Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brigantine suit partially settled and court will hear argument tomorrow

Update: The March 10, 2010 Investigation Report (redacted), Judge Johnson's February 25, 2011 Order and Opinion are on-line here.
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On November 1, 2010, I reported that I had sued the City of Brigantine (Atlantic County) seeking access to a) a redacted settlement between a top Brigantine official and an employee who accused him of sexual harassment and b) a report of the City's investigation of the alleged sexual harassment.

I am being represented in this suit by Richard Gutman, Esq. of Montclair. Background is available on-line here.

The City and I recently settled my demand for the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement between me and Brigantine is at pages 101 - 106 of the PDF file here.

Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Nelson C. Johnson will hear my claim for the investigation report on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. in Atlantic City.

According to the terms of its settlement with me, Brigantine agreed to provide me with a copy of its settlement with former Brigantine Police Chief James C. Frugoli, Jr., an unidentified "victim" in an unspecified "personnel matter" and the City. This is exactly the record to which Brigantine previously denied access. As part of the agreement, Brigantine also agreed to pay my out-of-pocket court costs and attorney fees in the amount of $3,188.67.

The disclosed document, which is at pages 107 - 109 of the PDF at the link above, shows that on March 30, 2010: a) Frugoli agreed to retire and not seek reemployment with the City, b) the unidentified person who was involved in the "personnel matter" with Frugoli would release Frugoli and the City from any claims, and c) that the unidentified person would receive "time off with pay up through and including April 4, 2010."

Also of interest is Brigantine's opposition paperwork filed December 17, 2010. In it, City Manager James Barber strongly implies that the allegation of sexual harassment against Police Chief Frugoli was trumped up by Police Captain Raymond Cox and current Chief John Stone after Frugoli had second thoughts about retiring. Barber's affidavit is on pages 82 - 86 of the PDF.

Finally, at page 87 of the PDF is City Attorney Timothy Patrick Maguire's January 3, 2011 letter to Judge Johnson explaining Mr. Barber's comments that were reported in an April 9, 2010 article in the Press of Atlantic City. Those comments were:

"There was an internal investigation, and we are confident (in its results)," Barber said. "There were a lot of rumors, but did anything really occur? No."

In his January 3rd letter, Maguire explained that Barber's comment referenced allegations that Chief Frugoli had engaged in misconduct "outside of the police department which was unrelated to the alleged conduct with had occurred in the City of Brigantine." The way I interpret it, Maguire is saying that Barber's comment that nothing occurred should not be taken to mean that the investigation cleared Frugoli of misconduct that was alleged to have taken place within the City--including, presumably, allegations that Frugoli sexually harassed a subordinate. Rather, Barber's comment should be taken to mean only that Frugoli did not engage in misconduct outside of the City.

The January 27, 2011 hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. at the courthouse at 1201 Bacharach Blvd, Atlantic City. The public is invited to attend, but cautioned to telephone the court at 609-594-3384 or 609-594-3579 tomorrow morning to verify that the hearing has not been canceled or postponed. Refer to Paff v. Brigantine, Docket No. ATL-L-5038-10.

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