On May 20, 2015, the Borough of Wildwood Crest (Cape May County) formally asked United States District Court Judge Joseph E. Irenas to disqualify Michelle J. Douglass, of Somers Point, from representing former Wildwood Crest Police Sergeant Thomas J. Hunt in his lawsuit against the Borough, Mayor Carl Groon, Police Chief Thomas DePaul and others. The Borough's application, filed by attorney Todd J. Gelfand of Voorhees, is based on Douglass' recent decision to represent former Wildwood Crest Police Lieutenant Michael Hawthorne. In his application to Judge Irenas, Gelfand argues that Douglass is conflicted because Hawthorne was previously a defendant in Hunt's lawsuit against the Borough and was part of the Borough's "litigation control group." Hunt and Hawthorne oppose Douglass' disqualification and their court filings give some insight into alleged wrongdoing by DePaul, former Captain David Mayer and others.
Selected documents from the hundreds of pages of recent court filings are on-line here. Included are Gelfand's motion and supporting brief to disqualify Douglass, Hawthorne's certification and Douglass' brief and a court order requiring the Borough to respond to Hunt's opposition by June 15, 2015 and for Hunt to reply to the Borough's response by June 22, 2015. The following are some points, extracted from the filings, that I believe to be of interest:
1. Hawthorne and Hunt accuse Mayer and DePaul of "manufacturing" a memo that was used in the Borough's disciplinary action against Hunt. The memo at issue is dated January 23, 2010 and was purportedly issued by Captain Bradley. According to Douglass' brief, DePaul and Meyer had created the memo in 2011. Douglass argues that the memo could not have been written in January 2010 because it refers to Hunt's "recent suspension" and that the suspension wasn't actually issued until after the date that the memo was allegedly authored.
2. Douglass argues that Gelfand later turned over another version of the same allegedly manufactured memo dated January 29, 2010 rather than January 23, 2010. She claims that Gelfand is therefore a "witness as to the falsified January 23, 2010 memo" and therefore is conflicted from representing DePaul, Mayer and the Borough simultaneously.
3. Hawthorne alleges that a grant intended for Domestic Violence use was actually used by Mayer "as a personal slush fund."
4. Hawthorne alleges that Cape May Prosecutor Robert Taylor's real motivation for eliminating Hawthorne from the lieutenant position was to "allow for the promotion of [Taylor's] nephew, Wildwood Crest Officer Lloyd" to the position.