MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Former Maplewood Police Captain Joshua Cummis, who recently retired following outrage over police actions following the July 5, 2016, fireworks, is suing the Township claiming he was wrongly suspended last month prior to his retirement and not given due process.
The lawsuit, filed in Essex County Superior Court on August 31, 2017, preceded the Township Committee’s approval on September 5 of a $37,000 retirement package for Cummis.
Cummis and Police Chief Robert Cimino were both placed on paid administrative leave on August 1, 2017, for their alleged part in police misconduct following the 2016 fireworks.
Township officials announced a deal with Cimino Wednesday that will give him two years’ salary and a letter of recommendation in exchange for his resignation.
Cimino and Cummis’ suspensions occurred just days after audio and video recordings from July 5, 2016 were released showing police had apparently abused some residents following that night’s fireworks display. The governing body also asked Cimino to resign that night.
Six officers were disciplined for their actions on July 5, 2016, including one who was suspended for 20 days.
The Township has also hired an outside consultant, Hillard Heintze of Chicago, to review the July 5 incidents and the township’s overall police procedures. That report is expected soon.
The Township Committee on September 5 unanimously approved a resolution that gives Cummis $37,218.27 in retirement compensation, including more than $14,000 in compensatory time and more than $22,000 in vacation credits.
But the lawsuit contends he was wrongly suspended and seeks his reinstatement. It includes four counts of alleged improper action by the Township.
In a related letter to the court, Cummis’ attorney, Charles Sciarra of Clifton, details the four counts claiming that:
- A previous Essex County Prosecutor’s Office investigation found no cause for further action against the police for their behavior that night.
- The Township Committee acted improperly when it chose to place Cummis on leave, claiming only the police chief can make such a decision.
- Cummis was denied due process or given any official charge prior to his suspension.
- Cummis was not given proper notice that his situation would be reviewed at the August 1 meeting where the suspension was publicly announced.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages along with court and attorney fees. Sciarra did not respond to requests for comment.
Township Attorney Roger Desiderio declined to comment, stating the Township does not comment on such litigation.