Thursday, November 2, 2017

Troopers seek to have their hostile work environment lawsuit move forward.

Update:  On April 16, 2018. the United States District Court issued an opinion permitting the civil case to move forward.
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On November 26, 2012, two New Jersey State Troopers sued the Division of State Police claiming that they were subjected to a hostile work environment after one of the Troopers, a female, went undercover as an Atlantic City prostitute in May 2011.  On October 26, 2015, the lawsuit was administratively closed by United States District Judge Mary L. Cooper pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against the two Troopers that arose out them allegedly giving news media photographs of five Troopers celebrating a 2009 Camden drug bust by waiving a Puerto Rican flag.  On October 27, 2017, the attorney for both Troopers asked the court to reactivate the 2012 lawsuit because the disciplinary matters have concluded.

The 2012 lawsuit, filed by Troopers Kenneth Franco and Georgina Sirakides, was reported in a January 3, 2016 article titled "Troopers waved Puerto Rican flag in drug bust photos, got suspended" authored by S.P. Sullivan of NJ Advance Media.  The article, which includes a link to Franco's and Sirakides' lawsuit, reported that five Troopers who celebrated the drug bust by waiving the flag and giving thumbs up signals on camera each received a 20-day suspension.  The charges against Franco and Sirakides, detailed in a February 18, 2016 article on Random Notes on NJ Government, allege that they had leaked the flag photos to the media and that Sirakides committed domestic violence against her ex-husband Kenneth Sirakides who is also a Trooper.

The October 27, 2017 legal brief filed by Atlantic City attorney Anthony Morgano on Franco's and Sirakides' behalf reports that the disciplinary charges against the two Troopers were settled on June 28, 2017.  Both Troopers reportedly received 65-day suspensions, payment of nearly two years of back pay, reinstatement to the State Police and restoration "to the the same administrative sick leave [they were] on prior to" their May 14, 2015 suspensions.  The settlement agreements that resolved the disciplinary charges against Franco and Sirakides are on-line, here and here.

According to the brief, Sirakides has since been declared eligible for disability retirement.  Morgano wrote that the two Troopers were "suspended . . . without pay based upon fabricated, minor disciplinary charges [while] similarly situated NJSP troopers received only minor discipline based on similar alleged conduct."

The court is scheduled to hear and determine the matter on November 20, 2017.