Law & Justice

Three Former Belmar Lifeguards Plan to Sue Borough for Not Being Rehired

Three former Belmar lifeguard have officially expressed their intent to seek damages for not being rehired as part of the beach patrol’s restructuring this year. Credits: Cathy Goetz

BELMAR, NJ — Three former Belmar lifeguard managers have put the borough on notice that they plan to file a lawsuit because they were not rehired as part of the beach patrol’s recent restructuring.

A notice of tort claim on behalf of former lifeguard director Ray Elms, captain Harry Harsin and training officer Timothy O’Donnell has been filed against the borough and several borough officials, which stipulates a claim of $3 million, based on alleged financial loss, defamation of character, emotional stress and age discrimination.

While all three lifeguards, who have a combined total of 120 years of service, reapplied for their positions, none were contacted for an interview, according to the claim filed by Princeton attorney Elizabeth Zuckerman, who is representing all three claimants.

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In February, the borough launched a recruitment effort in February to take the lifeguard operation in a new direction, based on a recommendation by Police Chief Andrew Huisman, who is named in the tort claim.

The borough’s decision drew opposition from lifeguards serving in managerial and rank-and-file lifeguard positions — many of whom voiced their disapproval at several borough council meetings, including O’Donnell and Harsin.

Since then, a new beach patrol has been hired and now stands over Belmar’s 1.3-mile beachfront for the 2018 season. It is led by lifeguard director Eric Kerecman, a retired Monmouth County detective and seasoned water safety specialist, supported by deputy lifeguard director Corinna Weinkofsky, who was the only manager to return to Belmar’s oceanfront. In addition, Tom Stoddart and Michael Dahrouge, two longtime rank-and-file lifeguards, were promoted to assistant supervisor posts.

Mayor Brian Magovern, who was part of the selection committee tasked with hiring this season’s lifeguards, declined to comment on the tort filing. Police Chief Huisman and Business Administrator Colleen Connolly also served on the committee and are named in the tort claim, along with former Mayor Matthew Doherty, and council members Thomas Brennan and Jennifer Nicolay.

Under the New Jersey law, a notice of tort claim alerts a public entity of an incident and gives it time to conduct an investigation and decide if it would like to settle the matter before the claimant files a lawsuit. The claimant must wait six months after the notice’s filing before being permitted to file a lawsuit against the public entity.

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