ELIZABETH, NJ – Union County officials this week addressed two lawsuits involving the county or its departments. One lawsuit involves a former Union County police officer and the other concerns a retiree’s benefit claims.

The freeholders moved into closed session Thursday night to discuss a potential settlement in the 2016 case in which the Union County Police Department is accused of discriminating against a police officer by not offering him light duty when a blood clot in his leg allegedly sidelined him.

The lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Elizabeth in 2016 claims that Stephen Repella, of Old Bridge, was discriminated against after being diagnosed with “a serious medical condition suffering from a blood clot in his leg.” When Repella asked for a modified assignment, a supervisor told him this was unavailable because the injury did not occur at work, the complaint alleges.

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Repella was then “ordered to undergo a fitness for duty examination and a psychological examination” and was subsequently found unfit for duty and placed on unpaid leave, the lawsuit claims.

Minutes of the closed session at which the potential settlement was anticipated to be discussed will be made available in a redacted format in about 30 days, said county counsel Robert Barry, during the public meeting.

Pension Entitlement Dispute

Also on Thursday, the freeholder board appointed Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Cappelli, of Rochelle Park, as special counsel to represent Union County in a case titled Lisa Bonanno v. County of Union, et. als. The cost of the representation is not to exceed $20,000, the resolution stipulates.

“The Bonanno matter involves a personnel matter relative to a civil service title and to PERS entitlement,” said County Counsel Robert Barry during the meeting, referencing the Public Employees Retirement System, which is the benefit plan administered by the state Division of Pensions and Benefits.

The current membership list of the county’s Public Advisory Boards lists Bonanno as a member of the Commission on the Status of Women of Union County. The county has several public advisory boards designed to support and advance the initiatives of the freeholder board.  These include the Advisory Council on Aging, the Emergency Management Council, and the Youth Services Commission.

The county has a policy not to comment on ongoing litigation but does expend funds on legal fees in cases involving the county, said Union County Communications Director Sebastian D’Elia last month, when asked about an unrelated case.

“The County of Union, as well as most other forms of governments in the state of New Jersey, usually have some type of litigation that occurs, so there are always fund[s] expended on legal fees,” D’Elia said at the time. “Legal representation is provided to [county] employees when there is exposure to the county or employee generally as it relates to on the job duties.”

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