Wednesday, January 12, 2011

http://www.northjersey.com/news/113309254_Public_rages_at_city_over_HPD_turmoil.html

Public rages at council over HPD turmoil
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
BY MARK J. BONAMO
Hackensack Chronicle
Managing Editor
HACKENSACK - If the Jan. 4 city council meeting was a sign of troubled times, then the sign says this: people are mad as hell, and they are not going to take it anymore.


MARK J. BONAMO/STAFF PHOTO
Hackensack resident and taxpayer Gail Fitzgibbons confronts the city council about its budgetary policies at the Jan. 4 council meeting. During the public comments segment, the 20 or so Hackensack citizens present at this meeting rose up one by one, and did what members of a democratic society do; they asked questions of their leaders.

Pointedly, residents of Hackensack raised questions about the city government's spending and budgetary moves in the wake of legal issues involving the Hackensack Police Department, issues generated by the alleged actions of suspended Police Chief Charles "Ken" Zisa.

They also asked why the billing records tied to these legal issues have not yet been made public in a timely fashion, a violation of the state Open Public Records Act (OPRA), a law meant to ensure government transparency.

After a year and a half of problems stemming from unrest in the city police force, the answers provided by the city manager, city attorney and some members of the council only stoked the anger of the residents present, who along with other taxpayers, will ultimately have to pay the $1.5 million in known costs generated by the police department turmoil, a number that continues to climb. At the meeting, rising outrage in the crowd led to shouts of defiance against the city government, and loud demands for solutions.

In the face of this fury, the elected representatives of the people of Hackensack simply, abruptly ended the meeting. With one exception, they filed into the back room behind the council chamber, literally turning their backs on the people they serve.


$1.97 million in budget transfers approved by 3-1 margin

The first serious public confrontation with the council concerned the Jan. 4 passage of resolution 14-11, which authorized the transfer of almost $1.97 million in municipal funds from budgetary reserves to pay bills not covered during the 2010 budget.

These transfers included almost $1.75 million from the funds allotted for Hackensack Fire Department salaries. These funds were shifted to what was labeled group insurance/hospitalization in the resolution.

The sum transferred from city fire department salaries on Jan. 4 followed an approximately $246,000 transfer from fire department salaries authorized by a majority council vote for resolution 405-10 at the Dec. 21 council meeting. As a result, nearly $2 million has been transferred from fire department salaries for other municipal purposes since Dec. 21.

The Jan. 4 transfers also included $45,000 for legal costs. This transfer came from $220,000 allotted for Hackensack Police Department salaries.

As previously reported by the Hackensack Chronicle, the governing body had already appropriated $860,500 for legal fees as of the Dec. 7 council meeting, $360,500 of which was appropriated in the last two months of 2010. With this latest transfer, the total appropriation for legal fees is now $905,500, far above the original $500,000 budgeted for municipal legal services and costs.

City taxpayers will also have to foot the bill for approximately $635,362 in police officer salaries for four officers who were suspended with pay for protracted periods of time because of administrative charges filed against them by Chief Zisa.

Chief Zisa was suspended without pay after he was arrested and criminally charged, first with insurance fraud in April last year, then with official misconduct in May. The chief was subsequently indicted and arraigned on these criminal charges, and is presently awaiting trial in Bergen County Superior Court.

The city government has been compelled to raise funds to meet the legal costs stemming from Chief Zisa's and the city's legal defense, as well as the four separate administrative trials involving the police officers administratively charged by Zisa, which began in 2009.

The legal bills being generated by the turmoil consuming the Hackensack Police Department show no sign of slackening. The four officers administratively charged by Zisa are also among the 22 current and retired city police officers who have filed lawsuits since June 2009 in state and federal court against the chief and the city, the outcomes of which have yet to be determined.

Resolution 14-11 was approved by a 3-to-1 vote by the council. Mayor Karen Sasso, along with council members Michael Melfi and Marlin Townes, all of whom were first elected in 2005 then re-elected in 2009, voted in favor of the almost $1.97 million transfer of municipal funds for the purposes listed in the resolution. Councilman Jorge Meneses, who was also first elected in 2005 then re-elected four years later, was not present for the vote.

Councilman John Labrosse, who was sworn into office in 2009 shortly after the first wave of police lawsuits were filed, registered the lone dissenting vote against the resolution.

"Moving around tremendous amounts of money at the end of the year... it just doesn't fly with me," Labrosse said.


City manager, council members, citizens clash

Kathy Canestrino, a frequent critic of the city's fiscal management, pointed to both the $2 million shifted from the fire department salary account, as well as the now over $900,000 appropriated for legal fees, to make a broader point.

"Salary accounts are the easiest thing in the world to budget, especially when you have salaries that are governed by union negotiations," said Canestrino, a retired aerospace engineer who used to negotiate contracts with the U.S. government. "To over-budget year after year by a couple of million dollars... I hate to use the words 'slush fund', but there is no other way to describe it."

"In this economy, you are really misrepresenting this budget to the public, and it's very unfair," Canestrino added. "And it's very unfair to the firemen... It's just mind-boggling to me... The whole reason for budgeting is to set guidelines and to fiscally manage the city... How do we have $2 million left over in the firemen's salary account at the end of the year?"

City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono defended the city's budgetary policy regarding fire department salaries.

"The budgeted number in salary and wages for the firemen was to the dollar for the number of firemen that were on the job according to what they were to be paid by contract," Lo Iacono said. "To even hint that there was an over-appropriation is absolutely untrue and absolutely wrong."

But by the time city resident and taxpayer Gail Fitzgibbons got to the podium, she was not seeing the city government's point of view.

"I don't come to the city council meetings very often, and the exchange that I just saw is why I don't," Fitzgibbons said. "I pay enormous taxes in this town, some of the highest in Bergen County. And for a fellow taxpayer to be talked to like that... I am so angry right now I can't tell you. Please try to explain yourselves. We elected you."


OPRA request for city's total legal costs raised

Deborah Labrosse, a teacher and the wife of Councilman Labrosse, then asked the city government to explain something else.

"I would like to know why an OPRA request from The Chronicle was not done in the [legal] time frame," Labrosse said.

Labrosse was referring to an OPRA request filed by the Hackensack Chronicle with the Hackensack clerk's office on Dec. 3 for records of the city's complete costs for the lawsuits and the police administrative disciplinary hearings. The OPRA request covered legal costs incurred by the city both this year and in 2009, when the lawsuits were initially filed and the police hearings began, and specified information on bills accrued for outside legal counsel.

According to the OPRA law, the City of Hackensack was required to answer The Chronicle's request for these records in seven business days, which would have been Dec. 14. The Chronicle did not receive a reply from the city clerk's office until an e-mail was sent to The Chronicle's editor on Dec. 16, stating that the city government was unable to immediately comply with the OPRA request.

"You have a right to deny an OPRA request based on needing more time, but you don't have a right to just not give it to [The Chronicle]," Labrosse added. "You say that you want to minimize lawsuits. But every action you take encourages more lawsuits."

"The OPRA request is not something that my office handles, but I am aware that there was a response to that OPRA request," said Lo Iacono. "The finance officer has told me that she has responded, and is now waiting for a response from The Chronicle."

"My understanding is that it is a very, very onerous request that's going to take many, many hours to gather all that information," added Lo Iacono. "And so the finance department has put together an estimated cost for satisfying that request."

The Chronicle received a letter dated Dec. 30, 2010, and received via e-mail on Jan. 3, 2011, from the city government regarding the OPRA request.

"It has been estimated by the auditing department that the charge for labor for these requests would most likely exceed $1,500," wrote City Clerk Debra Heck.

Upon receipt, The Chronicle submitted the City of Hackensack's most recent reply to its OPRA request to the legal department of North Jersey Media Group, the parent company of The Chronicle, for further review and consideration.


Impromptu budgeting seminar by councilman sets crowd off

Later during public comments, city resident Mark Johnson offered the suggestion of broadcasting city council meetings on the local public access cable television channel, or on the Internet, so that more members of the taxpaying and voting public can see what goes on at the meetings.

Councilman Townes suggested to an increasingly vocal crowd that if the public wants to learn more about how municipal budgeting really works, they should go learn for themselves.

"If you're really serious about it, then go take the [municipal budgeting] courses... it will take you about three years to get into it," he said.

"You come up and you say you know, but you don't know. You have to go and learn," Townes added, referring to several members of the public who had commented about budgetary issues. "You can say 'slush fund', but that's all just words to inflame the situation. It has nothing to do with running this city or budgeting."

Soon after Townes' comment, several members of the crowd began to loudly protest, their voices rising from grumbles to yells and shouts. The city police officer present maintained order, but in the face of increasingly boisterous dissent, Mayor Sasso banged her gavel and declared the meeting adjourned. With that, City Manager Lo Iacono, City Attorney Joseph Zisa, and most of the city council shuffled into the back room behind the council chamber.

Councilman Labrosse, however, stepped off the council dais and waded into the crowd to talk to residents after the meeting, some of whom were still calling out in protest.

"They are holding the wool over the people's eyes in this town," shouted Canestrino. "This is a disgrace!"

Another voice, faceless amidst the confusion erupting at the meeting's end, was still heard clearly.

"Run!" the city resident yelled at the fleeing council. "And keep on running!"

E-mail: bonamo@northjersey.com

Thursday, December 30, 2010

HPD problems cost $1.5 million

HPD problems cost taxpayers $1.5 million
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
BY MARK J. BONAMO
HACKENSACK CHRONICLE
Managing Editor
HACKENSACK - People everywhere, including in Hackensack, are making New Year's resolutions this time of year. And whether the people of Hackensack realize it or not, their elected representatives on the City Council have also been making end-of-the-year resolutions.

FILE PHOTO/THE RECORD
These resolutions, made in the past two months, differed significantly from past years, because this wasn't any ordinary year in Hackensack. Charles "Ken" Zisa, the city's police chief, was arrested twice, criminally charged with insurance fraud and official misconduct, suspended from his job, indicted, and arraigned in court. These events involving Chief Zisa have all occurred since the end of April, which is when the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office began monitoring the city's approximately 107-member police department.
According to publicly available records, the city appropriated $500,000 at the start of the year for legal services, up from $400,000 in 2009. This increase was tied to the costs of defending 11 lawsuits filed since June 2009 by 22 current and retired Hackensack police officers in federal and state court against the city, the chief and other superior officers.
The legal bills resulting from defending so many lawsuits has far surpassed the budgeted amount for legal services. Since November, the council has approved a series of resolutions that has appropriated more than $350,000 to pay legal bills. As of Dec. 7, the total appropriated for legal services and court costs equals $860,500.
This number does not include another source of cascading costs: the city's bill for proceeding against four Hackensack police officers in separate administrative disciplinary hearings. All four officers were suspended with pay for long periods of time, in some cases over 18 months.
In the end, more than $600,000 was paid for suspended officers' salaries.
Breakdown of HPD turmoil's known costs
The resolutions that raised the limit for the City of Hackensack's legal services appropriations began to be passed at the Nov. 9 City Council meeting, when resolution number 345-10 added $50,000 to the original $500,000 municipal budget appropriation for legal services and costs.
Resolution number 379-10, passed at the Dec. 7 council meeting, added an additional $195,000 for legal costs.
Another Dec. 7 resolution, number 380-10, tacked on $101,000 for legal services, with an additional $14,500 designated for the category of legal/city attorney. Hackensack's city attorney is Joseph Zisa, the cousin of Chief Zisa.
Combined, the three resolutions passed by the Hackensack City Council in November and December resulted in $360,500 being added to the city's original legal services appropriation for the year.
The costs of the four separate police administrative disciplinary hearings in which the city required legal representation are also well documented. The hearings, which began last year and concluded a few weeks ago, involved four members of the Hackensack police force: Police Officers Joseph Al-Ayoubi, Anthony Ferraioli and Alessandra Viola, as well as Sgt. Vincent Riotto.
All four officers were suspended with pay for protracted periods of time because of the administrative charges filed against them: Al-Ayoubi for 18 months, Ferraioli for 10 months, Viola for 18 months, and Riotto for 19 months. Chief Zisa, who is now suspended without pay from his over $190,000-per-year job, filed the charges against all four officers.
Public records compiled by DataUniverse, an open search source for public employees' salaries found at www.app.com, indicate that as of Dec. 2009, Al-Ayoubi was paid $86,892 annually; Ferraioli was paid $119,312 per year; Viola received $124,720 in annual pay; Riotto was paid $138,037 per year.
Multiplying the four officers' salaries by the number of months that they were suspended with pay shows that Hackensack taxpayers paid out a total of approximately $635,362 in police officer salaries to members of the city force who were not out on the streets protecting and serving citizens because of their suspensions.
The $860,500 appropriated by the City Council for legal fees added to the $635,362 in police salaries paid out to the four suspended officers totals approximately $1,495,862 in costs to Hackensack taxpayers with no clear end in sight.
The fiscal aftershocks of the police administrative hearings have yet to be completely tabulated. Ferraioli and Riotto are both appealing the guilty verdicts that they each received. A decision in the Viola case had not been rendered as of press deadline. (The administrative charges against Al-Ayoubi were ultimately dismissed.) All four officers are also among the 22 current and retired Hackensack Police Department members who have filed lawsuits since June 2009 in state and federal court against Chief Zisa and the city, the outcomes of which have yet to be determined.
The Hackensack Chronicle filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request with the Hackensack clerk's office on Dec. 3 for records of the city's complete costs for the lawsuits and the police administrative disciplinary hearings. The OPRA request covered legal costs incurred by the city both this year and in 2009, when the lawsuits were initially filed and the police hearings began, and specified information on bills accrued for outside legal counsel.
According to the OPRA law, the City of Hackensack was required to answer The Chronicle's request for these records in seven business days, which would have been Dec. 14. The Chronicle did not receive a reply from the city clerk's office until an email was sent to the Chronicle's editor on Dec. 16, stating that the city government was unable to immediately comply with the OPRA request. As of press deadline, The Chronicle had yet to receive the legal bill records it was entitled to under OPRA.
Numbers don't lie, and they do add up. With or without city confirmation, the escalating cost to the city government of the police department crisis is apparent and a cause for concern. Conversations held with city and state officials, and, more importantly, with Hackensack taxpayers tell a sobering, sometimes contradictory, story.
City manager, council members, state senator address unrest's cost
Hackensack City Manager Stephen Lo Iacono addressed the fiscal issues created by the turmoil in the city's police department.
"Unfortunately, we've been hit with a number of suits and a number of situations, and we only have one choice - defend ourselves," said Lo Iacono, who noted that not all of all the funds appropriated by the city for legal services to date went to issues tied to police department problems. "That takes attorneys, and that creates legal fees."
Hackensack Mayor Karen Sasso added that she believes that moves have been made by the City Council to lessen the city's financial load regarding potential legal fees yet to come.
"None of us enjoy the position that we're in, but we've already taken steps to consolidate all of these cases and have tighter control," said Sasso, who was elected to the City Council in 2005, re-elected in 2009 and became mayor again this year as part of the city's one-year rotating mayoral system. "I think we will see great improvement moving forward."
City council members Michael Melfi, Jorge Meneses and Marlin Townes, who were all elected to the council in 2005 and re-elected in 2009, could not be immediately reached for comment.
However, Councilman John Labrosse is not so sure that Hackensack taxpayers will see real relief from mounting legal costs arising from trouble within the police department any time soon.
"The better that the city did during the administrative hearings. . . they think helps them in the federal lawsuits. But, it also can hurt them," said Labrosse, who was sworn into office in 2009 shortly after the first wave of police lawsuits were filed. "It's very, very disheartening to see this keep going. It's like getting on board the ride to Hell."
Labrosse also expressed worry that the bills generated by legal fees will hit Hackensack residents even harder with the advent of the 2 percent municipal property tax hike cap in 2011.
"As a Hackensack citizen and as a councilman, I want closure. I want this over with," said Labrosse. "When is this going to end? What is this going to cost us? If we can't raise the taxes, the money has to come from somewhere, so city services could suffer. The sooner this is all done, the sooner the city can heal."
From her office in Trenton, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) also cast a concerned eye on the largest city in her home district, knowing full well that all New Jersey municipalities can expect considerably less state aid in light of the state's serious financial predicament.
"The state is not in the business of defraying legal costs that arise out of management problems in a given community," said Weinberg. "I think that Hackensack residents should be asking their leaders a question: why did this happen?"
Community feels the sting of police turmoil's cost
Bobby Egan is well known in Hackensack for asking questions.
The owner of Cubby's Restaurant on South River Street, Egan, 52, has been a regular presence at City Council meetings over the years, voicing his opinions about how the city is governed clearly, loudly and bluntly.
Egan is also recognized for a rather interesting side job. He has been an unofficial American ambassador to North Korea, a country considered by many to be one of the most inscrutable, least transparent and potentially dangerous in the world.
When expressing his view of the cause of Hackensack's continuing police unrest, Egan felt a certain sense of déjà vu.
"Ken Zisa is the Kim Jong Il of Hackensack," said Egan, making a direct reference to the North Korean dictator. "This whole thing has cost us so much. But we get what we deserve by voting these people in."
"It's not just the chief of police. There has been a rotten regime in office since Jack Zisa was mayor," added Egan, referring to the former mayor, who is Chief Zisa's brother and who was in office when the suspended chief was appointed the city's top cop in 1995. "This town has been on a downhill cycle ever since."
Other city residents who rarely, if ever, go to City Council meetings also expressed their dismay about what the problems in the city police department is doing to Hackensack.
For Joseph Cicchelli, principal of Hackensack's Fairmount Elementary School, the idea that $1.5 million of taxpayer money could be better spent led to a teachable moment.
"We could buy independent libraries for every child that we teach with that money," said Cicchelli, 57, a city native who has spent his adult life educating his hometown's children. "In these times of austerity, it's hard to fathom what you could do with that kind of money, and where else the community could benefit from it."
"We in Hackensack are a proud people," added Cicchelli. "We stand up for each other, and we defend each other. But when one does something that isn't deemed to be socially acceptable, we all feel it. It's a black eye for all of us."
At his popular Cuban restaurant on Main Street in downtown Hackensack, owner and city resident Benito Rivero looked to his family's past when questioning the city's future.
"I come from an immigrant family where we were taught to go lean and spend what you have. Don't over spend," said Rivero, 40. "Let's figure out a way to spend less. From the perspective of a business owner, I'm against any kind of waste."
Down the block on Main Street, barbershop owner and city resident Ray Reed, 51, was smoothly plying his trade when asked about the cost to Hackensack residents of many months of police department uproar.
Speaking quietly over the buzz of his clippers, Reed cut right to the quick about what he believes needs to be done in Hackensack.
He called for a change to be made in Hackensack. Reed wants that change made not by any means necessary, but by one all residents can easily participate in: a trip to the voting booth during the next municipal election in 2013.
"The chickens have come home to roost. The bill has come due," said Reed. "Taxpayers here are getting a raw deal, but things will get worse before they can get better. And until we get this government out of office, nothing is going to change. We've got to start all fresh."
E-mail: bonamo@northjersey.com

Saturday, November 6, 2010

October 19 2010 Council Meeting

WHERE'S MELFI?

WASN'T AT SEPT 21ST MEETING EITHER.

video video

video video video video video video

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Latest Complaint filed against Chief, Padilla, Garcia & City

Well when I started to post this it was the latest complaint. Now I find out there is a 20th officer who has filed against Zisa - this is just beyond ridiculous


LAW OFFICES OF JOHN J. ZIDZIUNAS, LLC
JOHN J. ZIDZIUNAS, ESQUIRE
33 Plymouth Street, Suite 202A
Montclair, NJ 07042
973-509-8500
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
MARK B. FROST & ASSOCIATES
MARK B. FROST, ESQUIRE
7 North Columbus Boulevard, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-351-3333
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
LAURA CAMPOS, RICHARD
MELBER,
Plaintiffs,
vs.
CHIEF C. KENNETH ZISA,
CAPTAIN TOMAS PADILLA,
CAPTAIN DANILO GARCIA, and
CITY OF HACKENSACK,
Defendants.
Civil Action No.:
COMPLAINT AND JURY DEMAND
1
INTRODUCTION
1. Each of the Plaintiffs in the within action were retaliated against by being detrimentally
transferred for supporting candidates opposed to Defendant Chief Zisa and/or failing to
contribute to various public and PBA elections. Furthermore, Plaintiff Campos was
sexually harassed by Defendant Garcia with the knowledge of Chief Zisa and, under
threat of retaliation, was forced by both Zisa and Garcia to change an official report.
JURISDICTION
2. This action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the First and Fourteenth
Amendments of the United States Constitution. Jurisdiction is founded on 28 U.S.C.
§1331 and 1343(3) and the aforementioned statutory and constitutional provisions.
3. Jurisdiction lies over state law claims based on the principles of supplemental
jurisdiction, as codified at 28 U.S.C §1367.
4. The amount in controversy exclusive of interest and costs exceeds the sum of one
hundred thousand Dollars ($100,000).
VENUE
5. All the claims herein arose within the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for
the District of New Jersey and involve Defendants who reside within the jurisdictional
limits. Venue is accordingly invoked pursuant to the dictates of 28 U.S.C. §1391(b) and
(c).
PARTIES
6. Plaintiff Laura Campos is a citizen of the State of New Jersey residing at 7 Madison
Avenue, Midland Park, New Jersey.
2
7. Plaintiff Richard Melber is a citizen of the State of New Jersey residing at 112 Davis
Drive, River Edge, New Jersey.
8. Defendant Chief C. Kenneth Zisa is, and was at all times material hereto, the Chief of
Police of the Hackensack Police Department, located at 225 State Street, Hackensack, NJ
07601.
9. Defendant Tomas Padilla is, and was at all times material hereto, an Officer with the
Hackensack Police Department, located at 225 State Street, Hackensack, NJ 07601.
Defendant Padilla is a Captain with supervisory duties and authority to institute
disciplinary action.
10. Defendant Captain Danilo Garcia is, and was at all times material hereto, an Officer with
the Hackensack Police Department, located at 225 State Street, Hackensack, NJ 07601.
LAURA CAMPOS
SEXUAL HARRASMENT
11. Plaintiff has been a police officer in the City of Hackensack since January 2002.
12. Since Plaintiff has been a police officer at Hackensack Police Department, she has been
subjected to sexual harassment by Captain Danilo Garcia beginning in the fall of 2002
and continuing to 2010.
13. In the fall of 2002, Captain Garcia was a desk lieutenant and Plaintiff was a patrol officer.
Furthermore, Defendant was Plaintiff’s supervisor.
14. The desk at headquarters where Lieutenant Garcia was stationed contained a large stash
of pornographic magazines
15. Defendant Garcia stated to Ms. Campos, while looking at the magazine, commented to
3
the Plaintiff if the woman’s ass was real. Garcia further commented by stating to the
Plaintiff that “your ass is real.”
16. On other occasions while looking at pornographic magazines, Garcia made a number of
sexual remarks to Campos related to Plaintiff’s vagina and pubic hair.
17. Campos, still under probation since she had only been in the department for less than a
year, did not make any complaints at that time for fear of losing her job and/or retaliation.
18. During the year of 2003, Garcia repeatedly spoke to Ms. Campos in a sexual manner,
always making comments about how good she looked in a uniform as well as stating how
good her “ass” looked.
19. From February 6, 2004 to July 7, 2004, the Plaintiff was temporarily assigned to the
narcotics division under Captain Arthur Mento. While on that detail Garcia stated to the
Plaintiff “Nice JF look.” He further stated, “Gotta look like a crackhead, right?”
20. Plaintiff did not know exactly what “JF” stood for and was later told that JF stood for
“just fucked.”
21. At that time Plaintiff complained to Captain Mento about the incident. No action was
taken against Defendant Garcia who was a Captain at that time.
22. After the temporary assignment Garcia continued with his sexual harassment and made a
number of advances in 2004.
23. In May of 2005 Plaintiff spoke with Captain Garcia about her schedule since she was
planning on getting married to patrol officer Brian Corcoran, her fiancé at the time.
Garcia had previously separated the two of them by changing her schedule so she would
not be able to see him while at work and so Garcia could make more sexual advances to
4
the Plaintiff which Plaintiff rejected. Plaintiff requested that her schedule be changed and
in doing so, Defendant stated to the Plaintiff “how dare you? I run the fucking division
and I will schedule officers as I see fit.” Garcia further stated that Plaintiff is illiterate,
and commented that she should write in English and not in “spicklish.” Defendant
Garcia stated that he had the Chief’s full support in everything as it relates to her. He
further stated that he was having every tour commander and sergeant review her reports.
24. In the summer of 2005 she was at a local bar in Hackensack known as Lazy Lanigans. At
the time Garcia wanted to buy Plaintiff a drink and she refused. At the time there were
numerous officers from the department at the bar. When Campos rejected the drink
Garcia said to her “you know what Campos needs is a real man to fuck her.” Her fiancé
was in the vicinity and got into an argument over the comment that resulted in a shoving
match between Corcoran and Garcia. After the incident Plaintiff was assigned to a
walking post which was used as punishment in the City of Hackensack.
25. In September 2005, Plaintiff was assigned a dispatch position. Garcia entered the radio
room and put his hands on her left shoulder and started to rub them and implied in a
sarcastic tone that Plaintiff had “slashed tires on his truck.” After this conversation,
Plaintiff was assigned to a walking post even though he knew that she did not slash his
tires.
26. Later that fall, Plaintiff was involved in an arrest that required her to work overtime and
she sought overtime payment. Captain Garcia was the individual at that time who had
authority to approve the overtime. He refused to do so and started berating the Plaintiff.
27. A few days later Plaintiff contacted Chief Zisa and in front of the Chief and two deputies,
5
stated that she had been subjected to sexual harassment, sexual advances, humiliation and
other abuse from Captain Danilo Garcia.
28. Despite these complaints, no action was taken against Captain Garcia.
29. In 2006 Plaintiff was out for a back injury and gall bladder surgery from February 13th to
June 30th. During that time period, Defendant Garcia tried to hurt Plaintiff’s career by
forcing her to come back to work before she was physically able to do so under the threat
of retaliation that Plaintiff would be forced to take a 40% disability pension.
30. Fearing that she would be put out on pension and further retaliation would take place,
Plaintiff came back to work in the beginning of July of 2006.
31. On December 6, 2006 at a Christmas party, Garcia once again made sexual advances
toward the Plaintiff and stated to her “why aren’t you shaking your nice ass?”
32. In August 2007 Plaintiff was once again at Lazy Lanigans with a friend. Garcia came to
the bar and stated to the Plaintiff, “I hear you are not with Brian Corcoran anymore. Are
you ready for some of this?” as he grabbed his crotch.
33. In December 2007 at another holiday party, Defendant asked the Plaintiff where
everyone was going after the party and Plaintiff stated that she was going home.
Defendant put his hand on her back and said “don’t be like that.” After that incident
Plaintiff was transferred to walking.
34. In May 2008 Plaintiff was working patrol when she dropped off reports when Garcia saw
her in the radio room and stated to her that he heard her ass was looking good at the HCop.
party. Plaintiff stated to Garcia that she had to leave and would not converse with
Plaintiff.
6
35. As a result of Plaintiff refusing to speak with Defendant, on July 17, 2008, Garcia took
Plaintiff out of the AR-15 response team for which plaintiff was qualified to participate.
36. Plaintiff was told by Lieutenant Pierce that Defendant Garcia has a personal thing for you
and won’t give up.
37. At the October 8, 2008 Beefsteak dinner fundraiser for Padilla Garcia again tried to buy
the Plaintiff a drink and she refused. Defendant continued to try to buy Plaintiff drinks at
the beefsteak dinner and told her that her “ass looks really good in those jeans and those
fuck-me boots.”
38. On March 17, 2010 Plaintiff was traveling north on Railroad Avenue in an assigned radio
car.
39. As she got closer to the intersection of Railroad and Berry she noticed Garcia driving an
unmarked car. He then followed her into the Dunkin’ Donuts on Passaic Street.
40. Plaintiff thereafter bought doughnuts for the housing children and proceeded to her
assignment at 230 Central Avenue. Garcia continued to follow the Plaintiff.
41. Soon thereafter Plaintiff parked her car on Central Avenue and Garcia drove by and
continued west on Central Avenue.
42. These acts were done to the Plaintiff to intimidate the Plaintiff for her past rejections of
Defendant’s sexual harassment.
PBA ELECTIONS
43. In June of 2008, a Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) delegate election was held
inside the locker room of the Hackensack Police Department (HPD).
44. The two candidates running for PBA delegate were Police Officer Joseph Inglima and
7
Detective Tina Clouse.
45. Prior to the election, Chief Zisa and Captain Padilla made it openly known to all HPD
officers that he desired Clouse to win the election and they must vote to Clouse to
demonstrate their loyalty to them.
46. Zisa made it apparent that failure to vote for Clouse would result in direct retaliation in
the workplace but not limited to undesirable positions, assignments that were considered
disciplinary assignments, like foot patrol, or failure to promote others who were up for
promotion on eligibility lists.
47. To achieve the election of Clouse, Zisa instructed Officer Cinque to wear a sign on his
back that read “Vote for Clouse” prior to the election. The sign was observed by nearly
all HPD members prior to voting.
48. Zisa further instructed Sergeant Jamie Barrios to stand in front of the ballot box and
demand that all officers show him the written votes. Barrios took note on a newspaper
recording the names of those who would not show their vote.
49. On the day before the election Sergeant Trezza approached the Plaintiff and stated do the
right thing by voting for Clouse. He further stated if she did not vote for her that her
assignment could be changed.
50. Plaintiff was further told to vote in front of Barrios and show him her vote. Barrios
requested the Plaintiff to show him her vote.
51. Plaintiff went to a private area to vote for Inglima and did not show her vote to Barrios.
52. In July 2008, just weeks after the election, Plaintiff was transferred to Community
Resource Center and her hours were changed.
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53. Plaintiff was told by Captain Wright that the reason for the transfer was due to her failure
to support Clouse and that to take her assignment as punishment for her failure to support
Clouse.
54. The assignment was detrimental to the Plaintiff in that she has two children and her hours
were changed from 1:00PM to 9:00PM. This gave little time for Plaintiff to assist her
children with homework assignments and other activities. Prior to the transfer, Plaintiff
worked four days on four days off, and the four days on she was able to have coverage
for her children with the father of the children. Under this new schedule she was unable
to arrange for the necessary coverage of her children.
OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT
55. In the early part of 2004, Plaintiff responded to an alleged robbery and wrote a
subsequent report involving the then girlfriend of defendant Chief Zisa, Kathleen
Tiernan’s son, because he was a suspect in a robbery.
56. In writing her report, Plaintiff initially specified the name of the aforementioned
individual juvenile involved in the case. Under threat and fear of retaliation, plaintiff was
ordered by her superior officer, Captain Garcia, to change the report not to implicate
Tiernan’s son. Garcia further indicated to plaintiff that the order came from Chief Zisa.
57. Upon information and belief, Chief Zisa shredded reports relating to this matter knowing
that these reports could be used against him at a later date.
58. At that time, Plaintiff had already been subjected to numerous retaliatory acts and sexual
advances by Captain Garcia and, fearful of further retaliation to a walking assignment
and other retaliatory assignments, Plaintiff changed the report to remove Tiernan’s name
9
from the report as a suspect.
CAMPAIGN DONATIONS
59. During Plaintiff’s career, Plaintiff has been threatened with retaliation if she did not
support Zisa’s candidacies for State Assembly and other elected offices and other
individuals that Defendant Chief Zisa supported, as well as for the candidacies of
Defendant Tomas Padilla for County Freeholder.
60. Plaintiff, at the time she was initially employed by the City of Hackensack, was a
registered Republican.
61. In 2005, she was requested to switch parties so she could support Zisa and his
candidacies and other individuals that he supported. Plaintiff throughout her career
contributed to Chief Zisa’s candidacies under fear of retaliation.
62. In the fall of 2008 she was requested by Sergeant Trezza to purchase a ticket for a
Beefsteak dinner to support Captain Padilla who was running for County Freeholder.
63. She was requested to not only purchase the ticket, but also donate $125.00 to his
campaign.
64. Plaintiff initially refused to donate $125.00 but did purchase a ticket for $65.000. She
was told by Officer Corcoran that if she did not purchase the ticket that she would be
retaliated against.
65. Since Plaintiff had already been retaliated against for her failure to support Tina Clouse
in the PBA election for state delegate, fearful of further retaliation, Plaintiff contributed
the monies to Defendant Padilla.
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RICHARD MELBER
66. Plaintiff Richard Melber is a police officer in the City of Hackensack and was hired in
November 1987.
67. Plaintiff was a partner with Joseph Inglima in the traffic division from 2001 through
2006.
68. In 2006 Plaintiff was transferred from the traffic division to the patrol division where he
remained until August 2008.
69. In May 2008 Plaintiff publicly supported Joseph Inglima and nominated him to become
the PBA delegation.
70. It is well known in the Hackensack Police Department that Plaintiff Melber not only
nominated Inglima for State Delegate, but also supported him openly for this position.
71. In mid-June 2008 the PBA State Delegate election was held.
72. The two candidates running for PBA delegate were Police Officer Joseph Inglima
(Inglima) and Detective Tina Clouse (Clouse).
73. Prior to the election, Chief Zisa made it openly known to all HPD officers that he desired
Clouse to win the election, and that they must vote for Clouse to demonstrate their loyalty
to him.
74. Zisa made it apparent that failure to vote for Clouse would result in direct retaliation in
the workplace.
75. To achieve this end, Zisa instructed Captain Dennis Cinque to wear on a sign on his back
that read AVote for Clouse, prior to the election.
76. Chief Zisa also directed a “Vote for Clouse” sign be affixed to the City vehicle that
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patrols the police department parking lot.
77. These signs were observed by nearly all HPD members prior to voting, including
Plaintiff.
78. Moreover, Zisa instructed Sergeant Jaime Barrios to stand in front of the ballot box and
demand that all officers show him their written votes.
79. Plaintiff was told in advance of the election that failing to show Barrios his vote was
considered a “no vote” for Clouse, and disloyalty to Zisa.
80. Barrios took notes on a newspaper recording the names of those who would not show
their vote.
81. Plaintiff made it openly known to his superiors and Zisa that he would not vote for
Clouse and that he supported Inglima.
82. Inglima ultimately won the PBA election.
83. For not supporting the Chief and Clouse, Plaintiff was retaliated against by Chief Zisa
and beginning in August of 2008 was transferred from patrol to a walking post at a
Federal housing area for a period of almost one (1) year. This area was known as a high
crime and high drug area. Plaintiff was ordered to walk in this area alone.
84. This assignment was made by Chief Zisa and was for the purpose of retaliating against
the Plaintiff for his support of Inglima at the PBA election.
85. Prior to the transfer, Plaintiff was making approximately $10,000.00 per year in overtime.
86. As a result of the transfer, Plaintiff received no overtime work.
87. Not only was the transfer to the housing authority a retaliatory punishment, but also the
hours that Plaintiff had to work were also retaliatory in that he had to work every
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weekend as well as working from 5:00PM to 1:00AM, which gave him very little time to
spend with his family.
88. Prior to the 2008 PBA election and subsequent thereto, the Plaintiff has been asked by
various police officers in the Hackensack Police Department to donate monies to the
campaigns of Zisa as well as to the campaigns of Padilla.
89. Contributions were made by the Plaintiff in fear of retaliatory assignments for supporting
any of these candidacies.
COUNT I
PLAINTIFF LAURA CAMPOS V. CHIEF KEN ZISA AND TOMAS PADILLA
42 U.S.C. §1983
(FIRST AMENDMENT VIOLATIONS)
90. Plaintiff adopts and incorporates the allegations in paragraphs 1-89 as though each were
individually stated herein at length.
91. Defendants violated the provisions of 42 U.S.C. §1983 in that Defendants, acting under
color of state law, deprived Plaintiff of the privileges and immunities secured to her by
the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and, in particular,
her right to hold employment without infringement of her First Amendment right to
freedom of speech and association.
92. Defendant Chief Zisa willfully and recklessly transferred, demoted, disciplined and
threatened Plaintiff with discipline for her refusal to support Chief Zisa’s candidacy and
those he supported including Padilla and Clouse in order to deny Plaintiff her First
Amendment right to free speech and association.
93. Defendant Padilla, acting through other police officers, threatened Plaintiff with
retaliation if she did not support his candidacy for public office.
13
94. Defendants’ actions were to penalize and retaliate against Plaintiff for her exercise of
fundamental First Amendment rights.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs respectfully request this Honorable Court:
i. Enter a declaratory judgment that Defendants’ retaliatory acts complained of
herein have violated and continue to violate the rights of Plaintiff as secured by
the United States Constitution;
ii. Enjoin Defendants from continuing said retaliatory practices;
iii. Award Plaintiffs compensatory damages including but not limited to: pain,
suffering, past economic loss, future economic loss, back pay, front pay, wage
increases, loss of life’s pleasures, loss of reputation, benefits, emotional distress
and other damages;
iv. Award reasonable costs and attorney’s fees;
v. Award punitive damages;
vi. Grant any other relief this Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.
COUNT II
PLAINTIFF RICHARD MELBER V. CHIEF KEN ZISA
42 U.S.C. §1983
(FIRST AMENDMENT VIOLATIONS)
95. Plaintiff adopts and incorporates the allegations in paragraphs 1-94 as though each were
individually stated herein at length.
96. Defendants violated the provisions of 42 U.S.C. §1983 in that Defendants, acting under
color of state law, deprived Plaintiff of the privileges and immunities secured to him by
the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and, in particular,
his right to hold employment without infringement of his First Amendment right to
14
freedom of speech and association.
97. Defendant Chief Zisa willfully and recklessly transferred, demoted, disciplined and
threatened Plaintiff with discipline for his refusal to support Chief Zisa’s candidacy and
those he supported including Padilla and Clouse in order to deny Plaintiff his First
Amendment right to free speech and association.
98. Defendant Padilla, acting through other police officers, threatened Plaintiff with
retaliation if he did not support his candidacy for public office.
99. Defendants’ actions were to penalize and retaliate against Plaintiff for his exercise of
fundamental First Amendment rights.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests this Honorable Court:
i. Enter a declaratory judgment that Defendants’ retaliatory acts complained of
herein have violated and continue to violate the rights of Plaintiff as secured by
the United States Constitution;
ii. Enjoin Defendants from continuing said retaliatory practices;
iii. Award Plaintiffs compensatory damages including but not limited to: pain,
suffering, past economic loss, future economic loss, back pay, front pay, wage
increases, loss of life’s pleasures, loss of reputation, benefits, emotional distress
and other damages;
iv. Award reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees;
v. Award punitive damages;
vi. Grant any other relief this Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.
15
COUNT III
PLAINTIFF CAMPOS V. CHIEF KENNETH ZISA,
TOMAS PADILLA, AND DANILO GARCIA
(COMMON LAW CONSPIRACY)
100. Plaintiff adopts and incorporates the allegations in paragraphs 1-99 as though each were
individually stated herein at length.
101. The Defendants named in this count conspired to violate Plaintiff’s First Amendment
rights including but not limited to freedom of speech and freedom of association, by
coercing Plaintiff, under threat of retaliation to financially and politically support the
candidacies of Defendants Zisa and Padilla and other candidates of Defendant Zisa’s
choosing including PBA elections.
102. Defendant Zisa conspired with Garcia so he could sexually harass the Plaintiff without
taking any action as well as so he could perform acts of official misconduct in having
Plaintiff change an official report involving Tiernan under threat of retaliation.
103. Further, Plaintiff has been required to retain an attorney to assist Plaintiff in asserting
Plaintiff’s claims and protecting Plaintiff’s rights.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests this Honorable Court:
i. Enter a declaratory judgment that Defendants’ acts complained of herein have
violated and continue to violate the rights of Plaintiffs as secured by the United
States Constitution;
ii. Enjoin Defendant from continuing said practices;
iii. Award Plaintiffs compensatory damages including but not limited to: pain,
suffering, past economic loss, future economic loss, back pay, front pay, wage
increases, loss of life’s pleasures, loss of reputation, benefits, emotional distress
16
and other damages;
iv. Award reasonable costs and attorney’s fees;
v. Award punitive damages;
vi. Grant any other relief this Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.
COUNT IV
PLAINTIFFS CAMPOS AND MELBER V. CITY OF HACKENSACK,
DEFENDANT ZISA AND DEFENDANT GARCIA
(VIOLATION OF 42 U.S.C. §1983)
104. Plaintiffs adopt and incorporate the allegations in paragraphs 1-103 as though each were
individually stated herein at length.
105. Defendant City of Hackensack developed and maintained a number of deficient policies
and/or customs which caused the deprivation of Plaintiff Campos and Melber’s
constitutional rights.
106. Defendant City of Hackensack’s policies and customs encouraged Defendant Zisa to
believe that he could violate the constitutional rights of Plaintiffs with impunity and with
the explicit or tacit approval of the Defendant City of Hackensack.
107. The deficient policies and practices allowed Chief Zisa to conspire with others including
Defendant Garcia to force Plaintiff Campos to change her report in the criminal
investigation of his then-girlfriend Tiernan’s son by threatening and intimidating
retaliation against the Plaintiff. Said acts were in violation of the law and constituted
official misconduct on the part of Defendants Zisa and Garcia.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs respectfully request this Honorable Court:
i. Enter a declaratory judgment that Defendant’s acts complained of herein have
violated and continue to violate the rights of Plaintiffs as secured by the United
17
States Constitution;
ii. Enjoin Defendant from continuing said practices;
iii. Award Plaintiffs compensatory damages including but not limited to: pain,
suffering, past economic loss, future economic loss, back pay, front pay, wage
increases, loss of life’s pleasures, loss of reputation, benefits, emotional distress
and other damages;
iv. Award reasonable costs and attorney’s fees;
v. Award punitive damages;
vi. Grant any other relief this Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.
COUNT V
PLAINTIFF CAMPOS V. CHIEF KENNETH ZISA, CITY OF HACKENSACK
VIOLATION OF THE NEW JERSEY LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION
(N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. – SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION)
108. Plaintiff incorporates by reference the preceding allegations of paragraphs 1-107 of this
Complaint as though each were individually set forth herein at length.
109. Defendant’s actions aforesaid violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
(“NJLAD”), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. in that Plaintiff has been discriminated against on
account of her sex/gender and has been continuously subjected to a hostile work
environment that is severe and pervasive because of her sex/gender.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests this Honorable Court:
i. Enter a declaratory judgment that Defendant’s acts complained of herein have
violated and continue to violate the rights of Plaintiff as secured by the United
States Constitution;
ii. Enjoin Defendant from continuing said practices;
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iii. Award Plaintiff compensatory damages including but not limited to: pain,
suffering, past economic loss, future economic loss, back pay, front pay, wage
increases, loss of life’s pleasures, loss of reputation, benefits, emotional distress
and other damages;
iv. Award reasonable costs and attorney’s fees;
v. Award punitive damages;
vi. Grant any other relief this Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.
JURY TRIAL DEMAND
Plaintiffs hereby demand a trial by jury on all issues so triable.
Respectfully submitted,
John J. Zidziunas
JOHN J. ZIDZIUNAS, ESQ.
LAW OFFICES OF JOHN J. ZIDZIUNAS, LLC
Dated: May 18, 2010