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Open Government Advocacy Project:
Howell pays $125,000 to hostile work environment/wrongful discharge suit

Issue Detail:

On June 4, 2013, the Township of Howell (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $125,000 to a Waretown woman who sued members of the Howell Police Department for harassing her, creating a hostile work environment and constructively discharging her. In addition, Howell settled the woman\'s workers compensation claim for $25,000. In her suit, Mary Lenahan, a 13-year Howell employee who served as a police dispatcher, said that fellow dispatcher Christine Jakowski would undermine and make derogatory comments about Lenahan\'s competence. Lenahan also accused Jakowski of making a racial comment and would \"place several guns on her desk\" for no other reason than to harass Lenahan. She further alleges that her complaints resulted in a \"bad faith investigation\" and Jakowski retaliated against her. The case is captioned Lenahan v. Howell Police Department, Superior Court Docket No. MON-L-3456-11and Lenahan\'s attorney was Gary S. Shapiro of Englishtown. Case documents are on-line here. None of Lenahan\'s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $125,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Howell or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Howell or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Lenahan $125,000 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: Howell pays $125,000 to hostile work environment/wrongful discharge suit. June 20, 2013.
URL: http://ogtf.lpcnj.org/2013/2013171Oe/
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