Saturday, May 30, 2015

EMS chief criminally charged with theft, internally charged with drugs and porn.

By way of an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, I obtained a copy of a December 2014 civil complaint filed by an Emergency Medical Services Chief against the Plumsted Township (Ocean County) Board of Fire Commissioners and a January 22, 2015 court order that resolved the complaint.

In the complaint, EMS Chief David P. Rogers, Jr. sought an injunction to prevent the Fire District from proceeding with internal disciplinary charges against him for "illegal drug activity and illicit pornographic activity" until after theft charges filed against him by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office were resolved.  According to a February 23, 2015 letter from the the State Office of Emergency Services, Rogers "allegedly submitted duplicate receipts for expenditures . . . in order to receive double reimbursement from the Township."  The amount of Rogers' alleged theft was $628.76.  The complaint and order are on-line here and the state's letter is on-line here.

In his January 22, 2015 order, Superior Court Judge Craig L. Wellerson dismissed Rogers' complaint and permitted the Fire District to resume its disciplinary charges.  Judge Wellerson specifically allowed the District, at the disciplinary hearing, to "introduce photographs and videos of children obtained from [Rogers'] work computer and work cell phone SIM card or SD card as evidence."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bridgeton teacher's racial discrimination suit scheduled for June 1st.

On Monday, June 1, 2015, 9 a.m., an African-American teacher's New Jersey Law Against Discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, the Bridgeton Public School District, is scheduled to be tried at the Cumberland County Courthouse before Judge Richard Geiger.

The teacher, Sakina Davis, claims in her February 9, 2013 lawsuit (on-line here) that Christine Barlas, the Caucasian principal at the Geraldyn O. Foster Early Childhood Center on Buckshutem Road, put Davis in charge of disciplining African-American students "because the school did not want African-American parents coming in and becoming 'aggressive' with Caucasian administrators and teachers."

Davis alleges that Barlas made racially derogatory comments to her such as opining that "African-American parents did not have the same level of care for their students' educational experience as did Caucasian and Hispanic Parents" and that Black mothers often had "drug dealing boyfriends" that exposed young African-American males to violence.  Davis also says that Barlas did not intervene when special education teacher Jane Krokos "implied that African-American students were disproportionately disruptive" and should be put in their own class so as to not "ruin" the educational experience for Caucasian and Hispanic students. Davis said that she was forced to resign because the "retaliatory harassment and non-response to the racial harassment became too much for her."

The trial, which will be held on the third floor of the Courthouse in Bridgeton, is open to the public.  Those who wish to attend and observe may wish to call the Civil Division Manager's Office at 856-453-4331 on Friday afternoon to ensure that the trial has not been adjourned.

Representing Davis is P, Kevin Costello of Mount Laurel.  Representing the school district is Patrick F. Carrigg of Mount Laurel.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lakewood cop whose "drug use" is the subject of my OPRA suit is busted for heroin.

Robert Lawson,
Lakewood Chief of Police
Today's Asbury Park Press reports that former Lakewood police officer Matthew Moore was arrested on May 17, 2015 for possession of heroin.  According to the article, Lakewood Officer Kristie Buble, while investigating a suspicious vehicle in a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot, allegedly observed Moore "preparing to ingest heroin."

This is interesting to me because Moore is the same officer who was allowed to resign from the Lakewood Police Department in June 2014.  According to the "Confidential Agreement" that set forth the terms of Moore's resignation, Lakewood withdrew a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action filed against Moore in exchange for Moore's agreement to not seek employment with any New Jersey law enforcement agency, reported Moore's "drug use to the New Jersey Drug Registry," and agreed give a neutral reference to any of Moore's future employers.  Details on the agreement are on my blog here.

When Lakewood refused to provide me documents regarding the "drug use" that led to Moore's resignation, Donald M. Doherty filed suit on my behalf against Lakewood under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access.  That lawsuit, which is described on my blog here, is currently pending.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Paulsboro poised to pass another juvenile curfew ordinance that it believes will pass constitutional muster.

On Tuesday, May 19, 2015 the Paulsboro (Gloucester County) Borough Council will vote on enacting a new juvenile curfew ordinance to replace the one the Borough repealed in October 2014. The repealed ordinance is on-line here and the new one under consideration is on-line here.

Both versions of the ordinance made it illegal, with certain exceptions, for those under the age of 18 to be out in public during nighttime hours.  The new version, however, would make some changes including extending the curfew hour from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and increasing the maximum fine for a first offense from $25 to $1,000.

The most significant change, however, is allowing parents to give "written permission" to their children allowing them to travel between private locations and to travel to and from "cultural, educational and social events, sponsored by religious, non-profit or community based organizations."  The new version specifically allows parents to decide what is and what is not a ""cultural, educational and social event."

The increase in parental authority seems to be modeled after the Appellate Division's 2001 decision in Betancourt v. West New York.  In striking down West New York's curfew ordinance, the court held that the ordinance's exceptions were "not broad enough to recognize the right of parents to permit their children to participate in many legitimate activities. Such activities might include parent authorized at baseball, basketball, hockey or other sporting events sponsored by a private organization; going to the movies, or bowling, or visiting friends and relatives."  The court also ruled that the ordinance's definition of "cultural, educational or social events" was unconstitutionally vague.  The court held:
In cases where the government seeks to dictate facets of the parent-child relationship, it must overcome the strong constitutional presumption in favor of parental authority over governmental authority. 
Whether or not Paulsboro's new curfew version is constitutional will not be known unless a Paulsboro minor or parent decides to challenge in in court.  In the meantime, it would appear that parents who wish to permanently exempt their children from the ordinance's reach could provide them with a written notice containing language such as:
In accordance with §50-4(A)(3) of Paulsboro's curfew ordinance, please be advised that I authorize my child, [name], to travel to and from our home at [address] and any other privately owned location within the Borough on any day and at any hour, without exception.  As a parent, I reserve the right to restrict the blanket permission granted herein by verbally communicating those restrictions to my child on a case by case basis. Those restrictions, if any, are the private business of myself and my child and do not concern the Borough of Paulsboro.
[Parent's name]
[Parent's signature]
[Parent's contact information]