Hudson County settles retaliation suit with sheriff’s officers for $120k

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The County of Hudson recently settled a retaliation suit against a former sheriff, filed by three of his officers, for $120,000, court documents show.

Bayonne Councilman-at-Large, a former Hudson County sheriff.
Bayonne Councilman-at-Large, a former Hudson County sheriff.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The confidential settlement was approved on May 2nd, with Lt. Thomas Cerwinski and Sgt. Walter Zapoluch receiving $30,000 a piece and their attorney, Louis Zayas, receiving $60,000, according to a copy of the settlement.

After Juan Perez won the 2007 election, the suit, filed in June 2011, alleges that he ran the office with an iron fist, since he “implemented and enforced a policy of rewarding and punishing law enforcement officers based on their political patronage and beliefs.”

Through the suit, the officers claim that Perez and Chief John Bartucci, also named in the suit, “conceived and implemented a political patronage policy and plan in order to reward certain political supporters and allies.”

“The intent, motive, purpose, and effect of said political patronage policy and plan was to reward individuals and/or supporters of Sheriff Perez, while punishing pro-Cassidy supporters (the former sheriff Perez defeated in the 2007 election) with less favorable positions and employment opportunities.”

The suit also claims that Perez and Bartucci “pressured and coerced” other sheriffs officers to buy political tickets and those who did not faced political retaliation.

Lt. Jose Gonzalez and Capt. Larry Gorskopff were also named in the suit, while Officer Alex Pino was another officer who filed the claim but was not mentioned in the settlement agreement.

The agreement adds that no one involved can discuss the matter with the press and that the county admits no wrongdoing as a result of the settlement.

The settlement and corresponding court documents were released by New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project Chairman John Paff earlier today.

While Perez lost a re-election bid to then-Undersheriff Frank Schillari in 2010, he was elected as a Bayonne councilman-at-large in June 2014.