A former city attorney for Newark has filed a federal complaint against the City of Newark, claiming that he faced retaliation related to the negotiation of a multi-million dollar development deal.
Willie Parker, who served as the city's chief municipal prosecutor, brought the whistleblower action in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, naming the City of Newark, Mayor Ras Baraka and Amiri "Middy" Baraka, Jr., the mayor's brother and chief of staff, as defendants. Two other city officials are also named as defendants in the complaint.
Parker's suit centers around an unnamed multi-million dollar development deal that Newark was negotiating in August 2016. The complaint proceeds to list a series of alleged events that "reveal an alarming picture of a Mayor and governmental entity run riot with retaliatory animus."
"Mr. Parker reviewed the contract and reasonably and accurately concluded that a material, yet unnecessary and detrimental, provision in the Contract had been added following approval," the complaint states. "The provision would result in the City losing millions of dollars while simultaneously benefiting private commercial interests."
The private commercial interests were not named in the suit.
"As the City’s Corporation Counsel, Mr. Parker refused to sign or approve the contract, believing doing so would violate public policy and applicable law, and reasonably believed that it would benefit private interests to the detriment of the City," the suit alleges.
The complaint alleges that Middy Baraka "commanded" Parker at an Aug. 25 meeting to execute the contract on behalf of the city. Parker would not sign or approve the contract. During the meeting Middy Baraka repeatedly emphasized the importance of “getting this done” for “purely political reasons,” the suit alleges.
Upon leaving the meeting, Parker called Mayor Baraka to express his reservations and explain why he could not sign the contract. After meeting with the mayor about the issue the same day, Parker claims in the suit that he received an angry phone call from Middy Baraka, asking to meet with him.
In a confrontation outside of Parker's home, Middy Baraka, escorted by his "fully-armed" security detail, asked Parker to explain why Parker "had snitched to the Mayor" about their earlier communication regarding issues about the contract, according to the suit.
Parker claims in the complaint that he faced intimidation in the following weeks, had his professional responsibilities curtailed and faced surveillance by the mayor.
Parker asserts in the suit that the stress he experienced contributed to him having a heart attack in October 2016. After a dispute regarding leave time, Parker was requested by the city to resign in December, according to the complaint. Parker also states that he suffered additional emergency cardiac issues because of his stress at work, the complaint alleges.
Parker seeks punitive damages, alleging discrimination, retaliation and violations of the Family Medical Leave Act.
A spokesman for the city declined to comment, stating that it is city policy not to comment about pending litigation.