Bayonne City Hall employee Patrick “PJ” Leonard is asking the city for $775,000 in damages in a whistleblower lawsuit filed last month, alleging various illegal business transactions.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The suit, filed in Hudson County Superior Court on July 14, naming both the city and Business Administrator Joe DeMarco as defendants, alleges that Leonard suffered “retaliatory, discriminatory and tortuous conduct as an employee of the City of Bayonne” since he was hired in August 2014.
In a fiery speech at the October 2015 meeting of the City Council, which Hudson County View first reported, Leonard alleged that the city only worked with certain politically connected law firms and developers – most of which had connections to DeMarco.
Leonard, through his attorney Pete Cresci, another staunch critic of the Mayor Jimmy Davis administration, cites numerous examples of making “protected communications.”
For example, Leonard takes responsibility for reporting three council members illegally receiving health benefits to the state Division of Local Government Services in June 2015. Less than two months later, Council members Sharon Nadrowski, Sal Gullace and Gary La Pelusa ceased receiving health benefits from the city.
The suit also says Leonard went to state and federal authorities to complain about a “real estate conflict of interest” created by then Director of Municipal Services Rob Wondolowski, although he is not mentioned by name.
The government worker further states he went to law enforcement over an “illegal kickback and conspiracy” he witnessed between DeMarco and third parties. Leonard said during his speech that he personally witnessed DeMarco take a $5,000 bribe.
As he also stated outright during his October speech, Leonard said his salary is $35,000, despite being repeatedly promised a salary of $50,000 by the mayor.
Another examples of “protected communications” listed in the suit include a complaint about another local media outlet, Hudson TV, having an advertising contract with the Bayonne Urban Enterprise Zone. Their main page has a banner for the Bayonne UEZ, which lists dozens of businesses involved in the program.
Leonard further alleges that one year ago, his office was transferred to a “standalone abandoned trailer” on Hook Road, that was not OSHA or PEOSHA compliant.
According to Leonard’s complaint, the city has spent at least $30,000 on an outside law firm over a city complaint made against him alleged profanity in the work place.
The firm, Roth D’Aquanni, LLC, of Springfield, has performed legal work for the West New York Board of Education. DeMarco previously served as the business administrator in West New York.
Finally, the suit also says that Leonard is currently on a leave of absence due to an undisclosed medical condition and accuses DeMarco of giving raises and more favorable treatment to younger, female employees.
In a separate suit filed last July, DeMarco is accused of creating a sexist culture “similar to Mad Men” during his tenure in West New York.
Leonard is seeking $775,000 in compensatory damages, a non-retaliation agreement with the city, attorney’s fees and “all other general or specific relief.”
DeMarco declined to comment, citing a city policy not to discuss ongoing litigation, while Cresci and Leonard could not immediately be reached for comment.
Leonard’s October 21 speech in front of the Bayonne City Council can be viewed below.