Sunday, February 22, 2015

Video: Fired Camden cop peeing on bench in jail cell.



On January 28, 2015, I blogged about a former Camden County Metro police officer who, while locked up in an Evesham Township (Burlington County) jail cell, urinated on the bench and floor.  My first thought was that the former officer's cell may not have been equipped with a toilet, so I requested a video and put it on-line here.  The video shows while that a toilet is available, the officer chose to urinate on the bench and floor.




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Police investigation requested regarding Oceanport school district's destroyed records.

Following is an e-mail I sent yesterday to a detective in the Oceanport (Monmouth County) Police Department after I learned that the Oceanport school district's prior business administrator destroyed public records in a manner inconsistent with New Jersey's records retention law.


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February 17, 2015

Gregory A. Lauretta Jr., Detective
Oceanport Police Department
315 E Main St
Oceanport, NJ  07757
via e-mail only to detectives@oceanportpolice.org

Dear Detective Lauretta:

I write on behalf of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project to request that you investigate a possible violation of the Destruction of Public Records Law, N.J.S.A. 47:3-29, which states that any person who "defaces, mutilates or destroys with malicious intent any public record shall be guilty of a high misdemeanor."  A "high misdemeanor . . shall mean crimes of the first, second, or third degree" under the 1978 Criminal Code. N.J.S.A. 2C:1-4.

According to a certification filed by Dennis W. Kotch, Business Administrator of the Oceanport school district (on-line here) Norma M. Tursi, Kotch's predecessor at the Oceanport school district, ordered that various Board records be shredded despite the fact that "appropriate forms for the destruction of records were not submitted to the New Jersey Division of Asset [sic] and Record Management and that no records of what was destroyed were kept."

Since a "high misdemeanor" equates to a "crime," it would appear that the statute of limitation is 5 years. N.J.S.A. 2C:1-6(b)(1). Since Ms. Tursi's alleged offense occured "approximately two years ago," her alleged offense is within the statute of limitations.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Open Government Advocacy Project

Monday, February 16, 2015

Plaintiff wins $1,000 judgment against Franklin cops in police abuse case. Lawyer seeks $199,737.50 in fees


In October 2011, Patricia Roccisano filed a lawsuit after Franklin Township (Somerset County) Police Officer Robert Nemes allegedly used excessive force during a domestic dispute call to her home.  In December 2014, after a three and a half day trial, a jury found that Nemes had violated Roccisano's constitutional rights and awarded her $1,000 in compensatory damages.

On December 23, 2014, Jae H. Cho, Roccisano's attorney, filed a motion seeking $199,737.50 in attorney fees and expenses of $19,851.41 for a total of $219,588.91.  Cho is with the Cho Legal Group of Paterson Street, New Brunswick.

The fee application has been contested by Franklin Township's law firm, Dvorak & Associates of George Street, New Brunswick.  The matter will be heard by Federal Magistrate Freda L. Wolfson in the coming weeks.

Case documents are on-line here.  The case is captioned Patricia Roccisano and Kristi Kizmann v. Officers Robert Nemes and Elliot Smith, Federal Case No. 3:11-cv-06558.

Another lawsuit challenging Stafford's police sergeant exam.

Previously, I blogged about two veteran Stafford Township (Ocean County) police officers suing the Township and Police Chief Joseph Giberson claiming that a promotional examination for the rank of Sergeant was "unlawful . . . arbitrary and capricious [and] manipulated by" Chief Giberson and Township officials.  I have since learned of another lawsuit claiming the same thing.  It was filed by Joseph Mrazek and is on-line here.

Present and recent lawsuits against the Deptford Board of Education.



By way of an Open Public Record Act (OPRA) request, I learned about the following lawsuits that have recently been filed against the Deptford Township (Gloucester County) Board of Education.  I decided to post them on-line as a public service.  On the settled cases, I have submitted OPRA requests for the settlement agreements and will update this blog entry upon their receipt.  On Berglund's case, I have submitted an OPRA request to identify which Board of Education member allegedly retaliated against Berlund for disciplining the fiancĂ© of her sister, who worked for the Board.  See my update here.

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Caption: Walter Berglund v. Stacy Gray, Rachel Green, Linda Rosser and the Deptford Board of Education, Federal case no. 1:14-cv-01972. The lawsuit is on-line here.

Summary:  Plaintiff Berglund served as president of the Board of Education until he resigned on May 23, 2012 and was hired by the Board as Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds on December 3, 2012.  He said that Gray, Green and Rosser, who are also on the Board of Education, posited that was undeserving of his new job because he got it because of his "political associations" rather than merit.

Berglund said he attempted disciplined an employee who lived with and was engaged to the sister of Gray, Green or Rosser (the lawsuit does not specify which).  The employee, who was allegedly guilty of neglect of duty, insubordination and conduct and unbecoming a public employee, reportedly said that "I'm just here to collect a paycheck" and "I'll never be supervised by a white person."

Berglund said that on the same day he suspended the employee, Rosser made a motion during the public portion of the Board meeting to replace him with another employee.  Berglund said that Gray, Green and Rosser all voted in favor of a January 28, 2014 motion to discharge him.

Status: Active.  An amended complaint was filed on October 23, 2014, on-line here.

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Caption: Lee Ann Ayres, Susan Baresich, Paulette Conn, Ismael Franaui, Karen Freundlich, Lillian Palladino, Amanda Riddell-Tessein, Rodney Smyth, Susan Teti, Susan Tomlinson, Nicole Vinci, Carleen Wilson, Karen Wood, the Estate of Nancy Powell, et al v. Deptford Board of Education, Docket No. GLO-L-1141-14.  The lawsuit is on-line here.

Summary:  District employees complained that they were enrolled in the Defined Contribution Retirement Program on June 11, 2013 even though they were eligible for enrollment at earlier dates.

Status: Active.

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Caption: Cynthia Davis v. Deptford Board of Education and Arthur Dietz, Docket No. GLO-L-1215-13. The lawsuit is on-line here.

Summary:  Davis, a school nurse, said that she was defamed by school principal Dietz, who accused her of endangering the life of a student who came to her after suffering a routine allergic reaction.  She also claimed that the Board used Dietz's untrue statements as a pretext for firing her.

Status: Settled on February 20, 2014.  Settlement agreement on-line here.  Davis received $4,000, promised not to seek re-employment and to keep the settlement agreement confidential.

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Caption: Marc A. Lopez v. Deptford Board of Education, Docket No. GLO-L-2175-11.  The lawsuit is on-line here.

Summary: Gay high school Spanish teacher said he suffered severe and pervasive harassment due to his sexual orientation, that school administrators did nothing to address it and ultimately used his sexual orientation or his complaints as a basis for firing him.

Status:  Case settled in March 2013 for $190,000.  Click here.

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Caption: Lisa Schwinge v. Deptford Board of Education and Joseph Collins, Docket No. GLO-L-1842-09. The lawsuit is on-line here.

Summary:  Plaintiff claimed that Collins and school administrators unlawfully failed to renew her contract because she was pregnant and missed work because of jury duty.

Status:  Case settled in July 2012 for $65,000 (click here) and Schwinge agreed to keep the settlement confidential.

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Caption: Bonnie Stanton v. Deptford Board of Education, Federal case  No. 1:11-cv-02525. The lawsuit is on-line here.

Summary: Plaintiff alleges that she was fired because she missed work due to knee surgery.

Status: Settled in June 2013 for $5,000 (click here).  Stanton signed a confidentiality agreement.

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Caption: Franco Colamarco v. Deptford Board of Education, Federal case  No. 1:12-cv-07302.  The lawsuit is on-line here.

Summary:  Plaintiff, a high school vice principal, claimed that he was unfairly demoted to teacher because he missed worked because of a herniated disk in his back.  Principal Gary Loudenslager allegedly told him that he would not recommend his rehire as vice principal.  He also alleged that his supervisors' discriminated against him on the basis of gender when Melvin Allen stated that he preferred that a female be hired rather than Colamarco.

Status: Settled on November 15, 2013.  Settlement agreement is on-line here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Former school principal interviewed by prosecutor about his "involvement with a minor" is receiving $7,800 gross monthly pension benefits.

On February 2, 2015, I blogged here about my Open Public Records Act (OPRA) lawsuit that seeks an investigative report and video regarding an Atlantic County elementary school principal who unexpectedly resigned a few days after being interviewed by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office about his "involvement with a minor."  To date, no charges have been filed against the principal, John Gibson.  Gibson was formerly employed by the Galloway Township school district.

Today, I received a report (on-line here) from the New Jersey Division of Pensions showing that Gibson has been receiving monthly net pension checks of an undisclosed amount since May 1, 2014.  Before deductions, however, the gross monthly pension amount is $7,834.50

Dog viciously attacking mother and son fatally shot by Delanco police. Seven shots fired, two bullets unaccounted for. Victims lodged in intensive care.

At midnight on February 1, 2015, Delanco Township [Burlington County) Police responded to a Hickory Street residence to answer a report of a person being seriously injured in a dog attack.  A dog in the home had attacked a mother and her son leaving the son "with a four to five inch open wound on his left leg and blood all over both legs" and the mother "covered in blood" and with "wounds on her legs."  Delanco Officer Joel Mufalli fired multiple shots into a Rottweiler which was "biting down on [the mother's] lower shin and shaking its head violently." Police reports are on-line here.

Both victims were transported to the Cooper Medical Center and lodged in the Intensive Care Unit.  Police reported that the mother's wounds were going to require surgery.

Police took custody of Mufalli's weapon and there were still eight rounds in the fifteen round magazine, meaning that a total of seven rounds were fired. Police later recovered three bullets from the corpse of the Rottweiler and two on the floor near the dog's body.  This left two bullets unaccounted for.


Local Government Ethics Law complaint against Westampton Township Committeeman Robert Maybury

February 11, 2015

Patricia Parkin McNamara
Local Finance Board
101 S Broad St – PO Box 803
Trenton, NJ 08625-0803
(via e-mail only to Patricia.McNamara@dca.state.nj.us)

Dear Ms. McNamara:

I intend this e-mail to be my complaint against Robert Maybury who, at all times relevant to the activities alleged below, served as a member of the Westampton Township Committee in Burlington County. In accordance with N.J.A.C. 5:35-1.1(b), following are the required elements of the complaint:

1. State the point of the Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL) alleged to be violated. 

N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.5(d) which states:
No local government officer or employee shall act in his official capacity in any matter where he, a member of his immediate family, or a business organization in which he has an interest, has a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment. 
In addition, other subsections of N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.5 may be been violated as well.

2. State the name(s) and title(s) of the parties involved in the action and against whom the complaint is filed. 

Complainant John Paff and the New Jersey Libertarian Party and Robert Maybury.

3. Set forth in detail the pertinent facts surrounding the alleged violative action. 

The following facts were derived from news articles appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Burlington County Times.  On December 12, 2014, Westampton Township Committeeman Robert Maybury voted "aye" to appoint Jason Carty as Westampton Township's fire chief and EMS director.  The positions to which Carty was appointed pay $90,000 per year.  On or about December 10, 2014, Carty had resigned as a Commissioner of the Mount Holly Municipal Utilities Authority.  Yet, while Carty was an MUA Commissioner, he voted "aye" on appointing Maybury as the MUA's interim director.  (The MUA's October, 9, 2014 meeting minutes reflect that Carty voted "aye" on Res. 2014-95 which appointed an unnamed interim executive director which must be Maybury given that Maybury is identified as the interim director in the November 13, 2014 meeting minutes.)  Maybury's position as interim director appears to be a paid position given that Joseph V. Rizzuto, the MUA's previous executive director, was paid $110,000 in 2013 according to Gannett's "DataUniverse" site.

Had Carty been an MUA Commissioner on December 12, 2014, I believe that Maybury's "aye" vote to appoint Carty would have violated N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.5(d) because--at least in my view--Maybury would have "act[ed] in his official capacity in any matter where he . . . [had] a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment."

If this is true, then it doesn't seem to me that it should matter whether Carty was still an MUA commissioner at the time of Maybury's vote or had resigned a couple of days prior to Maybury's vote.  Maybury and Carty both acted in their official capacities to appoint each other to paid public jobs.  It seems pretty clear to me that Carty's December 8, 2014 resignation from the MUA was no accident--rather it was designed to give support to Westampton Solicitor George Saponaro's statement, as reported in the Inquirer, that Maybury's "recusal was not needed because Carty had resigned as a commissioner a few days earlier."

I file this complaint not as much to subject Maybury to the LGEL's ridiculously paltry fines.  Rather, I challenge the Local Finance Board to make a ruling on this issue which I plan to make public once it is rendered.  I think that the public will be interested in knowing whether the ethical propriety Carty's and Maybury's mutually beneficial votes turns on Carty's election to separate himself from his MUA Commissioner's position a couple of days before Maybury cast his vote.

If the Board determines that Carty's eleventh hour resignation from the MUA immunizes him from what would have been an ethics violation had he not resigned, such a ruling would hopefully prod the legislature to consider strengthening the LGEL to close up this and other loopholes.

4. Indicate whether the complaint concerns the complainant in any way and what, if any, relationship the complainant has to the subject of the complaint. 

Complainant has no interest in or relation
ship to this complaint greater than any other citizen or organization who wishes for all government officers and employees to comply fully with the Local Government Ethics Law.

5. Indicate any other action previously taken in an attempt to resolve the issue and indicate whether the issue is the subject of pending litigation elsewhere. 

No other action has been taken previously in an attempt to resolve this issue and this issue is not the subject of any pending litigation. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I ask that you please acknowledge your receipt of this complaint within 30 days.

Sincerely,

/s/ John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Open Government Advocacy Project
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ 08875
Voice: 732-873-1251

Monday, February 9, 2015

Another suit against Stafford regarding sergeant's exam, virus trashed Giberson's assistant's computer.

After posting my blog entry about McVey's and Smith's lawsuit against Stafford Township and Police Chief Joseph Giberson, I located another, apparently related lawsuit, filed by Joseph Mrazek against the Township and Giberson.  I have submitted an Open Public Record Act (OPRA) request for a copy of that lawsuit and will post it here upon receipt.

In Mrazek's suit, Stafford Township's Assistant Network Administrator Christopher H. Smith filed a September 5, 2014 certification (on-line here) stating that Chief Giberson's administrative assistant, Maryann Grady, had a computer that "was infected with a cryptolocker virus" which "encrypted all of the files on Ms. Grady's hard drive."  Because of the virus, Smith said that he had to reformat the hard drive which resulted in "all of the documents on Ms. Grady's hard drive [being] lost.

Mrazek is being represented by Mark B. Frost and Ryan M. Lockman of Philadelphia, who is the same lawyer who represents McVey and Smith.  The Township and Giberson are being represented by Jerry L. Dasti of Forked River.

Stafford Police sergeant promotion exam challenged by two officers.

On September 24, 2014, two veteran Stafford Township (Ocean County) police officers sued the Township and Police Chief Joseph Giberson claiming that a promotional examination for the rank of Sergeant concluded in 2013 by the Stafford Township Police Department was "unlawful . . . arbitrary and capricious [and] manipulated by" Chief Giberson and Township officials.

According to a federal civil complaint filed by Stafford Police Officers David L. McVey and Drew G. Smith, sixteen officers applied for position of Sergeant in 2012.  The applicants underwent a two-part examination consisting of "Phase I" which was a multiple choice, written test and "Phase II" which was an evaluation by superior officers, including Chief Giberson.

Plaintiffs McVey and Smith placed 8th and 9th, respectively, after both parts of the exam were graded.  According to their complaint, Kenneth Schiattarella, Olev Allikmaa and James Haldenwang placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and were promoted to the rank of sergeant in July 2013. (Note: A Patch article here and an Asbury Park Press article here suggest that Haldenwang was not promoted and currently still holds the rank of patrolman.) The other contenders who made it through the exam process, along with their scoring ranks, were Neil McKenna (4th), Robert C. Conforti (5th), Jason R. Costello (6th), Joseph E. Mrazek (7th), Stephen Fessler(10th) and Robert H. Woodring (11th).

McVey and Smith claimed several problems with the manner in which the exam was conducted.  According to their lawsuit, in order to be eligible to take Phase II, one had to score in the top half of the Phase I portion. McVey and Smith claim that since sixteen officers took Phase I, only eight should have taken Phase II.  Yet, eleven officers took Phase II.  They also claimed that there was "little or no justification, baseline, or guidelines for how evaluators were instructed to base their grading decisions" which resulted in each evaluating superior officer being able to "use any system that they wanted or that they created on their own."  Also, they argued that Sergeant John Linck (who has since passed away), "possessed more first-hand knowledge of Plaintiffs' work performance than many of the other supervisors" but was ill on day of the evaluation and was not permitted to participate.

In response to McVey's and Smith's lawsuit, Giberson and the Township filed a counterclaim alleging that McVey and Smith filed their lawsuit "for the sole purpose of harassing" them.  They claim that the "sole justification" for McVey's and Smith's lawsuit "is that they were unhappy with the [Township's] decision not to promote them."  The Township and Giberson seek to compel McVey and Smith to pay the Township's attorney fees.

McVey and Smith are being represented by Mark B. Frost and Ryan M. Lockman of Philadelphia while the Township and Giberson are being represented by Jerry L. Dasti of Forked River.  The civil lawsuit, counterclaim and answer to counterclaim are on-line here.