Sports

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

769dff2e7fca686114b5_fischetti.JPG
Former Columbia High School Coach Joe Fischetti Sues South Orange Maplewood School District Credits: Joe Strupp
769dff2e7fca686114b5_fischetti.JPG

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

Love is in the air...

Come to Sadie's to buy your sweetie the perfect Valentine's Day gift. We have locally made jewelry, vegan perfume, unique valentine cards, scratch off maps for those who travel and other fun gifts - something for every honey. Of course if you are looking for something to wear on your romantic night out or a fun single's night we have that, too.

Saturday, Feb 10, from noon to 3 ...

A Tale of Two Very Different Town Administrator Searches

Both Maplewood and South Orange are looking for new town administrators at the same time, a rare occurrence.

And their approaches couldn’t be any more different.

Maplewood, whose long-time administrator Joseph Manning is retiring May 31, launched its search last month the old-fashioned way: hiring a recruiting firm and letting them do the heavy lifting (or more appropriately the ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!

 

South Orange Police Blotter - Two Arrested for Robbery in South Orange

February 11, 2018

Adult Arrest - Robbery - Shawn Ray Newsome, a 20 year old Newark resident and a 17 year old juvenile were arrested on Saturday, Feb. 3, at approximately 10:45 p.m. for robbery. Two male victims reported that as they were walking on South Orange Ave near the Newark border, they were approached by three actors (described as black males wearing dark clothing and black masks) who ...

Maplewood Police Blotter - Home Burglary and Two Auto Thefts Reported

January 29 - Burglary; At approximately 3:10 p.m., officers responded to the area of Heller Pl and Orchard Rd on the report of an individual going into backyards. While checking the area, a juvenile approached an officer and notified her that her home on Orchard Rd had just been entered by an unknown male. Officers checked the home and surrounding area, but were unable to ...

Over 25 Camps Share What's Hot this Summer at the Second Annual SOMA Summer Camp Fair

February 13, 2018

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Families from South Orange and Maplewood got the chance to learn about more than 25 area summer camps on Saturday, at the second annual SOMA Summer Camp Fair, hosted by Susie Adamson and Bonnie Ramsey of Adamson Ramsey Homes.

At the fair, which was held at Winchester Gardens, parents and kids could meet with representatives from a variety of camps, and learn more ...

Registration Now Open for Maplewood Kid's Camp

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Where else can kids be a meteorologist for a day, swim twice a week and safely check out the habitat of wolves, while having fun and making friends? Maplewood Kid's Camp!

Maplewood Kid’s Camp is open for registration, and "planning an unforgettable summer for kids in kindergarten through 4th grade," according to a press release from Melissa ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_278e57ad2fc81cfdec30_hangermacrame

Sun, February 18, 2:00 PM

Sadie's, South Orange

Macrame Workshop at Sadie's

Arts & Entertainment Home & Garden

Sun, February 18, 3:00 PM

Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School, Summit

Come to NJIO's Winter Concert on Sunday, February ...

Arts & Entertainment

Wed, February 21, 12:00 PM

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, South Orange

The Purposes and Rhythms of Jewish Living

Education Religions And Spirituality

PARCC Debate in Newark Continues Amid Calls from Murphy for its Dismantling

February 17, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - Ever since New Jersey began using the PARCC exam in the 2014-15 school year, the state teacher's union and other groups have criticized the the standardized test and called for the state to stop using it to assess student performance.

During the campaign for governor last year, Phil Murphy, who was endorsed by the New Jersey Education Association, promised to ditch ...

TV News Crews Descend on Nutley, Schools Closed as Precautionary Measure

NUTLEY, NJ - Hours after official notification about Nutley Public Schools being closed because of a threatening video on Instagram, television news crews descended on the township as the national discussion about school security took a local turn.

Nutley Public Schools and the Nutley Police Department confirmed the situation. The police also confirmed that the individuals ...

Springfield's Cannon Hall House is Open to Public Sunday, Feb. 18, Letter from George Washington and Herbert Hoover on Display

February 16, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, NJ – Hit by a cannon ball, it survived the Revolutionary War.  Sunday, Feb. 18, there is the Springfield Historical Society Open House at the Cannon Ball House. It will be open to the public from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  

In honor of it being Presidents’ Day weekend, two samples of presidential penmanship will be displayed. One is a letter that George ...

At Westfield High School, Student Says ‘It’s Almost Normal to Juul Here’

Editor’s note: This story about the rise in teen e-cigarette use, written by Westfield High School student Greta Frontero, originally ran in the Jan. 8 edition of WHS student newspaper Hi’s Eye.

WESTFIELD, NJ — A 12th-grade Westfield High School female said she doesn’t bring her Juul to school, but will use someone else’s if the opportunity ...

Travel to Belmar for Chance Glimpse of Baby Seal

February 2, 2018

TAPintoTravels — All eyes will be on everyone’s favorite groundhog on February 2, but it was a baby seal that stole the spotlight on Thursday at the Belmar marina.

During the morning of February 1, borough public works employees were working at the marina’s boat ramp when they noticed the gray pup sitting on the jet-ski dock, said Ed Markey, who works in the department ...

Paper Mill Playhouse Announces the World Premiere of 'Unmasked'

February 17, 2018

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director), recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, announced today the world premiere of UNMASKED, which will feature some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most iconic work and the stories behind its creation, along with new music and memories from his extraordinary life and career, will open its ...

Weekly Specials at Ashley Marketplace & Cafe - Feb. 16 to Feb. 22

Shop Ashley Marketplace & Cafe for your everyday needs!

This week's specials are:

Ground Beef or Pork $3.99lb (Meat)
Ito En Iced Teas 16.9floz  2/$4
Navel Oranges 5/$5
Swordfish Steaks $19.98lb (Ashley Fish Market)
Tropicana Punch $1.99
Turkey Hero $5.99ea (Deli)
Greek Feta $7.99lb (Cheese)
Chopped Chicken Salad $8.99lb (Prep Food)

See all ...

CASA Essex Welcomes New Advocates

Fifteen volunteers joined a community of advocates dedicated to speaking up on behalf of Essex County's foster children with CASA for Children of Essex County. The latest class of advocates gathered at the Wilentz Court Complex in Newark on Tuesday, Feb. 13, as they as they took an oath to advocate for the best interest of foster children in family court. 

The newly appointed ...