WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Friday, June 6, the Honorable James S. Rothschild, Jr., Judge of the Superior Court in Newark, dismissed all remaining claims against the township of West Orange filed by Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., a former West Orange Police Officer and current West Orange Mayoral candidate.
In 2007, Hawkins filed a series of five lawsuits against the township of West Orange, its Mayor, and various employees contending discrimination and other claims. At the time, the suit alleged that the West Orange Police Department hired officers “with prejudicial reasons to the benefit of Irish males and detriment in particular of females, African-Americans and Italians.”
Hawkins sued the West Orange Police Department, current township administrator Jack Sayers, Chief James Abbot, and former Sgt. John Fedder, who oversaw the hiring process, claiming that he was skipped over the civil service order to hire a white officer who was paid about $5,000 more than him. He then sued for 25 million in damages.
The lawsuit claimed that in 2004 entrance exams, a female officer ranked twenty-second in testing; Hawkins, twenty-two, and a white male officer twenty-sixth. The white male officer, who had been a police officer in Orange, was hired three days before Hawkins and 11 days before the female officer, who never sued.
On Friday, Judge Rothschild ruled that none of the claims had caused Mr. Hawkins any damage. Had the court ruled differently, a jury trial was set to begin on July 7, 2014.
Then-township attorney, Steven C. Mannion, who is now a United States Magistrate in Newark, and the Honorable Ellen O’Connell, a hearing officer, were also included in the series of lawsuits.
According to West Orange Public Information Officer Jessica Glicker, since the inception of the suits the township has been forced to spend approximately $500,000.00 in legal fees.
TAPinto West Orange contacted the Hawkins campaign for a statement:
"A variety of legal actions against the township administration began with grievances filed by my union (Police Benevolent Association (PBA), many years ago, which showed that I had a righteous cause. Overtime, more issues have arisen and collateral litigation ensued. We successfully defeated Parisi's attempt to illegally retroactively terminate my employment when a judge and the Civil Service Commission found that his actions were improper. We also successfully obtained my police pension and disability retirement over West Orange officials' interference and objections. I utilized the system, followed protocol and stood up for my rights as any employee who feels he or she has been wronged should. Although we won several other legal actions, this phase did not go in our favor. That is just the nature of our judicial process. I for one, am happy that these legal issues are beginning to resolve themselves so that we can move forward without them being a distraction."
“The Township is pleased to finally see an end to these unmerited claims,” said Mayor Robert D. Parisi.