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Open Government Advocacy Project:
Elizabeth Board pays $205,000 to settle employee age discrimination suit

Issue Detail:

On January 26, 2011, the Elizabeth Board of Education (Union County) agreed to pay $205,000 to worker in its technology department who sued the Board for allegedly firing him because of his age. In his suit, Carmen Fortunato of Belleville, claims that he showed up to work on June 26, 2006, he discovered that he had been locked out of the Board's computer system. He subsequently learned that he had been terminated "as a consequence of performance, attendance, credentials and/or budgetary reasons." He claimed that those reasons were pretextual and that the real reason for firing him was his age. The case is captioned Fortunato v. Elizabeth Board of Education, Docket No. UNN-L-2500-07 and Fortunato's attorney was Thomas R. Basta of Warren. Case documents are on-line here. None of Fortunato's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $205,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the school board or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that the school board or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Fortunato $205,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened. ABOUT ME AND WHY I'M POSTING THIS. I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project which seeks to increase governmental transparency and accountability, particularly at a local level. For more information on the Libertarian Party, go to http://www.njlp.org. As part of my work, I routinely check civil court cases where at least one of the parties is a government agency or official. Most often, these settlement agreements are never revealed to the public. I post them on the Libertarian Party's blog at http://njcivilsettlements.blogspot.com and other public forums because I believe that civil settlements, regardless of amount, may be of interest to citizens and taxpayers. John Paff Somerset, New Jersey




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