Sports

Former Columbia H.S. Coach Fischetti Sues District, Claims 'Sham Investigation' Forced Him Out

Former Columbia High School Coach Joe Fischetti Sues South Orange Maplewood School District Credits: Joe Strupp

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Two former Columbia High School (CHS) baseball coaches who were not rehired this past season following alleged bullying have filed a lawsuit against the district claiming they were wrongly dismissed and subjected to “sham investigations” and “false and defamatory” allegations.

Former CHS head baseball coach Joe Fischetti and assistant Matthew Becht were the subjects of several harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) complaints dating back to 2014.

Fischetti left CHS coaching ranks at the end of last summer when the school board chose not to rehire him for the 2017 season. He remains a tenured physical education teacher at CHS.

Sign Up for E-News

His departure ended a very lengthy and difficult time for the baseball program, which saw Fischetti accused of several instances of harassment, intimidation and bullying.

Those claims led to the hiring of an outside investigator in 2016 to look into the charges and the school board's decision to search for another coach for the 2017 season. One former student, David DeFranco, also filed a lawsuit against Fischetti, other coaches and the district claiming abusive treatment, which has yet to go to trial.

Last fall, CHS hired James Whalen, a physical education teacher at Valley View Middle School in Denville who had been an assistant baseball coach at West Essex High School in North Caldwell since 2002, to coach the Columbia varsity baseball team.

Fischetti, meanwhile, became an assistant coach at nearby Newark East Side High School while continuing to teach at CHS.

The lawsuit, filed June 30, names the entire South Orange Maplewood Board of Education, Superintendent John Ramos and Assistant Superintendent Kevin Walston as defendants. It also names Randy Nathan, the father of a former CHS baseball player who filed several HIB complaints against the coaches, as a defendant.

Citing 10 counts of alleged improper and illegal actions, the lawsuit accuses the defendants of violations of civil rights and equal protection, malicious prosecution, and tortious interference with economic advantage.

The lawsuit cites the first HIB complaint, filed by Nathan in 2014, claiming the coaches were never given proper written notification of the complaint by the district or their due process rights. 

It adds that Fischetti, who was named head baseball coach in 2013, was later exonerated by then-acting superintendent James Memoli. But when Ramos took over the district in August 2015 he reopened the issue and overturned Memoli’s previous decision.

The lawsuit contends this act by Ramos “trampled the due process rights of the plaintiffs.”

“The failure to follow the strict timelines set forth in the law allowed false and defamatory allegations against the plaintiffs to remain open and were not kept confidential,” the lawsuit states, later adding that “for well over two years” the Board of Education “recklessly and negligently permitted plaintiffs to have open HIB claims held over their heads in violation of HIB law without ever providing them with their rights or any type of process to clear their name. In doing so, they damaged their reputations and caused distress.”

The lawsuit goes after Nathan as well, stating he “disparaged and defamed” the coaches “via excessive social media posts and by circulating false information to third parties.”

Nathan declined comment, saying he was not able to at this time due to the pending legal case.

The complaint also claims that the district sent the coaches a letter in December 2016 stating that, ”all HIB allegations were unfounded.” Attorney Steven Farsiou, who represents the coaches, told this reporter in April about the letter, but declined to provide a copy of it.

When asked for a copy of the letter at that time, district officials would neither confirm or deny its existence, but added that if the letter did exist it could not be released due to it being part of a personnel matter.

Farsiou did not respond to requests for comment, while School Board president Elizabeth Baker declined comment, citing it as a pending legal matter.

The lawsuit, meanwhile, adds that the defendants have allegedly  “defamed and slandered the plaintiffs to third parties and have tortuously interfered with their paid coaching positions as well as other coaching opportunities.” It also claims they were “outwardly hostile toward the plaintiffs and very much wanted the plaintiffs terminated from their coaching position.”

The complaint seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

Holiday Shopping At Its Best

Holiday gift buying at its best! This Sunday, Sadie's will be hosting local artists with handmade goods and live music for SOMA's enjoyment.

Light refreshments will be provided, and no cover charge! Find unique gifts and support local artists and causes.

Featuring handmade African fabric jewelry and photography by Maria Luis Estrela
Wooden toys that each sale the ...

SOMA and The New Menstruation Equity Campaign

Menstruation, which has long been an awkward topic for most men, and an embarrassing subject for many women, has lately been part of the conversation in SOMA.

Maplewood attorney and author Jennifer Weiss-Wolf's book Periods Gone Public: Taking A Stand For Menstrual Equity was just published.

The South Orange-based non-profit Girls Helping Girls. Period. focuses solely on ...

AtlantiCast: Episode 008

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll learn about a groundbreaking new clinical trial in the fight against pancreatic cancer, meet an award-winning child neurologist at Goryeb Children’s Hospital and hear about the new Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center at Atlantic Orthopedic Institute – plus stay tuned at the end to see our debut episode of the AtlantiCast Medical ...

Investors Bank October 2017 Fed Normalization Process

The Federal Reserve has increased interest rates twice this year and could do so again in December.  But the economy is hardly booming along and inflation remains tame.  Are the central bankers crazy?  No!  They simply are trying to add some monetary policy arrows to their largely empty quiver.

The near collapse of the world financial system in 2008, forced the Fed to take ...

Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Bicycle Thefts Reported

December 1, 2017

November 20 - Bicycle Theft; Sometime over the previous three days, a bicycle was removed from an unsecured garage on Girard Pl.

November 21 - Shoplifting; At approximately 11 p.m., a male concealed Red Bull in a bag at 7-Eleven on Irvington Ave and then fled the store when confronted.

November 22 - Bicycle Theft; At approximately 11 a.m., a male walked down the driveway of a home ...

Events at Dickens Village in Maplewood Continue this Weekend

December 8, 2017

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The "little houses" are back in Ricalton Square in Maplewood Village, with a tree lighting and visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus occurring last Saturday, Dec. 2,  and additional Dickens Village activities planned for this Saturday, Dec. 9, and next Saturday, Dec. 16.

There will be a menorah lighting on Monday, Dec. 18.

There will be Breakfast with ...

Five Holiday Happenings in South Orange

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Tree lightings, parades, and special shopping events are all part of the holiday celebrations in South Orange. Here's what's coming up:

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5 - Christmas at the Hall

Seton Hall University is holding "Christmas at the Hall," their annual tree lighting celebration on Dec. 5. Full details here. 

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8 - Light Up the ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, December 12

The GenWealth Group, Maplewood

Jersey Cares Coat Drive

Giving Back

Wed, December 13

The GenWealth Group, Maplewood

Jersey Cares Coat Drive

Giving Back

Wed, December 13, 11:00 AM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

All Wrapped Up! at the Millburn Library

Home & Garden

Wed, December 13, 12:00 PM

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, South Orange

The Purposes and Rhythms of Jewish Living

Education Religions And Spirituality

The Mommy's Review - Coco

Corre, no camines (that’s “run, don’t walk!”) to see Coco, the newest animated feature film from Pixar Animation Studios/Disney. This beautiful movie is something that families will cherish seeing together. Like Moana last year, I took my family (ages 7 to 70+) to see Coco over Thanksgiving weekend, and everyone was delighted by the splendor of this wonderful cinematic ...

Three RWJBarnabas Health Facilities Recognized as 2017 Top Hospitals

December 11, 2017

WEST ORANGE, NJ – Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Jersey City Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center, three RWJBarnabas Health facilities, were recently recognized as Top Teaching Hospitals in 2017 by The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization driving a movement for giant leaps forward in the quality and safety of American health care.

Among thousands of hospitals in the ...

Chinese Firm Buys One Newark Center

NEWARK, NJ - A Chinese investment and development firm has acquired one of Newark's most visible properties.

The sale of One Newark Center to Beijing Ideal Group—a joint-venture between an affiliate of The Praedium Group, LLC and Mack-Cali Realty Corp.—was finalized Thursday, with investment management company JLL completing the acquisition of ...

NJ Transit Service to Resume Monday After Friday's Derailment in Union

December 10, 2017

UNION, NJ – New Jersey Transit reports the Raritan Valley Line trains will resume regular weekday service between Cranford and Newark and High Bridge and Raritan on Monday. Train service was suspended over the weekend after the freight train derailment in Union on Friday afternoon.  

According to their website, NJ Transit says customers may experience possible ...

ConRail Working on Track Clean Up Following Friday's Derailment in Union; Train Service Still Suspended

UNION, NJ – No hazardous material was involved in the freight train derailment Friday afternoon in Union.

“There’s severe damage to the tracks,” said Union Fire Chief Mike Scanio at a press conference Friday evening.  “There’s multiple piles of cars at different locations up and down the span of the tracks from the Roselle Park line all the way through ...

Beginning Mindfulness Meditation Series at Millburn Library

December 11, 2017

The Millburn Free Public Library is welcoming in 2018 with mindfulness - specifically, a beginning mindfulness meditation series being held in January 2018. The program will run on the following Wednesdays: Jan 10, 17, 21, and 31, at 2:00pm in the auditorium. Please register for this 4 week course, because space is limited.

If you have a belief that your mind is "too busy" ...

Canadian Book Retailer Indigo to Open First U.S. Location at The Mall at Short Hills

Canada’s largest book, gift and specialty toy retailer Indigo Books & Music Inc. will join the lineup at The Mall at Short Hills in summer 2018. The brand’s first U.S. location will be designed around its new ‘cultural department store for booklovers’ concept to offer in-store programming, bestselling books, toys, fashion, home ...

South Orange Joins State Safety Campaign To Increase Pedestrian-Motor Vehicle Safety

“Street Smart NJ” targets speed, distractedness and safety awareness for motorists and pedestrians

The head of the South Orange Police Department Traffic Bureau, Lt. Michael Corrigan, announced that South Orange has launched a Street Smart NJ pedestrian safety education campaign aimed at reducing pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes in New Jersey.

The Street Smart NJ campaign is a ...