Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Court tosses Firemen's Association president's defamation suit against NJ Fireman's Home.

George H. Heflich, Sr.
On March 18, 2016, Morris County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Brennan ordered the attorney for a past president of the New Jersey State Firemen's Association to pay $3,465 toward the attorney fees expended by the New Jersey Firemen's Home and several members of the Home's Board of Managers to stave off the president's unsuccessful defamation lawsuit.

Former New Jersey State Firemen's Association President George H. Heflich, Sr., who recently lost his reelection bid at the Association's September 2016 convention in Wildwood, filed a lawsuit on January 7, 2015 against the New Jersey Firemen's Home, the Home's superintendent Hugh E. Flood and Oscar Dutch, Jr., Kenneth Silvestri, Harry T. Strube, Harry Dedreu, Anthony Grenci, Philip Valese,: Cassmiro Delaurentis, Jr., Thomas J. Murray, Jr., Anthony Frato, Sr., Robert W. Sanders, Thomas Miserendino, James A. Matthews, Gregory D. Leonberg, Sr., Gilbert W. Lugossy, Thomas G. Sutphen and Lester V. Denny who are all members of the Home's Board of Managers.  Heflich's lawsuit claimed that he was a whistle blower and that the defendants took action "with the purpose to degrade and humiliate" him.

At the bottom of Heflich's complaint was a January 11, 2014 resolution passed by the Home's Board of Managers that ordered Heflich to "issue letters of apology" to unnamed Home employees that Heflich allegedly harassed.  The resolution also called upon Heflich to attend "a specialized training seminar for sensitivity awareness" and "publicly admonished, censured and reprimanded" Heflich "for his [alleged] inappropriate and unprofessional conduct toward" the Home's staff and officials.

In response to Heflich's lawsuit, the Home and its Board of Managers, through Newark attorney Peter F. Berk, filed a Motion to Dismiss.  In a June 17, 2015 Order, Superior Court Judge Rosemary E. Ramsey agreed and dismissed Heflich's complaint.  Judge Brennan's March 18, 2016 Order required Heflich's attorney, Mark W. Catanzaro of Mount Holly, to pay $3,465 toward the $14,000 in attorney fees the defendants sought.  Judge Brennan's order cited Court Rule 1:4-8(b), entitled "Frivolous Litigation" which allows parties to civil lawsuits to recover their attorney fees from other parties.