MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Five Mountainside Police Officers and one employee filed a lawsuit against the borough in the Superior Court of New Jersey on May 11, 2018. The borough announced the lawsuit and provided background information regarding the issue on a statement posted on the borough’s website.
Mountainside PBA attorney, Leonard C. Schiro had requested a meeting with Mountainside’s Labor attorney, Arthur Thibault, and Borough attorney, John Post in late February. “At the meeting Schiro advised that he was representing five Mountainside Police Officers, Christopher Feighner, Richard Latargia, Thomas Norton, Jeffrey Stinner, and James Urban, and a part time female employee in the Department, Amy Colineri, in connection with their claims that they had experienced a hostile work environment due to the actions of two other members of the Department, Officers Andrew Huber and Thomas Murphy. Schiro stated that his clients had come to him rather than an attorney specializing in employment law because their purpose was limited to having Huber and Murphy “cease and desist” from future such conduct and also to change what they described as the “culture” of the Mountainside Police Department,” the statement read.
Following the meeting with Schiro, the Police Commissioner, Council President Keith Turner and Mayor Paul Mirabelli, ordered that the allegations be jointly and thoroughly investigated by both the Post’s and Thibault’s firms. Thibault’s firm had made repeated attempts to initiate interviews of all of the complainants. However, those attempts were unsuccessful as Schiro never responded to requests nor made his clients available for interviews.
“Concurrently a separate investigation of email traffic involving Huber, Murphy, and the complainants over the Police Department email server was conducted by Post’s firm and its independent forensic technology consultant. That investigation eventually extended to reviewing almost 10,000 emails and attachments,” the statement read. This investigation did not yield any new evidence. However, some of the allegations included in the complaint are also being investigated by the Union County Prosecutor.
By late April Schiro had advised Thibault that he no longer represents the five police officers and the employee. However, Turner and Mirabelli, on the advice of the attorneys, decided that the investigation should continue and be conducted by an independent investigator. They also decided to hand the evidence provided at the February meeting to the Union County Prosecutor.
The borough retained William Maderer, Esq. a former Assistant United States Attorney specializing in such investigations, to conduct the investigation as of April 25. The lawsuit, which was filed on May 11, contains further allegations that were not mentioned at the earlier meeting. “In light of these new allegations and in the interests of avoiding the occasion for friction and discord in the Police Department the Governing Body has determined to place Officers Murphy and Huber on an Administrative Leave of Absence. Such action is not in any way designed to lend any credence to any of the allegations made in the Complaint. The Borough will continue the process of conducting a thorough investigation of all the allegations in the Complaint,” the statement read.