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Open Government Advocacy Project:
Vineland pays $375,000 to settle employment discrimination suit.

Issue Detail:

On March 16, 2011, the City of Vineland (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $375,000 to a local man who sued members of the Vineland Police Department for allegedly beating him and arresting him without probable cause. In his suit, Ryan M. Asselta, who had been employed by the City\'s Electric Utilities Department since 1988, claims to have suffered a serious spinal injury on March 2, 2005. After about a year of recovery, Asselta said that he sought to return to work for the City in a different capacity since he was no longer able to work at his former job--and electical lineman. He claims that despite the availabity of job to read electic meters he was not given that job, even though he was medically fit to perform it. In addition to his discrimination claims, Asselta claims that the City\'s refusal to re-hire him was retaliation for him having filed Workers Compensation claims. The settlement agreement requires Asselta to agree not to ever again seek employment from the City of Vineland. The case is captioned Asselta v. Vineland, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. L-294-07 and Asselta\'s attorney was Christine P. O\'Hearn of Westmont. Case documents are on-line here. The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms. Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public\'s right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant. None of Asselta\'s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $375,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Vineland or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Vineland or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Asselta $375,000 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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New Jersey Libertarian Party Open Government Advocacy Project: Vineland pays $375,000 to settle employment discrimination suit.. June 27, 2012.
URL: http://ogtf.lpcnj.org/2012/2012179OP/
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