrlich, P.C., was appointed in 2015 and 2016.  Hackensack's 2017 Local Government Officer Roster lists Catania as City Prosecutor and Oakland Borough Mayor Linda Schwager as Alternate Prosecutor. (Update: In a July 17, 2017 e-mail, Hackensack City Attorney Steven Kleinman wrote: "As an update to this inquiry, a new individual was appointed to the position of Municipal Prosecutor at the City’s reorganization meeting on July 1, 2017.")

On February 18, 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Ethics filed a formal Disciplinary Action Complaint against Frank Catania, Jr. a partner in the firm Catania & Ehrlich,PC.  According to meeting minutes of the Hackensack City Council, Frank Catania, Jr. serves as municipal prosecutor there.

The complaint alleged that on December 21, 2010, Catania wrote a $15,000 check out of his client trust fund account to Cattino Fitness Corp, which the complaint says in Catania's business.  The complaint further alleged that Catania wrote another $10,000 check out of his trust account on December 30, 2010 to the law firm of Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis for legal fees "related to [Catania's] personal business."

In his filed Answer to the Complaint, Catania claims that his client, Charles and Patricia Amorosi, authorized Catania to borrow $15,000 and $10,000 from their escrow balance and produced two handwritten receipts as evidence.  The Office of Attorney Ethics, however, argued that Catania's explanation involving the handwritten receipts is inconsistent with a defense that Catania previously raised in a July 5, 2012 letter.

The complaint and answer are on-line here.

Cumberland Freeholder Deputy Director, partner, named in attorney ethics complaint.

A Woodbury attorney who serves as Deputy Director of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders and his law partner have been named in a Disciplinary Action Complaint filed by the New Jersey Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Ethics.

Freeholder Douglas M. Long and his partner Albert K. Marmero, partners in the Woodbury law firm of Long Marmero and Associates, have been charged by state ethics officials with "negligent misappropriation" of funds held in the law firm's trust account.  According to the February 19, 2014 complaint, which is on-line here, the firm's "trust account funds were regularly invaded and utilized as a 'line of credit' to fund the firm's operating expenses."  The complaint goes on to detail dozen of transactions in which a total of $199,255.42 was allegedly "borrowed" from client trust funds in order to cover the firm's business checking account overdrafts, payroll taxes and to repay loans given to the firm by Douglas Long's brother Jeff Long.

The complaint alleges that Long and Marmero "delegated the firm's record keeping responsibilities to" Colleen Redman, a non-attorney.  Long and Marmero allegedly did not "make any inspection of the firm's books and records for the purpose of confirming that Redman was safeguarding the property of clients and third parties" during a three-year period.

Long and Marmeo,though Roseland Attorney Roger Plawker, filed an verified answer to the complaint, which is on-line here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lawsuit: Hammonton Police promoted Chief's "favorite" so that he could retire at increased pension.

In a lawsuit filed in July, a Hammonton Borough (Atlantic County) Police Sergeant alleged that the Borough created a new police lieutenant position so that a police sergeant, who was a favorite of Police Chief Robert Jones, could fill it.  According to the suit, the new lieutenant actively served in his position only five months before going out on extended medical leave in November 2012 and then retiring on October 1, 2013.  This, according to the complainant, "greatly benefited the new lieutenant as he was able to retire at the position and salary rank of lieutenant for the purpose of his pension calculation in October of 2013."

After the new lieutenant's retirement, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Sergeant Joseph A. Maimone, Jr., stood next in line for the now vacant lieutenant position. Maimone claims that Chief Jones, who is allegedly angered by Maimone's past complaints about the former lieutenant's promotion, has thus far refused to promote him.  According to Maimone, Chief Jones has recently decided to "return to 'the old structure', meaning reducing the number of lieutenants back down to two and extinguishing the [Maimone's] entitlement to the lieutenant's promotion."

Maimone's lawsuit, Maimone v. Hammonton Borough, Docket No. ATL-L-4749-14, is on-line here.  Maimone is represented by Louis M. Barbone of Atlantic City.